cover image The Nutmeg of Consolation

The Nutmeg of Consolation

Patrick O'Brian, Author, Geoff Hunt, Photographer W. W. Norton & Company $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-393-03032-7

Readers will welcome the reappearance here of elegant Stephen Maturin, one hero of O'Brian's excellent 19th-century seafarer series. Maturin is a ship's doctor, naturalist, spy, musician, ex-opium eater and, we're reminded here, terrific swordsman. His ``brother'' is Capt. Jack Aubrey, RN, MP, popular hero for his success against Napoleon, less introspective but as subtly drawn as Maturin and as avid a musician. Last seen in The Thirteen-Gun Salute the two were shipwrecked on a barren isle in the South China Sea. After a bitter fight with Dyaks and Malays they reach Batavia, where Governor Raffles gives Aubrey the eponymic Dutch sloop (``a tight, sweet, newly-coppered, broad-buttocked litle ship, a solace to any man's heart'') to continue his circumnavigation of the globe. As usual the chief joys are in the details of the food, drink and clothes of the era, with those of the rain forests, kangaroos and platypuses added here. On the other hand, early Sydney's squalor is matched by its brutality. (Sept.)