cover image Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography

Patrick O'Brian: Critical Essays and a Bibliography

Patrick O'Brian. W. W. Norton & Company, $40 (184pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03626-8

This lively collection, which grew out of a project by the British Library's head of publications Cunningham to compile bibliographies and biographical information on distinguished living authors, is sure to be sought-after by the fast-growing legions of fans of O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin series of novels. Richard Ollard, editor of the novels, begins the volume with an appreciative overview; O'Brian himself then gives a rare account of his life; next comes a chilling short story by O'Brian about an estranged couple. The quality of writing dips perilously with actor Charlton Heston's enthusiastic but critically lackluster appreciation of the master. Brian Lavery's essay on ``Aubrey's `Surprise,' '' chockablock with information on Aubrey's ships, is well done but dry. The next two essays are marvelous: a brief sociological study of the conditions of shipboard life by N.A.M. Roger, followed by an engrossing study of the medical world of Aubrey's sidekick, Dr. Stephen Maturin. Stuart Bennet on his part provides a hilarious compilation of four decades of contradictory reviews of the novels. John Bayley's critical assessment of the author rounds out the collection--his is the third essay in the collection to draw parallels between O'Brian and Jane Austen. The bibliography was not seen by PW. (May)