The Wine-Dark Sea
by Patrick O'Brian
This sixteenth book of the Aubreyiad, featuring the exploits of Royal Navy
Capt. Jack Aubrey and his physician-musician-naturalist-secret agent friend
Stephen Maturin, opens with the British privateer frigate Surprise chasing
an American ditto through the South Pacific.
Nature brings the chase to a terrifying conclusion, thanks to the explosion of a
volcano. This stunning act of God sets the stage for the remarkable tragedy
that unfolds in the pages that follow.
Let's put the pieces together:
- A French visionary named du Tourd becomes
Aubrey's prisoner: a man with dangerous, egalitarian ideas that agree with
those of a certain religious sect on board.
- At the same time, a member
of that sect becomes one of Jack's lieutenants, filling a vacancy caused by
a well-aimed volcanic missile.
- Du Tourd recognizes Stephen and is
prepared to compromise his cover as a British naval intelligence agent.
- Stephen's top-top-secret assignment in Peru is to ignite the fuse of the
independence movement, though Spain is still at the time an ally of England.
- when one of Jack's officers helps Du Tourd escape, Stephen's plans
are exposed, forcing the doctor to flee for his life through the high Andes
while Jack and a hand-picked crew suffer thirst and hunger in an open boat.
Reunited after two harsh tests of survival, the friends then undergo one of
the most desperate chases ever - talk about being caught between an iceberg
and a hard place!
There, I have made the plot seem very direct and simple. But the pleasure of
reading this book is its subtlety and variety, its depiction of exotic
scenes, complicated situations, many-layered characters, and an adventure
whose hero, at the end, may call it a failure while you, the reader, revel
in its success. Don't let the ending fool you; the adventure is not nearly
over, as the next book (The Commodore) picks up nearly where this one
Recommended Age: 14+
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