by Patrick O'Brian
The words "outraged platypus" appear on the third page of this book.
Personally, I think that would have been a great title. However, for the
title of his fifteenth installment in the adventures of British frigate
commander Jack Aubrey and his physician-naturalist-intelligence-agent chum
Stephen Maturin, Patrick O'Brian chose the name of a ship that doesn't heave
into view for another 200 pages and more. Oh, well. We can't have
Jack and Stephen are back aboard the Surprise, the privateer frigate
Stephen recently sold to Jack. The nominal captain of the Surprise, as
privateer, is faithful old Tom Pullings, but with Jack on board it sails as
"His Majesty's Hired Frigate." And it's a frigate on His Majesty's business,
too. British trade vessels have been caught in the crossfire between two
rival chiefs on a Polynesian island, and Jack's orders are to figure out
which side is most likely to swear allegiance to King George and help them
rub out the other side.
It's a tricky thing, though. Ordinarily Jack relies on Stephen's advice. But
this time, the nature of the mission seems bound to offend Stephen's
anti-imperialist feelings. But Jack doesn't have time to agonize over the
strain this mission will put on their friendship. The whole ship is being
pulled apart and he is the last person to find out why.
Why? Because of a woman. A convict woman, escaped from the New South Wales
penal colony, soon married to one of Jack's officers and, nearly as soon,
the center of a tangle of romantic rivalry and jealousy that embitters the
gunroom [or officer's mess, for those of you tuning in late] and threatens
to undermine the discipline of the entire ship. What do you expect to happen
when the officers despise each other, but that the foremast hands will
choose up sides among them?
Prepare to behold Jack Aubrey's fury unleashed. Prepare for the seductive
charms and vaguely chilling air of mystery that surround young Clarissa
Oakes. Prepare for some gut-twisting battles, some thrilling
naval-intelligence-type discoveries, some charming encounters with the
nature and culture of the South Pacific, and loads upon loads of the tension
that could, and often did, arise between strong-willed people forced to live
for long periods between the decks of a small vessel in the middle of a huge
The Truelove has, above and beyond all that I have described, a virtually
perfect plot that arcs gracefully from the first page to the last, and that
nevertheless fits as snugly between The Nutmeg of Consolation and The
Wine-Dark Sea as the battens fit into their cleats. (To understand this
analogy better, read the book; Jack Aubrey's explanation of "battening down
the hatches" is very helpful.) Replete with surprises, reversals, dark
forebodings, dashing exploits, wistful partings, and the joy and anxiety of
a brand-new father halfway around the globe from his firstborn, this book
contains a rich world of experience for you to relish.
Recommended Age: Age: 14+
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