Friday, 11 September 2009

My 5th Sentence.

And, no. I am not referring to the 2yrs suspended sentence that I received for trying to help smuggle Mad Aunt Bernard out of Worthing Nick, dressed as a rutting mountain goat (she, not me). And sorry Mum - I didn't tell you about the other 4!

I am (of course) referring to Titus's invitation (that is Titus - The Dog that Blogs) that we should turn to page 161 of a book of our choice, and simply record on our blogs the content of the 5th sentence on that page.

So ... My 5th sentence reads "I will not". Well? That was good, wasn't it?

The book is The Commodore by Patrick O'Brian (one of my favourite authors of all time) and the 17th in his series charting the life and times of Captain Jack Aubrey and his 'particular friend' and ship's surgeon Dr. Stephen Maturin. At page 161 in the story, Dr. Maturin has just joined Captain (now Commodore) Aubrey for dinner in his cabin, and is declining an additional helping of roast duck, for fear of dulling his senses in preparation for a tricky operation in which he must remove bladder stones from an afflicted crew member.

The book sees Aubrey's finances and career reach exalting heights, only for his marriage to hit the rocks when he is accused of infidelity, though (on this occasion, at least) innocent in deed, if not in thought, but unable to persuade his long-suffering wife otherwise. This is a direct contrast to the flow of other titles in the series, when the Captain has been dealt repeatedly bitter blows to his finances and career prospects, only to find comfort in the arms of his dear lady wife - not to mention other men's wives on a couple of occasions (including his admiral's!).

This is my second journey through the series and never before have I been more grateful for having a brain like a colander, as I can re-read all of my favourite books again and again with the joy never diminishing.

One of my greatest disappointments, however, was in the resulting film 'Master & Commander - Far side of the world' which was supposedly based upon Mr O'Brian's novels and characters. Although Russell Crowe's portrayal of Jack Aubrey was superbly in line with the novels, as far as the script would let him; Stephen Maturin's characterisation was dreadful. The casting was superb and even as I read the books again, I can envisage Paul Bettany's wonderful little quirks and eccentricities as the good Doctor. But whoever was responsible for portraying Dr Maturin simply as a slightly dippy ship's doctor, and part-time naturalist, should be shot. In O'Brian's novels, Dr Maturin's role as ship's Surgeon is more frequently a cover for his more important role as a British Intelligence Agent - something that was completely ignored in the film, very much to it's cost. The play-offs and witticisms between the books' two main characters are, in my view, unparalleled. Also completely ignored was Maturin's personal background as the Catholic bastard son of an Irish Cavalry Officer and a Spanish Lady of high birth, giving him the wealth of connections across the world that would later prove invaluable in his intelligence work. His character provides a wonderful contrast between his endearing innocence/ignorance of all things naval (rarely able to board any vessel without falling in), and his sometimes shocking capacity to deal with lethal encounters in his intelligence work, all interspersed with his charming Irish wit (usually going straight over the more bluff Aubrey's head) and genteel forcefulness required in his various roles. No-one could blame Paul Bettany for weeping if he ever read any of O'Brians novels, as he really could (I believe) have delivered it all, if only given the chance.

Clearly, you don't have to be a member of the Boys Own Gung-ho Club to enjoy bloody good writing - whatever it's genre. I hope you might be inspired to pick up one next time you're out. I'm sure you won't be disappointed.

NOTE: by purest and sweetest coincidence: Billy Boyd, who played Aubrey's coxswain (Barrett Bonden) in the film, also played Pippin in Lord Of The Rings. As a struggling actor, Boyd worked for 7 years as a book binder. One of the books he helped create was - yes - you guessed - Lord Of The Rings!


  1. Thanks for your lovely comment on my blog! I'm glad I'm not the only one who can reread books without remembering mind is disintegrating quickly!

  2. 17 books Weevo! And you're reading them again? They must be very good.It's great to find an author you really enjoy reading.He was very prolific wasn't he.Must try one,but I'm a hopeless reader and have stacks of books unread or half started or half finished. Doh!

  3. Patrick O'Brian wrote 20 in the Aubrey/Maturin series, I just haven't got through all of them for the second time, yet. But I love the dry wit between the Captain and the Doctor, especially when it clearly misses it's mark altogether. But, I'm afraid I didn't stop there. After reading O'Brians the first time, I went on to read all 27 of Alexander Kent's book in the Bolitho series. I've got everything ever written by about 8 different naval history novelists - I am a bit of an addict! My current collecting focus in on the works of an American called Dewey Lambdin. His first novel started in a very 'racy' manner, that almost put me off continuing, but I'm glad I did. His main character is a dreadful rake and a complete scoundrel, but I'm rather enjoying the anti-hero aspect, for a change. No wonder I never get any work done.

  4. I will not what, though? It might be fitting if it transpired that he will not choose the lesser of two weevils.

  5. "I will not ... go ashore dressed in a leopard skin lycra body suit (with strategically placed tassels for good effect), singing "I'm a teapot, I'm a teapot" and getting all of the sailors to chase me" - ya pudd'n head! And, in fact, it was Captain Aubrey who came up with the joke about the lesser of two weevils - see? I owe my very identity to the man.

  6. I enjoyed the film, which I have seen twice.I confess to not having read the book. I enjoyed C S Forester's Hornblower series.
    Thank goodness that Aubrey had a sense of humour and that you had read the book, else I may never have found you, especially if Google had thrown up say, the same sized weevil, the slightly greater weevil than the other, the runt weevil,etc.

  7. LTW
    I have only just noticed that the date and time stamps for your comments are out of whack by about 8 hrs ish.
    What cunning ploy is this?

  8. It's no bad thing to have a poor memory is it? I am enjoying reading my way through the works of Bill Bryson and it's great to think I shall be able to do it all again one day.

  9. Heather, a poor memory shouldn't come into it.
    We don't stop drinking or eating things we enjoyed the once
    or share times with loved ones or friends, having done that once too
    So reading a book several times seems normal to me.
    In any event we learn things as we live our lives and this helps us to take on a different slant or interpret the book differently

  10. Professor: The Hornblower series was what got me hooked on naval history in the first place. My Dad had urged me to read one and I can clearly remember only accepting to be polite. I then devoured all of the first three before going back to borrow the rest off him. They're great! If you enjoyed his, you will probably enjoy Alexander Kent's Bolitho series, as they are quite similar in style. I later borrowed the first Poldark novel, in similar circumstances, with the same outcome! But I'm glad you enjoyed the Master & Commander film - I did, too - but it still pales annoyingly when compared to any of his books.