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!