Patrick O'Brian's sixth Aubrey-Maturin book, The Fortune of War, opens with something a little unusual for the series to date: explicit recaps of the prior book's events, in the form of Jack and Stephen making oral reports to others. This is slightly tedious to someone who's just finished Desolation Island and thus remembers perfectly well what happened in it, but it signals how closely connected this book is to the last. There were Americans aboard the horrible old Leopard, you see, with whom Jack and Stephen had consequential interactions; and now it's the War of 1812.
In terms of highs and lows, this book is shaped like a U: it gives Jack and Stephen a time of rest, relaxation, and happiness, and then plunges them (with shocking abruptness) back into tension and danger, which continues for a good while before swinging upward again. The balance between Jack, Stephen, and other characters, which I think of as another distinguishing characteristic of the shape of these books, is fairly even between Jack and Stephen, I would say, with Diana Villiers (yes, she's back) as a strong secondary character.
The other non-spoilery thing I want to say about this book is that it's the first book whose substance made me aware of being an American while I was listening—though I don't know that my reaction was necessarily because of my nationality, since Jack and Stephen are somewhat conflicted as well. The war with America is thought by both of them to be a stupid war caused by foolish actions of the British government, and so on one hand, it makes sense for the listener to root for the Americans, because more victories might end it sooner. On the other hand, Jack especially gets so damn depressed when the Royal Navy loses that a listener sometimes roots for the British just so they'll cheer up. Anyway, I found the ambiguity interesting.
(I'm often aware of being an American when it comes to the language. This book it was listening to Patrick Tull talk about Captain Brook and then finding that the text calls him Captain Broke. Do the British really say "I'm sorry, I broke your toy by dropping it in the brook" with both words sounding the same, or is this just one of those funny family name pronunciations?
A spoiler post follows.
#2 :: Kate wrote on March 28, 2006 at 7:24 AM:
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