Cover image for Blue at the mizzen
Blue at the mizzen
O'Brian, Patrick, 1914-2000.
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton, 1999.
Physical Description:
261 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Format :


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Napoleon has been defeated at Waterloo, and the ensuing peace brings with it both the desertion of nearly half of Captain Aubrey's crew and the sudden dimming of Aubrey's career prospects in a peacetime navy. When the Surprise is nearly sunk on her way to South America--where Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are to help Chile assert her independence from Spain--the delay occasioned by repairs reaps a harvest of strange consequences.The South American expedition is a desperate affair; and in the end Jack's bold initiative to strike at the vastly superior Spanish fleet precipitates a spectacular naval action that will determine both Chile's fate and his own.

Author Notes

Patrick O'Brian is the author of twenty volumes in the highly respected Aubrey/Maturin series of novels.

(Publisher Provided) Patrick O'Brien was born in Ireland in 1914. His education included the Sorbonne.

O'Brian has produced a variety of works, including biographies of Picasso and Sir Joseph Banks and translations of the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, but he is best known for the creation of an unlikely pair of Napoleonic War-era heroes in the Aubrey-Maturin Series. British naval officer Jack Aubrey and Irish scholar and physician Stephen Maturin have been featured in more than a novels published in Great Britain (five of which have also appeared in America).

He died on January 2, 2000. (Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Scuttlebutt has it that this twentieth tale of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin is the last. If so, they are sailing into their literary sunset on a high note. Jointly they survive a drunken rampage by the Surprise's crew, a mass desertion, a collision at sea that sends the frigate turned surveying vessel back to England for repairs, and the onboard entrance of one Horatio Hanson, a midshipman patronized and possibly fathered by the duke of Clarence. They then set sail southward, where in Africa Stephen discovers that he is ready to give his heart again, if only the lady, naturalist Christine Wood, is willing to accept it. On the other side of the Atlantic, he and Jack struggle around the Horn, surviving only by managing to find a seal colony and stuffing the holds with seal meat. Finally, they enter the Pacific in time to be up to their waistcoats in the intrigues, on land and sea, of the Chilean rebellion against Spain. In the end, Jack Aubrey is promoted to rear admiral of the Blue. Meanwhile, his creator has long since earned the rank of admiral of the fleet on the seas of literature. --Roland Green

Publisher's Weekly Review

With bittersweet pleasure, readers may deem this 20thÄand possibly finalÄinstallment in O'Brian's highly regarded series featuring Capt. Jack Aubrey of the English Royal Navy and Stephen Maturin, ship's doctor, the best of the lot. Post-Waterloo, the frigate Surprise sets sail to South America as a "hydrographical vessel," ostensibly to survey the Straits of Magellan and Chile's southern coast. In fact, Jack and Stephen are to offer help to the Chilean rebels trying to break free from Spain. On their way down the coast of West Africa, romance blossoms for both men. Jack's liaison (with his cousin, Isobel, in Gibraltar) is brief, but widower Stephen's passion for Christine Wood, a naturalist who has been his correspondent for some time, turns serious in Sierra Leone. The doctor's correspondence with Christine begins with accounts of his explorations in Africa and South America, referencing, say, an "anomalous nuthatch" or the "etymology of doldrum," but they're quite wonderful love letters, functioning as a chorus to the action. Once in Chile, despite the conflict between opposing rebel camps, Jack leads a successful raid on a treasure fort in Valdivia, followed by the seizure of a Peruvian frigate to be turned over to the Chilean rebels, triumphs that reap him a just reward; at that point, readers will learn the title's significance. Throughout, familiar characters abound and entertain, especially the amusingly nasty steward, Killick, and Stephen's "loblolly girl" (nurse), Poll Skeeping. And finally, there is Horatio Hanson, bastard son of a nobleman, who comes on board as a midshipman, a dashing young foil for the ship's elders. O'Brian has rightfully been compared to Jane Austen, but one wonders if even she would have done justice to "those extraordinary hollow dwellings, sometimes as beautiful as they were comfortless." To use one of Stephen's favorite expressions, "What joy!" Agent, Georges Borchardt. (Nov.) FYI: Over three million copies of the books in the Aubrey/Maturin series have been sold. O'Brian will make two mid-November appearances in New York, one already sold out. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Napoleon may have met his Waterloo, but Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are still busy: as they sail to Chile to support its drive for independence from Spain, their ship is nearly sunk, and they've taken on board the bastard of the future King William IV, who proves himself in the battle to come. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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