The Wine-Dark Sea

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In this sixteenth novel of a series begun decades ago, Patrick O’Brian continues his story of the voyages of the SURPRISE, flagship of British naval officer Jack Aubrey, and his medical officer Stephen Maturin. Sailing the waters of the Pacific off the west coast of South America, Aubrey leads his band of privateers on raids to capture several ships flying the flags of Britain’s enemies. Maturin, carrying on a secret intelligence mission for Catalonian rebels against Spanish interests in South America, goes ashore to help mount an aborted coup against the government of Peru. Aubrey is successful in capturing several ships and a considerable fortune for the British Crown (and for his own men), and the small flotilla he assembles through his seizures escapes both armed resistance and natural disasters to sail around the southern tip of the Continent and begin the long voyage home to England.

The episodic adventures of Aubrey’s ship give O’Brian ample opportunities to create for readers an authentic sense of life at sea in the early nineteenth century, a period fraught with hardships but offering numerous opportunities for displays of genuine heroism in the face of naval opponents and the harsh environment of the ocean. The author’s expertise in nautical terminology show through on every page. Readers familiar with earlier novels about Aubrey and Maturin will find their complex friendship further developed and explored in THE WINE-DARK SEA; readers new to the series will find the novel an exciting introduction to two fascinating characters whose personal qualities and complex personalities make THE WINE-DARK SEA more than a mere adventure story.

Sources for Further Study

Chicago Tribune. December 19, 1993, XIV, p.4.

The Christian Science Monitor. December 31, 1993, p.11.

The New York Times Book Review. XCVIII, November 14, 1993, p.9.

The New Yorker. LXIX, October 18, 1993, p.121.

Newsweek. CXXII, November 15, 1993, p.84.

Publishers Weekly. CCXL, August 30, 1993, p.73.

Time. CXLII, November 8, 1993, p.92.

The Times Literary Supplement. July 2, 1993, p.21.

The Wall Street Journal. November 3, 1993, p. A20.

The Washington Post Book World. XXIII, November 7, 1993, p.1.