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Patrick O'Brian, until his death in 2000, was one of our greatest contemporary novelists. He is the author of the acclaimed Aubrey--Maturin tales and the biographer of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He is the author of many other books including Testimonies, and his Collected Short Stories. In 1995 he was the first recipient of the Heywood Hill Prize for a lifetime's contribution to literature. In the same year he was awarded the CBE. In 1997 he received an honorary doctorate of letters from Trinity College, Dublin. He lived for many years in South West France and he died in Dublin in January 2000.
March 2012 Guest Editor Alan Bradley on Patrick O'Brian... Beginning with “Master and Commander” this beautifully-written series follows the fortunes of a most unlikely couple of companions: Jack Aubrey, a large, bluff and not overly-refined sea captain, and Stephen Maturin, a Catalan ship’s doctor and part-time spy. Their lives, their wives, their loves and tragedies are etched in loving and unforgettable detail.
At the time of his death, Patrick O'Brian had begun to write a novel to follow on from Blue at the Mizzen, the twentieth book in the classic series. These are the chapters he had completed of the final voyage of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin - the greatest friendship of modern literature The story picks up from the end of `Blue at the Mizzen' when Jack Aubrey receives the news, in Chile, of his elevation to flag rank: Rear Admiral of the Blue Squadron, with orders to sail to the South Africa station. This novel, unfinished and untitled at the time of O'Brian's death, would have been a chronicle of that mission, and much else besides. The chapters left on O'Brian's death are presented here both in printed version - including his corrections to the typescript - and a facsimilie of his manuscript, which goes several pages beyond the end of the typescript and includes marginal notes by O'Brian. And so this great `roman fleuve' comes to an end with Jack, with his `sacred blue flag', sailing through fair, sweet days - Stephen with his dissections and new love, Killick muttering darkly over the toasted cheese... Of course, we would rather have had the whole story; instead we have this proof that O'Brian's powers of observation, his humour and his understanding of his characters were undiminished to the end.
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