Patrick O'Brian,
The Wine-Dark Sea
(W.W. Norton & Co., 1993)

There are few prose stylists writing today who can compare with Patrick O'Brian for the smooth, evocative and fluid stories that come from his pen.

The Wine-Dark Sea is a particularly fine example of O'Brian's craft, the 16th novel of his Aubrey/Maturin series of seafaring novels. Sailor Jack Aubrey, while a typically crusty man of the blue briny, is also a well-read and witty contrast and companion to Doctor Stephen Maturin, an erudite physician with a huge love of the sea. Together, the two have had many adventures, but in The Wine-Dark Sea, they face some of their greatest challenges ever with remarkable spirit and aplomb.

The story here is great entertainment, with lots of page-turning action, but the lush writing is simply seductive and so easy to become lost and quite "at sea" within. While these are often considered "men's books," I strongly suspect that many women would be attracted to the strong plots, grand characterization and fine writing as well; there is never the least hint of the crude or the coarse in these highly literate, but so very readable novels.

I have often suggested the works of Patrick O'Brian to writing students as a model for crisp, fresh, lively prose and most highly recommend this series to anyone who loves a great read.

by Stephen Richmond
3 December 2005

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