Monday, December 03, 2007
Post Captain and HMS Surprise
I can't believe the last book I blogged about was way back in September. I really haven't been doing much reading of late, which I suppose is pretty rubbish of me, and what little time I have spent reading has been partly taken up with re-reading Patrick O'Brian books.
Amusingly, I had my copy of Post Captain with me when on holidays and was able to pull it out of my bag when a conversation about Patrick O'Brian came up, leading my pal Dave to wonder if I maybe carry the entire series with me everywhere I go. Of course I don't, that would be a bit mental. But if you had to carry two, I think these would be the two I'd take. First of all, there's plenty of fun adventures by sea in them, with some beautifully written and quite tense battles even if, like me, you have some difficulty with nautical jargon.
Second of all, these are the books that kind of made me fall in love with Stephen rather than Jack. Yes, I know he's not a great catch. He's kind of funny looking and wears a weird wool suit. He is a laudanum addict and a man who loves nothing more than prescribing a slime draught or a yummy purgative, just to teach you a lesson about drinking. He's also not exactly steady on his feet a lot of the time and will, if left to his own devices, eat nothing but bread rubbed with garlic for days on end. He would probably also dissect your granny if you left her alone with him.
On the other hand, he plays Boccerini on the cello and speaks Portuguese, Irish, Latin, Catalan, Spanish, French, Arabic, and a smattering of Urdu. He's funny and smart and ferociously loyal. He's a really good intelligence agent, and an amazing naval surgeon (wouldn't look at you for under ten guineas on land, though). He is a keen naturalist who can sit and stare at birds or beetles for hours on end, and he will walk all day and night to get somewhere he wants to go, or just to have a think.
He is also, somewhat scarily and surprisingly, handy with a pistol. In fact, he's more than handy: he's deadly. He is the kind of man who can fight a duel with someone and then, when they shoot him, he can take the bullet out himself.
Jack, on the other hand, is merely the kind of man who can whip a convoy of East India Company ships into fighting shape, rescue his best friend from torture, get his own ship's company firing two broadsides in under two minutes, and get a beautiful woman to fall in love with him despite him having no money at all from one minute to the next.
Really, who needs new books when you can re-read ones you already love?