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4.7 out of 5 stars
Commander: The Life and Exploits of Britain's Greatest Frigate Captain
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
This book is a very well written account of a very interesting period of british naval history. Many famous names are encountered, Nelson, Jervis etc., with a very large and detailed glossary - the latter helping to make our hero's story progress in a very interesting and exciting narrative. The book makes it very evident that his exploits were overshadowed by events and personalities of the period in question but it left no doubt as to the value that such men of action made to the international superiority of the Royal Navy. As a 'Man's Man' there could be no doubt that Edward Pellew was an inspirational leader who would ask no man to do anything that he would not do himself and that included daring solo sea rescues to casting off his ship from a dangerous reef, when the crew defered from the job, then swimming back to the boat. He was not only a highly successful antagonist but also magnanimous in victory. Pellew not only had to fight the sea and enemy navies but also contend with the politics and vicious intrigues of the admiralty. The book is copiously illustated but some of the maps are difficult to read.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Pellew was one of the UKs greatest commanders, and an under appreciated figure from the age of British sea power. This book is fabulous, I read a ton of military non fiction, and I would recommend this book to anyone. One point that I think all people should know, that the author more or less tries to bring across, was Pellews efforts and strong feelings about slavery. He literally battled to set people free from bondage. The slaves he set free were Caucasian, and were enslaved in Africa of all places. People do not realize that well over a million Europeans were taken against their will to Africa as slaves, and this little known chapter of history is covered in this wonderful book.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on October 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A sea captain greater than Nelson? How about the man who is the mentor to Horatio Hornblower or the model for Jack Aubrey. Edward Pellew rose from obscurity thru the ranks to command a frigate at a time when commanding one meant you were at the cutting edge of empire . Stephen Taylor has done a great service to the reading public: he has made Viscount Pellew human . All the atmospherics are right .
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Taylor has written a splendid page turner. His biography of Edward Pellew, Lord Exmouth, fills a surprising gap in the mainstream histories of the British Navy during the Napoleonic era. Taylor adds significant details and insights to Pellew's exploits and underlying character by carefully and fairly mining materials left behind by George Pellew, Pellew's youngest son.
Pellew, who appears in a favorable light as a mentor in Forrester's early Hornblower novels and as the likely model for Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey, deserves wider recognition as a resourceful, courageous, honorable and humane leader. Pellew was no saint: He used his influence to advance the careers of his brother and two of his sons beyond their capabilities and he made some noisy and powerful enemies, but he was in the words of his contemporaries a "good man". Taylor does his subject proud.
Taylor's story culminates in Pellew's greatest triumph - the suppression of barbary pirates of Algiers, albeit temporarily. His description of Pellew's earlier diplomatic efforts and his actual reduction of Algiers is as good as anything found in O'Brian or Forrester.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
This book gives a vivid picture of life in the British Navy around the time of Trafalgar. In addition to describing various naval actions, the author dicusses the politics which affected naval personnel at that time. The subject of the book was a very skilful marriner, adept at picking and training young men to develop into seasoned commanders, unless these young men were his relatives when he turned a blind eye to their faults. The comparison between his career and that of Horatio Nelson is fascinating. The book is a great read anyway, but the behind the scenes politics makes it seem contemporary, ships may change, men do not.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on November 7, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Great reading -- fills in the blanks about a hero often alluded to in history and novels of the era, but overshadowed by Nelson. Also very good relative to politics and culture of the times.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on December 17, 2012
Format: HardcoverVerified Purchase
One of the best books I have read in years. Reads better than fiction. I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in the late 18th century.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Taylor's "Commander" is must reading for anyone interested in the age of fighting sail. This is especially true for American readers since Pellew is relatively unknown in the States. At the outset, Taylor opens an interesting debate when he connects Pellew to the fictional Jack Aubrey and Horatio Hornblower. The better known Thomas Cochrane is frequently held up as the model for these popular characters. In the end, it may be that they are composites of several famous figures. If the book can be criticized, style will be the issue. There are single sentences that include as many as three commas,two colons, one semi-colon, elipses, and two sets of quotation marks. There ought to be a rule against this kind of writing. Similarly, Taylor sprinkles the narrative with odd expressions, such as "cock a snook". Perhaps a localism, its unfamiliar to me and I have to pause to guess its meaning. This breaks the flow of a superbly researched book.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2012
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
From a tumultuos beginnings to high military office. He takes all the baggage and yet still moves ahead. Just a bloody good read: Social comment in a time of strict social stratification and just great "daring do".
I cannot wait for the TV series or the Movie - hey, surely someone must be considering!!!!!!!
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2014
Format: Paperback
Pellew who is one of the icons of the Royal Navy at its zenith deserved a better biographer. Although his name is well known, particularly as a frigate captain which has tended to obscure his later career which was distinguished, I didn't know too much about him and wanted to learn more. Taylor's book provides a reasonable summary of his career but is unlikely to satisfy those who want more substantial fare. The book is well written but the style is rather superficial journalese than serious historical inquiry. In particular it is loaded with assertions for which only vague evidence is provided. One typical example is the treatment of Pellew's social background which was certainly modest financially but not penurious and his family connections were minor gentry or civilian professional seamen of the officer/proprietor class. According to Taylor his circumstances were far more straitened than this and he was totally without interest, and he criticizes the only other modern biographer C. Northcote Parkinson (a naval historian and author of the famous Peter Principle) for overstating his provenance. There is no doubt Pellew's spectacular rise depended on his massive courage, leadership skills and super competent seamanship, but a 20 year old junior officer who was communicating with Lord Sandwich the First Lord of the Admiralty during the American war of Independence was hardly a rustic nobody. This is a complex issue of relationships but Taylor doesn't really begin to analyse it. There are similar rather questionable assertions about even greater icons of the period like Lord St Vincent, Pitt the Younger and rivals like Sir Thomas Troubridge. So overall well worth buying and reading if you want a topside look at the great man but not a great guide to the real texture of the Georgian navy and its principal ornaments.
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