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The Fortune of War (Vol. Book 6) (Aubrey/Maturin Novels) Paperback – August 17, 1991

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Frequently Bought Together

The Fortune of War (Vol. Book 6)  (Aubrey/Maturin Novels) + Desolation Island  (The Aubrey/Maturin Novels, Book 5) + The Surgeon's Mate (Vol. Book 7)  (Aubrey/Maturin Novels)
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Editorial Reviews Review

This time it's the War of 1812 that gets in the way of Captain Jack Aubery's plans. Caught en route to England in a dispatch vessel, Aubrey and Maturin are soon in the thick of a typically bloody naval engagement. Next stop: an American prison, from which only Maturin's cunning allows them to engineer an exit.


“I devoured Patrick O’Brian’s 20-volume masterpiece as if it had been so many tots of Jamaica grog.” (Christopher Hitchens - Slate)

“Gripping and vivid… a whole, solidly living world for the imagination to inhabit.” (A. S. Byatt)

“O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin volumes actually constitute a single 6,443-page novel, one that should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century.” (George Will)

“I haven’t read novels [in the past ten years] except for all of the Patrick O’Brian series. It was, unfortunately, like tripping on heroin. I started on those books and couldn’t stop.” (E. O. Wilson - Boston Globe)

“Patrick O’Brian is unquestionably the Homer of the Napoleonic wars.” (James Hamilton-Paterson - New Republic)

“I fell in love with his writing straightaway, at first with Master and Commander. It wasn’t primarily the Nelson and Napoleonic period, more the human relationships. …And of course having characters isolated in the middle of the goddamn sea gives more scope. …It’s about friendship, camaraderie. Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin always remind me a bit of Mick and me.” (Keith Richards)

“It has been something of a shock to find myself—an inveterate reader of girl books—obsessed with Patrick O’Brian’s Napoleonic-era historical novels… What keeps me hooked are the evolving relationships between Jack and Stephen and the women they love.” (Tamar Lewin - New York Times)

“[O’Brian’s] Aubrey-Maturin series, 20 novels of the Royal Navy in the Napoleonic Wars, is a masterpiece. It will outlive most of today’s putative literary gems as Sherlock Holmes has outlived Bulwer-Lytton, as Mark Twain has outlived Charles Reade.” (David Mamet - New York Times)

“The Aubrey-Maturin series… far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.” (Ken Ringle - Washington Post)

“There is not a writer alive whose work I value over his.” (Stephen Becker - Chicago Sun-Times)

“The best historical novels ever written... On every page Mr. O'Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons: that times change, but people don't, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact the maps of our own lives.” (Richard Snow - New York Times Book Review)

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Product Details

  • Series: Aubrey/Maturin Novels (Book 6)
  • Paperback: 355 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (August 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393308138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393308136
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #24,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

In addition to twenty volumes in the highly respected Aubrey/Maturin series, Patrick O'Brian's many books include "Testimonies," "The Golden Ocean," and "The Unknown Shore". O'Brian also wrote acclaimed biographies of Pablo Picasso and Sir Joseph Banks and translated many works from the French, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Lacouture's biographies of Charles de Gaulle. He passed away in January 2000 at the age of 85.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bill Mac on March 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Aubrey/Maturin series seems to get even better with each installment. The Fortune of War begins with Lucky Jack bringing his ship into port after the events of Desolation Island and reaches a thunderous conclusion with historical battle between the Chesapeake and the Shannon. In between O'Brian provides the reader with naval disasters, naval battles, cloak and dagger, tense escapes and even a cricket game! All this is set against the backdrop of the opening months of the War of 1812. The reader lives through unexpected reverses at sea and unanticipated successes on land in what is a tragic and senseless war.
In The Fortune of War Aubrey and Maturin spend much of their time in the United States where Louisa Wogan and Diana Villiers of early books reside. The reader gets an excellent feel for the period and place. Interestingly, in what appears to be a nod to modern readers, O'Brian cites the low taxes in the USA. Also, many modern readers might be surprised to read how unpopular "Mr. Madison's War" was at the time. Ironically what was a nasty, vicious war on the Canada/US border was a gentleman's war at sea. Officers were paroled and free to roam the streets in an enemy city. Ships' captains could write courteous letters to enemy captains inviting them out to engage in bloody naval conflicts. Perhaps the greatest irony was that the two societies with the freest men were engaging in a wasteful conflict while a tyrant was running roughshod over Europe.
Perhaps the most interesting perspectives for the naval buff are O'Brian's explanations of initial American successes at sea and their affect on British morale. According to O'Brian American frigates (the largest class they had available) outgunned their RN counterparts.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
A year ago I read "Master and Commander" and was impressed. A month ago I read "Post Captain" and was hooked. Now I've read eleven of the installments of what has to be one of the great novels of the century.
"The Fortune of War" is an epic, moving installment that works on many levels. Although a Yankee, I can't help but feel for Jack and the Brits as they try to salvage some honor from the War of 1812, a rather dishonorable war for all concerned. Who could fail to be moved by the image of the Constitution holding its fire rather than destroy the helpless Java? Or Captain Lawrence tipping his hat to Jack from the deck of the Chesapeake, only to be killed immediately afterward (O'Brian doesn't mention that it was Lawrence who said "Don't give up the Ship"). The battle scenes are thrilling but tinged with regret.
In order to fit Jack and Stephen into actual historical events O'Brian has to put them into the background, and we share their anguish as one British ship after another falls victim to the tiny but tough American navy. Remember, this is during the Napoleonic wars, and the Americans were effectively allied with the Hitler of that day.
This book was apparently written with Homer in mind. Jack and Stephen are unwilling participants in historical events, when all they really want to do is to go home, Jack to a new command (so he can come back and whip the Americans) and Stephen to deliver an important message to Sir Joseph. In between battles, shipwreck, near starvation, and certain execution, O'Brian finds time to consider timeless notions of duty, honor, loyalty and freedom.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 23, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is the sixth in the excellent series about a British Navy Captain and his friend the British Intelligence Agent but it is a little different from the previous novels. Steven Maturin the spy is definitely at center stage while Captain Aubrey mostly waits in the wings.
This book is therefore, by and large, a spy novel. After being captured with his friend by the U.S. Navy during the War of 1812, Maturin enveavours to keep the Americans from discovering that he is anything but a simple surgeon and naturalist. To make his life even more complicated, his lost love is also living in America and he struggles with his feelings toward her even as ruthless French agents seek him through the twisted streets of Boston.
But Captain Aubrey isn't entirely neglected. The English and American Navy are locked in a series of frigate battles and Aubrey and Maturin manage to be in the middle of two of them.
O'Brien upholds the outstanding reputation this series has garnered with another fine contribution.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael K. Smith TOP 1000 REVIEWER on November 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
The previous volume ended with the orchestrated escape of Mrs. Wogan and Michael Herapath from Desolation Island in an American whaler, and the reader knew that "the horrible old LEOPARD" was about to forge on, too, having managed to replace her destroyed rudder. This volume begins in late 1812, with the LEOPARD limping into harbor in the East Indies, with only a sentence or two given to the fate of Gov. William Bligh in Australia -- which didn't strike me as quite fair. The historical Bligh is a very interesting personality. However. The LEOPARD is good now only as a transport, and Jack Aubrey has been told of a nice frigate awaiting his command on his return to England, so he and Dr. Maturin and their followers take homebound passage with an old acquaintance of Jack's. It's a lovely voyage as far as the mid-Atlantic, but then events catch up with them, and they find themselves in a small boat struggling to reach the coast of Brazil. They're rescued by the JAVA -- which is then taken by the CONSTITUTION, the third British frigate to fall to the small U.S. Navy in a very short time. Very depressing for our heroes, but O'Brian doesn't hesitate to laud the abilities of the American seamen and commanders. Maturin and the wounded Jack end up as prisoners of war in Boston, where Stephen Maturin's intelligence activities against Napoleonic France come back to haunt him, and where he joins up again with Diana Villiers, Herapath (father and son), and Louisa Wogan. The focus is more on Maturin in this book than in most of the others (so far), and he shows himself to be quite cold-blooded when necessary in pursuit of his covert objectives.Read more ›
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