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The Reverse of the Medal (Vol. Book 11) (Aubrey/Maturin Novels) Paperback – July 17, 1992

81 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ashore between cruises, Captain Jack Aubrey is persuaded to sink some money into an investment scheme. Soon this innocent decision enmeshes him in various criminal and even treasonous enterprises, which threaten to destroy his entire career. Bad luck? A deliberate plot? Read this latest installment of the Aubrey-Maturin saga to find out.


“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)

“[O'Brian's] attention to period speech and detail is uncompromising, and while the cascades of nautical lore can be dizzying, both aficionados and newcomers will be swept up by the richness of Mr. O'Brian's prodigious imagination.” (Scott Veale - New York Times Book Review)

“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 11)
  • Paperback: 287 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (July 17, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393309606
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393309607
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,850 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

46 of 48 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
After years of encouragement from my father, I finally began to read the Aubrey/Maturin series last winter. As I finished each book, he would say "wait until you get to Reverse of the Medal." Now that I have just turned its last page, which came all too quickly, I know what he meant. "The Reverse of the Medal" is heartbreakingly heroic and one of the best stories I have ever read.
Several reviews here give praise to the ending. I will go further and say it rivals the best 50 pages to be found in any masterpiece you could put forth. When Aubrey is led to the pillory, to be publicly humiliated, his spiritual rescue by his fellow Naval officers and his devoted crew is tense and extremely moving. I could hardly believe I was reading a modern writer. Great books and movies are defined by certain moments that fulfill a yearning for the triumph of Spirit or Truth or Love. The emotional cheer at the pillory and Stephen's subsequent meetings with Duhamel, the French agent, are two of these perfect artistic moments that say to anyone ready and open for the experience, yes, this is what life is about and what friendship for your fellow Man should be.
This is what great literature, great art, does. It changes you. So do yourself a favor: ignore the multitude of self-help books. Pass by the latest celebrity biography or expose. Dismiss the soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture-or-mini-series pulp.
If you read one thing during the rest of your lifetime, let it be these novels by O'Brian. It will alter your molecules, your view of life itself.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
Above all else, Patrick O'Brian is a patient writer. It is absolutely astonishing how slowly and carefully he is willing to develop his stories, amazing now when we have all of his books before us, and even more amazing when they were written, when he took years to bring plot details to fruition. Those who have not read this books would be absolutely stunned to discover their true nature. Before I had read these books, I had assumed they were nautical slugfests, thick with the smoke of battle and the stench of gunpowder. Yet in this, one of the best books in the series, there is next to no fighting, at least of the naval kind.

The book is broken roughly into two parts. The first contains the final leg of what is anticipated to be the final voyage of H.M.S. Surprise before she is to be either broken up or sold by the British navy. Though still one of the finest sailing ships in the navy, she is underpowered compared to other ships of the line, and her timbers will not allow the fitting of heavier guns. She spends the last part of her career as a British ship chasing an American privateer, only just failing to capture her. The second half of the novel takes place upon the return of Jack and Stephen to England. Jack hopes to buy the Surprise, and after receiving a stock tip by a mysterious individual who offers him a ride to London upon his arrival in England, he firmly believes that he is about to come into a very great deal of money, and being the generous soul that he is, he quickly shares the stock tip with all of his friends. But he soon discovers that the tip was actually a ploy by the political enemies of his Radical father, and he finds himself hauled before the law for stock market fraud.

Meanwhile, Stephen is, with one exception, hardly faring better.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on October 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Some critics have referred to the Aubrey/Maturin books as one long novel united not only by their historical setting but also by the central plot element of the Aubrey/Maturin friendship. Having read these fine books over a period of several years, I decided to evaluate their cumulative integrity by reading them consecutively in order of publication over a period of a few weeks. This turned out to be a rewarding enterprise. For readers unfamiliar with these books, they describe the experiences of a Royal Navy officer and his close friend and traveling companion, a naval surgeon. The experiences cover a broad swath of the Napoleonic Wars and virtually the whole globe.
Rereading all the books confirmed that O'Brian is a superb writer and that his ability to evoke the past is outstanding. O'Brian has numerous gifts as a writer. He is the master of the long, careful description, and the short, telling episode. His ability to construct ingenious but creditable plots is first-rate, probably because he based much of the action of his books on actual events. For example, some of the episodes of Jack Aubrey's career are based on the life of the famous frigate captain, Lord Cochrane. O'Brian excels also in his depiction of characters. His ability to develop psychologically creditable characters through a combination of dialogue, comments by other characters, and description is tremendous. O'Brien's interest in psychology went well beyond normal character development, some books contain excellent case studies of anxiety, depression, and mania.
Reading O'Brien gives vivid view of the early 19th century. The historian Bernard Bailyn, writing of colonial America, stated once that the 18th century world was not only pre-industrial but also pre-humanitarian (paraphrase).
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