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21: The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey: Including Facsimile of the Manuscript Hardcover – October 17, 2004

3.7 out of 5 stars 156 customer reviews
Book 21 of 21 in the Aubrey & Maturin Series

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For Aubrey/Maturin addicts, there could be no better gift: a new, albeit incomplete, story with freshly piquant details, wry humor and salty nautical action. Although the official word was that O'Brian had finished the series with 1999's Blue at the Mizzen, he was in fact working on a new installment at the time of his death in 2000. This short volume juxtaposes a facsimile of O'Brian's handwritten manuscript of the untitled novel with a printed version of the text, which corresponds to O'Brian's loosely edited, typed pages. As the tale opens, our heroes are off the coast of South America, trying to find a friendly place to put the Surprise in for victuals and water. Jack Aubrey has received the happy news that he has been given the rank of rear admiral of the Blue, and all is well for the time being. But the Catholic locals are surly at best to the mostly Protestant crew. To fix things, Stephen Maturin does some judicious buttering up and Aubrey reunites with Samuel Mputa, the region's Papal Nuncio and, incidentally, one of his "indiscretions" from his days as "a long-legged youth" serving on the South African station. The typescript of the third chapter ends mid-sentence, but the handwritten manuscript continues on to include a duel between Maturin and a romantic rival, leaving readers begging for more. Alas, this fragmentary but worthy addition to the series is truly the end of a literary era, leaving only readers' imaginations to fill in the rest of the story.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The pages of O’Brian’s 21st Aubrey novel will leave readers hungry for more. Not surprisingly, 21 neither stands alone as a novel nor serves as a concise conclusion to the series. Instead, it sketches out the details of the start of another Aubrey mission. The bulk of the chapters offers set-pieces describing gunnery practice, grog, deck-swabbing, a hernia operation, and a reunion with Papal Nuncio Samuel Mputa. The pages also contain O’Brian’s trademark humor and eagle-eyed observations, if cut short. There’s nothing new here for seasoned readers except, perhaps, for an elaborate menu devised by an Argentine grandee. And yet that doesn’t diminish the power of this small, unfinished masterpiece.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1st edition (October 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 039306025X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393060256
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 10.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #398,047 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on October 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An excellent gift to the fans of Patrick O'Brian but, I am sure, of little interest to anyone else. Certainly it would be the worst possible introduction to O'Brian's wonderful nautical fiction. But for those of us who have for years read and re-read his tales, so beautifully written and so infused with the great friendship between his two central characters, this fragment of O'Brian's intended twenty-first novel in the series allows us to pay one last visit to these two fascinating men. And happily we find them in a time of comparative joy and leisure. Gentle humor abounds as Aubrey and Maturin tease one another, based on their sure knowledge of one another's quirks and modes of thought. Although it seems certain that the typewritten manuscript of the these three, rather short chapters would have received further polishing and likely substantial additions before the book was completed, what we have is not only recognizable, but very characteristic O'Brian prose, often illuminated by the choice of exactly the right adjective that is at once both unexpected and yet revealed as inevitable. I would go so far as to argue that even as it stands, the writing here more nearly approaches that of O'Brian's best books than that of at least the last few novels.

A unique feature of this final book is that it presents the printed text face-to-face with O'Brian's handwritten draft for that same text, and it can be fascinating to see how the prose evolved from pen to typewritten versions. But the typewritten text ended with still several handwritten pages yet to go, and the publishers have elected to present those last pages as they were found without transcription into print.
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Format: Hardcover
I had just finished the 20th novel yesterday, BLUE AT THE MIZZEN, and then read this book, which came out just in time for me to finish THE AUBREYIAD.

The book has both a copy of the handwritten manuscript, and a typed up version of the work that O'Brian was able to revise before he died. The manuscript has more of the story that O'Brian didn't have time to revise, so about 5 pages are only found in manuscript form, and they aren't typed up. I really wish that the publisher had typed up these last 5 pages of the manuscript, because some of the manuscript is unreadable. The untyped manscript covers a duel, and would really make excellent reading. I'm afraid I don't have Dr. Maturin's ability to decode.
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Format: Hardcover
What a treasure this book is. Not only does Aubrey finally hoist his flag, but he and Maturin begin another adventure - one that will not end, but nonetheless a fitting departure.

Of equal interest to those who have followed the series is the mix of handwritten text with typescript that has gone through a first stage of revisions. You can actually see how O'Brian assembled the pieces of each chapter, notes to himself to add this detail or to flesh out that one, even a diagram of how the characters were placed as they sat around the table at dinner. Some observers believe that for outstanding writers such as Patrick O'Brian, these stories spring from his thoughts, practically complete at first blush. The handwritten text shows that excellent writing is very hard work.

This is clearly not the way for O'Brian newcomers to begin their acquaintance with Aubrey, Maturin, their families, the Surprise, Killick, or any other aspect of the series. It takes good eyes and tenacious dedication to read the handwritten manuscript. It is all still too raw to make a lot of sense for those fresh to this sea.

But for those who have read and reread this series, perhaps listened to the audio book versions, who have purchased Geoff Hunt prints and who, despite misgivings, saw "Master and Commander" in the theater, "21" cannot be missed.
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Format: Hardcover
just a beautiful unfinished torso of a novel that could have opened a new chapter in the Aubrey-Maturineid.

I quite resented the editors' choice of leaving the final handwritten notes in fac simile, instead of typing them the way one would take for granted six centuries after Gutemberg.

O'Brian's prose reads smoothly as ever , but his handwriting is above me.

Oliviero Fuzzi
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Format: Hardcover
I am grateful for any new crumb of an O'Brian seafaring tale that I can get my hands on. This one included. But even taking into account the unavoidably abrupt end of this novel fragment, "21" still lacks significantly due to some inexcusable decisions on presentation.

There were many ways that this project could have gone. Rumors of another author attempting to finish the work; pretending to the mastery of O'Brian's steady hand at the tiller. Rumors of a note-filled outline that would allow the reader to know the broad strokes of the story, even if it hadn't yet been filled with the flowing detail and observations that are the author's hallmark. It was hoped by many that whatever was to be released would remain true to O'Brian and his richly described world.

What we get in "21" is more, and less, than what we would want. O'Brian's handwritten manuscript is presented next to his approved typed pages. It reveals the steady flow of his narration, written out on the page in an almost finished form. Remarkable when considering the period dialect, obscure adjectives, and insightful eye for detail already present in this hand-scripted draft. Enlightening in what it reveals about the author's method and capability. In just 3 chapters the story is already off to a great start and promising more. Reunions, rivalries, complications are all well in motion when O'Brian is forced to take his leave, and the story left untold.

The decision was made not to present the final pages in a typed format on the excuse that O'Brian had not reviewed them in type prior to his death. They are presented only as facsimile copies of the author's handwritten notes.
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