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The Golden Ocean Paperback – October 17, 1996

4.4 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

O'Brian's first sea-going novel, The Golden Ocean is a precurser to the acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin series in its excitement and rich humor, its eloquent style and and tapestry of historical detail. Peter Palofox, second son of a poor Irish parson, sets out on the voyage of a lifetime when he seeks his fortune as a midshipman in Commodore Anson's flotilla. With five ships under his command, Anson leaves England in 1740 to circumnavigate the globe and attack Spanish ships wherever they can be found. Peter comes of age in the complex but sharply defined community of the fleet as they engage in battle, fight disease, and face shipwreck.

From Publishers Weekly

Originally published in 1956, this is O'Brian's first novel of the sea. But it is more than just a curiosity from the author of the 16 wonderful Aubrey/Maturin books, most recently The Wine-Dark Sea ; it can stand on its own as an entertaining and psychologically astute narrative. Based on British Commodore George Anson's four-year circumnavigation that began in 1740, the book focuses on young midshipman Peter Palafox. A younger son of a poor Irish parson, Peter is sweet-natured, impetuous and innocent (though well educated: he knows English, Irish, Latin and Greek). Much of the narrative follows his evolution into a capable seaman with a talent for leadership and--after the capture of large sums of Spanish gold and silver--into a rich man. This early work has practically all the naval lore and sense of place that grace the Aubrey/Maturin books; the scenes in China are particular standouts. Shipboard life rings true, the story never flags and humor abounds: "Well, he is a wonderful poacher for a Protestant," observes one Anglo-Irishman. O'Brian says he wrote the book in about six weeks, "laughing most of the time," and one believes him. Though the splendid characters of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin are absent, fans will gladly use this story to fill the time til the next episode of their adventures.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (October 17, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393315371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393315370
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,272 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Patrick O'Brian's fans who mope about hoping for still another Aubrey/Maturin masterpiece should read this, his first historical tale of the sea. An incredible adventure surrounding the true account of Commodore Anson's small fleet intent on circumnavigating the globe. Some of the most gut-wrenching tragedies imaginable are tempered with subtle humor and sidesplitting hilarity. The fleet is eventually reduced by the ravages of the sea to one ship, Anson's Centurion, but it returns to England laden to the gunnels with an incredible fortune wrested from a Spanish galleon.
You few million Aubrey/Maturin addicts out there will love this book as well as any of the seventeen in the Aubrey/Maturin series. You'll notice that his superb writing skill was wholly present then as now, treating us to every human emotion in his uniquely masterful style. I've heard him compared to Conrad in his ability to describe the terror of an ocean run amuck, ravaging those small ships,the desp! ! erate efforts of the mariners to save their ships -- and themselves, sometimes successful, sometimes not. But after going back to Conrad for a fresh look at his work, my opinion is that O'Brian excels him.
Following this brilliant work is The Unknown Shore, O'Brian's account of what might have happened to the survivors of one -- or was it two? -- ships in Anson's fleet that were wrecked during the voyage.
In The Golden Ocean, as in all of O'Brian's stories, the characters live and breathe, love and hate, are often courageous but sometimes are not, often behave as we would wish but occasionally veer off the straight and narrow. Above all, though, they are always true to their individual characters.
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By A Customer on March 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Golden Ocean was written in 1956 and is Patrick O'Brian's first novel about the sea. As such, it is the perfect precursor to the highly acclimed Aubrey/Maturin series. The protagonist of this book is Peter Palafox, son of an impoverished Irish parson. In 1740, Peter, who has never before seen a ship, signs on, as a midshipman with Commodore Anson. Together with his lifelong friend, Sean, Peter hopes to find his fortune. He finds danger and disappointment instead, as Anson and his men circle the globe through poorly charted waters. And, although they seize a vast fortune in Spanish gold and silver, only one of Anson's five ships survives the voyage. The Golden Ocean is as perfectly and beautifully crafted as are the Aubrey/Maturin novels. The writing is brilliantly detailed and the action perfectly paced. With The Golden Ocean, O'Brian has created a perfect world of must-read-on storytelling. A book deserving of ten stars and anyone's time.
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Format: Paperback
This precursor to the Aubrey-Maturin series is more memorable than some of the books in that series. It covers Anson's voyage around the world, in which he captured the fabled Manila galleon, one of the richest single-ship captures in naval history. I enjoyed it partly for its setting within this historical event: a particularly grand adventure. This was the 'dream cruise'(in terms of results!)that fired the hopes of royal-navymen, from admirals to ordinary seamen, for generations afterward. O'Brian's is a wonderfully rich telling, via two interesting and well-developed Irish character who interact throughout with actual historical figures, such as a very young Keppel. O'Brian's portait of the peppery Keppel was particularly vivid and interesting, revealing much about the Royal Navy of the times and the kind of men who did well in its selection process. The hardships and the mood of events on this voyage are well-drawn, and the story moves along at a comfortable pace. If I had a criticism, I would say that not enough time was spent on the capture itself and the story of intrigue surrounding it, which feels truncated and hurried. I wanted to know more about the capture and to savor their success with them, and I didn't feel that. They just sailed home. I think this apparent imbalance comes from the amount of time spent getting there. I like this book because it has stayed with me, unlike some of the Aubrey-Maturin series, as much as I like that series. Something about 'The Golden Ocean' maintains a hold on my imagination despite it's status as an 'early' O'Brian work.
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Format: Paperback
In the Aubry/Maturin series, Mr. O'Brian shows us life in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars from the perspective of an officer. In the Golden Ocean, we get a glimpse of what life was like as a midshipman and a closer look into the lower decks during war with the Spanish. Like Mr. O'Brian's later works, the characters are likeable but also completely human and therefore fallible. Newcomers to Patrick O'Brian's works might be put off early in the book by the British and Irish colloquialism and the seemingly lengthy delay in getting to sea and thus the meat of the story. However, it's worth the initial learning curve because both of these apparent shortcomings are actually the jewels that make Mr. O'Brian's books so great. The colloquialism is easy to get used to and adds colour (u added in honor of Mr. O'Brian) to the story. At the same time, the apparent delay serves to give the reader insight into what it must have felt like for a seaman utterly dependent on wind and tide and just as eager to get to sea. That's the beauty of Mr. O'Brian's stories, they really draw you into them.
For me the experience of reading this book is a Microcosm of the Aubry/Maturin series, in the beginning I wasn't sure I would enjoy or even stick with it, but shortly I would find I couldn't put it down and was sad to see it end. I would recommend this book with the caveat that if you like it you'll love the Aubry/Maturin series.
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