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The Far Side of the World (Vol. Book 10) (Aubrey/Maturin Novels) Paperback – April 17, 1992

4.3 out of 5 stars 132 customer reviews
Book 10 of 21 in the Aubrey & Maturin Series

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Captain Jack Aubrey sets sail for Cape Horn, determined to intercept an American frigate before it can wreak havoc on the British whaling trade. As always, he is accompanied by intelligence operative Stephen Maturin, and as always, Aubrey has no idea of what his companion is up to. Another impeccably written adventure, by the end of which you should be able to identify a mizzen topsail in your sleep.


“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)

“A world of enchanting fictional surfaces.” (John Bayley - New York Review of Books)

“These eccentric, improbably novels seem to have been written by Patrick O'Brian to please himself in the first instance, and thereafter to please those readers who may share his delight in precision of language, odd lands and colors, a humane respect for such old-fashioned sentiments as friendship and honor. Like Aubrey and Maturin playing Mozart duets beneath a Pacific moon, he works elegant variations on the tradition of the seafaring adventure story.” (Thomas Flanagan - 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 10)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (April 17, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393308626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393308624
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (132 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Paperback
The recent film Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World sparked my interest in Patrick O'Brian's lengthy series of nautical adventures featuring Capt. Jack Aubrey and his close friend and ship's doctor, Stephen Maturin. While the source novel, The Far Side of the World, comes at a midpoint in O'Brian's chronology, it provides a familiar port for a movie fan to embark on the journey. (Had I read the book before seeing the movie, this might be an entirely different review; now, a comparison between the two is inevitable.)

O'Brian's novel is an intelligent, fascinating look at British naval life during the Napoleanic wars. The author quickly draws readers into the world of seamanship and His Majesty's Navy, filling the pages with rich images and jargon that bring a bygone era back to life with less flash but more substance. Book and movie are both enjoyable and absorbing; still, readers will find very little resemblance here, as the movie draws very few scenes and plot twists from O'Brian's text.

Characters, on the other hand, are better developed in these pages, and there are more of them to boot. Relationships aboard ship are more fully explored and there are even a few women -- a handful of officer's wives -- among the passengers. Subplots dealing with international intrigue, shipboard romance and murder (that were dropped entirely from the movie script) kept my interest level high. There is plenty of humor, too, providing the occasional elbow jab in the ribs and hearty chuckle.

The novel can be slow-moving at times; it seems an endless wait before HMS Surprise and her crew even leave port!
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By A Customer on July 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
When reading the Aubrey/Maturin series it is hard to think that perhaps any one book is better then the rest. Because of O'Brians brilliant use of language and subtlety, the best book always seems to be the one you have most recently put down. This seems to be the case until you read The Far side of the World. This book has all the elements that you love about the series - great dialogue, authentic naval warfare, love, intrigue, and more - all rolled into one. O'Brian is able to present early 19th century life to you in a way that can only be equalled by primary sources. I would recommend that you read the series in order , but if you had to read just one make it The Far Side of the World.
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Format: Paperback
Given the existence of the movie MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD, something has to be said initially about that. I would very strongly recommend anyone who has seen the movie and wants to read the novel to resist the temptation to do so. Mainly this is because it is the tenth novel in a series, and the author assumes that you have read the previous nine. If you pick this up and attempt to read it without having read the others, you will be utterly at sea (pun intended). I also do not recommend this novel to viewers of the movie (who don't intend to read the other novels first) because the novel and the movie bear very little resemblence to one another. There is, in fact, almost nothing in common between the two except for the two main characters, the fact that the H.M.S. Surprise is chasing another ship (an American ship rather than French as in the movie, presumably so as not to alienate American movie goers), they encounter the Gallapagos Islands, and they end up in the Pacific. In other words, there is only the most superficial resemblence between the novel and the movie.

For readers of the series, this is one of the stronger additions to the sequence. Instead of taking the Surprise back to England where she is to be sold or perhaps broken up, Jack is summoned to go out in search of the U.S.S. Norfolk, an American ship sent out to harrass British whaling ships in the Pacific. Although things go well at first, it turns out to be an almost doomed voyage, with one catastrophe after another taking place. None of the misfortunes dooms the mission, but neither do they allow anything to go smoothly. The only thing that saves the mission is that the Norfolk ends up having even less luck than the Surprise.
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