O’Brian, Patrick: (02) Post Captain (spoilers)

And here are the SPOILERS for Post Captain. If you’re here by a random link, here’s the non-spoiler post.

Allow me to say that the back cover copy for my edition gave me the impression that Jack was actually to be arrested for debt, which really warped my expectations:

In 1803 Napoleon smashes the Peace of Amiens, and Captain Jack Aubrey, R.N., taking refuge in France from his creditors, is interned. He escapes from France, from debtors’ prison, from a possible mutiny, and pursues his quarry straight into the mouth of a French-held harbor.

The escape from France is the infamous dancing bear incident, which doesn’t quite work for me in the way it mixes farce with character torture. They’re captured as passengers in the Lord Nelson by the Bellone, which is later captured by ships of the line; in the weird Polychrest, built to carry a really big rocket launcher, they drive the Bellone onto the rocks and sink her.

Then there’s the averted duel between Jack and Stephen over Jack giving Stephen the lie, but really over Diana Villiers (who’s gone off with Canning by the end of the book); the potential mutiny and cutting out the Fanciulla; and chasing Spanish gold in the Lively.

(And I kept expecting Babbington to lose the arm that was broken boarding the Fanciulla, but that’s because I’d forgotten that young Blakeney in the movie was, well, not Babbington.)

This struck me as the (or, I suppose, a) book where Jack gets put through the wringer, what with the bear and the terrible Polychrest and all, so it was nice to be on board the Lively at the end as a relief from all that. Even with Stephen’s ridiculous bees.

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  1. The dancing bear incident is just wrong, it’s not at the same level of reality as the rest of the series, and even allowing for O’Brien plausibly still not having figured out where he was going with it as a series, it doesn’t work. [ Though I always think of it as “Exit Stephen pursued by a bear”, which is at least worth a giggle. ]

  2. To be fair, it _tries_, I would say, with the unpleasant physical aspects coming hard on the heels of the silliness of it being Jack. But on the whole, as Jack might say, it don’t answer.
    We’ve just been introduced to an Ulsterman in book 4, and I was relieved that he sounds much more different from Stephen than James Dillion did in book 1; there are several long conversations between the two of them without dialogue tags that were very difficult.

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