Friday, November 04, 2011

"Blue at the Mizzen" - a review..

The penultimate (the last??) book in the Aubrey/Maturin series and I think you'll know by now that I'm a huge fan so no surprises that right out I give this one an 8 out of 10 ..
I have to say that I approached this book with a slight sense of sadness as this was the last full novel that O'Brien wrote before his far too untimely death...  he did start the next book (but I have decided I won't buy it*) but unfortunately died before it was completed...
So what of this book???

Well the war has ended, and more than ever there is a sense that Aubrey and Maturin are getting older - the have both served for the whole of the war at sea, and I think it fair to say that they are "tired"...

Now that the war has ended however, they refit the Surprise and set out for South America and the Horn on their way to help the Chileans secure independence from Spain, their original mission before Bonaparte's 100 Days campaign so rudely interrupted them.. before they can leave however substantial work is required to repair Surprise after a collision at sea, and to recruit replacement crew as many of the original crew have left the ship following the end of the war...

On the way, they stop at Sierra Leone so that Maturin can propose, and although turned down in this instance, he is left with hopes that the lady may change her mind ... they are however, well suited, far more so than to Diana his previous wife...

After a hard slog round the Cape (Horn) they arrive in Chile where they find that the Chileans have split into two factions (northern and southern), with the southerners retaining the services of a British naval captain Sir David Lindsay to command the Chilean navy. Aubrey and he agree to serve together in order to advance the Chilean interests... after time spent training the embryo navy, they receive news of plans for a Peruvian invasion by the Spanish envoy and Aubrey hatches a plan to land troops at Valdivia while his ships bombard the forts, after a hard fight, the action is successful and they take the Surprise back to hand over a large amount of captured bullion to the junta.

Aubrey then comes up with a plan to reinforce the Chilean navy by cutting out a large Spanish frigate, the Esmerelda currently anchored in Callao harbour...  O'Brien then describes one of those classic hard-fought broadside actions he does so well, and eventually the British-Chilean force takes the ship although Aubrey is heavily wounded ("thin gruel for you, my dear will not do - perhaps a light broth" ).

Having taken the Esmerelda back, it is clear that the factional fighting in Chile has escalated, but Aubrey insists on his sailors receiving their share of the prize-money and Esmeralda's value.

They receive the money's, and after a happy period doing further training,and as the book ends, Aubrey is overwhelmed to receive orders that the Admiralty requires him to take command of the South African squadron, hoisting his flag at the River Plate, blue at the mizzen, aboard HMS Implacable. Jack has finally made admiral!

Hugely recommended.....

* The last book - provisionally titled "The Final, Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey" - was never completed as O'Brian died whilst writing it. The book comprises three short chapters, and the rest of the book is basically just his notes for the plot/construction of the rest of the story....  the reader reviews on Amazon are particularly poignant - there are some hardcore Aubrey/Maturin fans there who have regretted buying and reading the book as it leaves everything up in the air - far better I think to remember the pair of them as they are at the end of this book, with Aubrey promoted Admiral at last and Maturin set to marry his lady naturalist.....  there's only one answer of course - time to read the series again!


  1. Failed twice to leave a comment earlier...
    I too was bereft to see the end of the series when I reached it.
    I elected to read the unfinished book but was saddened by it.
    You have inspired me to start at the beginning again soon...

  2. I didn't read your complete post because I didn't want it to give anything away! Just finished The Thirteen Gun Salute, so I'm not far behind you. But I don't want the voyage to end...

  3. I did read the uncompleted book, and, much like Tradgardmeister, felt saddened and rather deflated knowing there was no more to come.

    Much better to leave Aubrey and Maturin, with the crew of the dear Surprise, sailing the Elysian Ocean for eternity.

  4. I have deliberately not read the last book because I loved the series so much and I just couldn't face it. I actually felt such sorrow when I learned O'Brian had died that I shed a tear or two. He's the only author who ever had that effect on me.