Tuesday, 15 June 2004

Clarissa Oakes

Listening to:

Beethoven, Cello sonata no. 3 in A major, op. 69. Played by Sviatoslav Richter and Mstislav Rostropovich.

Just read:

Patrick O’Brian, Clarissa Oakes.

This, the umpteenth volume in the 20-book series, is quite a good read, though perhaps a little slow-moving. It has Aubrey and Maturin back in Polynesia for the first time since The far side of the world, and features lots of ship-life: the ways in which a cloistered, and rigidly hierarchical society reacts to changing circumstances. In this book, the changing circumstances are mainly brought about by the unexpected presence of a woman, Clarissa Oakes, on board. The series’ familiar characters react to her in a variety of ways, and she’s an interesting character in her own right.

All in all, this volume’s focus is definitely the study of character. O’Brian does this well, but the plot is pretty low-key. A dastardly French scheme is eventually dealt with in the later sections of the book, but there’s not a great deal of “action” otherwise. Moreover, this scheme’s defeat has something of a “tacked-on” feel, though it’s not as bad as in The Ionian mission. There are no dramatic sea-battles at all, and the one violent conflict in the whole novel happens very much off-screen.

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