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Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian Review

Title: Desolation Island

Author: Patrick O’Brian

First published January 1, 1978

350 pages, Paperback

ISBN: 9780393308129 (ISBN10: 039330812X)

Rating: 4.4


Patrick O’Brian’s Desolation Island is a gripping tale of the Royal Navy’s heroism during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Jack Aubrey and his trusted friend, surgeon Stephen Maturin, set sail on the Leopard to rescue Governor Bligh of Bounty fame, only to discover that they have a dangerous spy and a deadly disease onboard.

As they journey to Australia with a hold full of convicts, the crew must face treacherous challenges that threaten their lives and test their loyalty to each other. With O’Brian’s masterful storytelling, Desolation Island is a must-read for fans of historical fiction and action-packed adventures.

About the Author

Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series is a highly acclaimed set of historical novels. Critics have lauded the series as a masterpiece, addictively readable, and the best historical novels ever written.

The twenty-volume series is set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars and revolves around the friendship between naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician and spy Stephen Maturin. One of the books in the series, Master and Commander, was made into a film in 2003, which received ten Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.

The books are available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book formats.

Apart from the Aubrey-Maturin novels, O’Brian wrote other books, including other novels and biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He also translated several works from French into English, including Simone de Beauvoir’s novels and memoirs, Jean Lacouture’s biography of Charles de Gaulle, and Henri Cherriere’s memoir Papillon.

O’Brian passed away in January 2000.

Editoral Review

Desolation Island by Patrick O’Brian is a historical novel that was first published on January 1, 1978. O’Brian is a renowned author of many books that are set in the 19th century and focus on the adventures of seafarers during the Napoleonic Wars.

The genre of the novel is historical fiction and it is part of the popular Aubrey–Maturin series, which follows the journey of its two main characters, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, as they embark on various nautical adventures. The central plot of Desolation Island revolves around Aubrey, who is given command of a ship called the HMS Leopard.

His mission is to transport a group of prisoners, including an American intelligence officer, to Australia. However, things take a dramatic turn when the ship is intercepted by a French vessel, leading to a dangerous game of cat and mouse between the two ships.

Aubrey must navigate treacherous waters, unpredictable weather conditions, and his own crew’s morale to escape the enemy. O’Brian’s prose is expertly crafted, offering a detailed and immersive look into life on board a 19th-century naval ship.

His extensive research into the era is evident in his portrayal of the customs, language, and beliefs of the time. The main characters are complex, multi-layered individuals, with Aubrey embodying the quintessential English gentleman and Maturin the eccentric and enigmatic scientist.

One of the strengths of the book is the historical accuracy with which O’Brian infuses his writing. The Napoleonic Wars form a significant part of European history and O’Brian expertly weaves it into the plot, providing a vivid understanding of the social, cultural, and political context of the time.

However, the plot can be slow at times, particularly in longer passages where the details of naval operations are thoroughly explained. Additionally, some readers may find it difficult to keep up with the myriad of nautical terms that O’Brian employs.

Overall, for fans of nautical and historical fiction, Desolation Island is a must-read. O’Brian is a master storyteller who weaves an enthralling tale that combines adventure, drama, and romance.

The book may not be for everyone, but those who appreciate historical accuracy, detailed world-building, and vivid characterization will find much to enjoy. I give Desolation Island a solid 4 out of 5 stars, as it is an excellent piece of historical fiction that truly captures the essence of the time.

However, readers should be aware of the slower pacing and potentially difficult nautical terminology.