The second book Patrick O’Brian wrote about the sea and a brilliant sequel to The Golden Ocean.
As in The Golden Ocean, The Unknown Shore tells the tale of another ill-fated ship on Anson’s expedition round the world – the Wager. Parted from her squadron in the fearful storms off Cape Horn, the Wager struggles on alone up the ironbound coast of Chile, before she is driven onto rocks and sinks. The survivors include Jack Byron, a midshipman, and his eccentric protégé Toby, an alarmingly naive surgeon’s mate with a single-minded devotion to zoology.
Faced with a surplus of rum, a disappearing stock of food, and a hard, detested captain, the survivors soon descend into trouble of every kind, including drunkeness, mutiny and bloodshed. As they make their way northwards under the guidance of a band of stony and depraved Indians, they at last find safety and good treatment in Valparaiso.
Admirers of O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin novels will see in Jack Byron a matter-of-fact, bluff precursor to the great Jack Aubrey. Whilst Toby, raging in Greek against a corrupt Member of Parliament, stripped by thieves in the Farthing Pie House, asking the Commodore to carry his snake, arousing the darkest suspicions in the Chilean Inquisition, is an amiable companion whose vagaries afford endless diversion on a hard and dramatic journey.
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The Unknown Shore, something of a sequel to The Golden Ocean, is a fascinating blue-print for the Aubrey-Maturin series. We follow Jack Byron and Tobias Barrow, two unlikely neighbours and close friends in whom we catch glimpses of the heroes of the epic series to come. They set off to sea in 1740 as part of Commodore Anson's fleet to circumnavigate the globe. Byron, a romantic, forceful lad, signs on as a midshipman; Barrow, a strangely educated, scientifically brilliant boy, is running away from his father and wins a commission as a surgeon's mate. Set up in the Wager, which is parted from Anson's squadron and sinks somewhere along the desolate coast of Chile, Byron and Barrow are left to struggle for survival by wits alone, facing mutiny, famine, indifferent natives and lingering infighting. A fully realized hint of the fictional magic to come.Review:
“'The Unknown Shore' has the same elements that mark Mr O’Brian’s more recent works: the wealth of social detail, the quiet humour, the harrowing shipwrecks, the swashbuckling adventures in foreign parts – and most important, the abiding and unlikely friendship between two young men, one a sociable creature born to the sea and the other a surgeon’s mate, brilliant in scientific understanding but lacking in social graces.”
TAMAR LEWIN, 'NewYork Times'
“Patrick O’Brian is the doyen of naval fiction…'The Unknown Shore' is satisfyingly filled with details of naval life, of natural history, and of the political and social background to the narrative. It is written with all the wit, scholarship and meticulous attention to detail which are characteristic of its 18 successors.”
PETER GORB, 'Ham & High'
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Book Description HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 1998. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 6497950