In January 2000, Patrick O'Brian died in the Westbury Hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Like his life, O'Brian's death was marked by secrecy and confusion, sharpening the curiosity of his many readers who for years have speculated about the man behind the beloved Aubery-Maturin series of novels.
Dean King at last unveils the story of Richard Patrick Russ, a writer and intellectual who emerged from the Second World War as Patrick O'Brian, a persona created by his imagination and refined over decades. To research this book, King crisscrossed Europe to speak to long-lost relatives, friends, and colleagues of his famously reclusive subject; now he has fashioned this wealth of information into a dramatic and compelling narrative. As King meticulously examines the events of O'Brian's life, he deepens and enriches our understanding and appreciation of O'Brian's work.
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Hailed as the Irish author of "the greatest historical novels ever written"--the 20 swashbuckling Napoleonic-era adventures starring Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin--Patrick O'Brian was not such a great guy. In fact, he wasn't really Patrick O'Brian: he was actually the Englishman Richard Patrick Russ, who abandoned his semiliterate Welsh wife and dying, spina bifida-plagued child in 1940 and reinvented himself as a writer and as a human being. He did well as a writer, winning kudos as a biographer (Picasso), translator (Papillon), and old literary sea lion. But he was less than humane, as Dean King's A Life Revealed reveals. The son of a rotten father, Russ/O'Brian became a rotten father himself, cutting off all contact with his son, granddaughters, and even siblings. As he chillingly wrote in his biography, "Parents are supposed to love their children, yet surely there is the implied condition that the children should be reasonably lovable?" Though he was kinder to his second wife, the Countess Mary Tolstoy, whose reckless driving injured both of them, he once wrote that Picasso was "sucked dry and rendered sterile by women, children, routine." For his part, O'Brian preferred poverty and exile in Southern France with Mary--remote from his family origins, penning masterpieces in a house with books but no electricity or running water. Only in his 70s did he become rich and famous.
You can't deny the many striking parallels between O'Brian's life and his work--even though he did. Rotten fathers permeate his fiction, as the fathomless woe must have permeated him upon his mother's death from tuberculosis in 1918, when he was 4. It's great fun to read about his mad-inventor father's machine to cure VD by electrocuting the bladder and compare it to Maturin's practice and devices--and to hear about the future author's salty Uncle Morse telling the lad about encounters with pirates. Captain Aubrey clearly derives partly from Patrick's sociable man-of-action brother Mike (who changed his surname to O'Brien, another family defector). And of course Maturin proves to be in large part a self-portrait.
Fans of Aubrey and Maturin may find King's A Sea of Words (a lexicon of arcane terms that O'Brian uses) more delightful than his exposé of O'Brian's impressive yet appalling life, but it is one thorough and convincing exposé. --Tim AppeloFrom the Author:
This was one of the most rewarding books I have written. Having set out to write simply an honest and respectful biography of an author I consider to be one of the great fiction writers of the last half century (as well as an otherwise important translator, writer of nonfiction and all-around man of letters), I discovered that he wasn't exactly who he led the world to believe he was. The chain of events that led me to this realization included a research trip to Ireland to the records in Dublin and to the town I was led to believe he was from (but wasn't) and journeys to North Wales and Catalan France. I was soon on the trail of the true story behind the author, and while that story is full of struggle, pain, regret and metamorphosis, it in no way diminished my respect for the man and love for the body of work he produced, namely the Aubrey-Maturin novel series. And, in fact, I came to realize that it is impossible to fully understand and comprehend these rich novels and their beloved characters without knowing and understanding the underlying details of O'Brian's life. These I lay out for the reader and contextualize in this biography as best I could, given that O'Brian and most of his immediate family were still in denial about his true life story. In the process of writing this book, I nonetheless met much of his son, his one-time best friend, and extended family and even connected them across continents in real life. For this opportunity, I will be ever grateful. I hope the story in this biography enriches your readings and rereadings of the Aubrey-Maturin novels as it has mine.
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Book Description Holt Paperbacks, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0805059776
Book Description Holt Paperbacks, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # M0805059776
Book Description Holt Paperbacks, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P110805059776
Book Description Holt Paperbacks. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 0805059776 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.0380406