Friday, June 17, 2011

The Far Side of the World by Patrick O'Brian

I'm really cruising through these books now.  I'm finding them much easier to read and to understand.  At 366 pages, I was able to finish The Far Side of the World in under 20 days.

This is an odd book.  Going into it, I figured it would resemble much of the movie - but it did not.  Sure, they fought a storm in the Atlantic, they stopped off at exotic islands, Maturin got hurt requiring a stop on land again, they entered the Pacific, they were at war ... but that is about as much as it resembles.

The ship they are chasing is American.  The Norfolk is going after British whalers ... not exactly the world conquest by the French that we were led to believe in the movie.

Hollom appears in both the book and moving picture.  He's considered a "Jonah" but that is as far as that plot matches.  The book's story-line with Hollom is much more interesting.  He is a midshipman who did not pass to become lieutenant.  He convinces Jack to give him a chance.  He is enlisted and then proceeds to seduce the gunner's wife.  He gets her pregnant.  She approaches Maturin and essentially asks him for an abortion.  He refuses; she goes to Higgens who obliges.  She nearly dies from it.  Later, the gunner (Horner) finds out and then proceeds to kill them both while they are on one of the island stops.  To top it all off, Horner ends up hanging himself for his actions.

This story and the little escapade Jack and Stephen go on after Stephen falls out the back of the ship are the most interesting stories in this book - mostly because they are so bizarre.  The whole sequence of the renegade women at sea who almost castrate Jack is absolutely out of left field!

Anyway, really great book!