Master and Commander

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Master and Commander is a historical naval novel by Patrick O'Brian. First published in 1969 (US) (1970 in UK), it is first in the Aubrey-Maturin series of stories of Captain Jack Aubrey and the naval surgeon Stephen Maturin. Closely based on the historical feats of Lord Cochrane, O'Brian's novel is set in the Napoleonic Wars. Receiving many compliments from historians and literary critics and with a large popular following, Master and Commander has been reprinted a number of times. In 2003, Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany starred in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which adopts themes but not the plot from Master and Commander and many other books in the series.


Plot summary

The story starts out on April 18, 1800, in Port Mahon, Minorca, a base of the Royal Navy at that time. A shipless lieutenant wasting away in port, Jack Aubrey, meets Stephen Maturin, a poor half-Irish and half-Catalan physician and natural philosopher, at an evening concert at the Governor’s Mansion. The two of them do not quite get along during this first encounter. A duel almost occurs when Jack Aubrey gets elbowed by Maturin to stop beating the time while the string quartet is playing.

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