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Book Note: Patrick O'Brian, The Ionian Mission

I read this book about 2010-08-29. I've read this book before. The book is copyright 1981. This note was last modified Tuesday, 06-May-2014 13:22:27 PDT.

This is book 8 of the "Aubrey-Maturin" series.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Aubrey is commanding the old worcester, on the Toulon blockade (where Admiral Harte is second in command). Admiral Thornton commands the entire Mediterranean, and he has all the intelligence operations under his own hand. He knows everything aobut everybody and is doing well—but he's getting old and tired, he is in fact wearing himself right out.

They find they have two poets in their wardroom, Mowett who we have met before, and a Mr. Rowan, who preferes the modern style after Lord Byron. This is not a restful situation; two nightingales cannot share a grove.

While Thornton is away, Harte sends Aubrey with Babbington (in the Dryad) to take a new envoy and some presents to a pasha, in Medina, a neutral port. French are there, and the idea is to make them fire first. This they fail to do, and Thornton is furious when they return. The plan was supposed to have been to sacrifice the Dryad to create a provocation. But Harte had not said that explicitly, and the written orders contradicted it, so Aubrey is pretty well covered. He is of course furious; Harte wanted to sacrifice Babbington both because he's a protege of Aubrey's, and becuase he is too interested in Harte's daughter (who is married to Mr. Wray by now).

After dealing with a near-breakout by the French, who return to Toulon without fighting, Admiral Thornton can't stand it any more, and goes home to die. This leaves Harte in command, and he's thoroughly and completely over his head. He even seems to behave half-way decently to Jack.

Jack and Stephen in the Surprise (the Worcester having been finally condemned) are dispatched to pick one of the competing turks, and arrange to throw the French out of Marga (whose water comes from an aqueduct originating in Kutali, on the other side of the peninsula).

Aubrey finds the Bey in Kutali, and his Christian political advisor, active and compatible, and they pull it off, without firing a shot. Along the way the create a cable-way to move the great guns up to the top of the citadel (an army officer thinks they would have had to build a road).

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David Dyer-Bennet