I am perhaps overly enthusiastic about the years between 1750 and 1850. The world dramatically changed in technology, economics, and politics. Democracy was on the rise against monarchy. The enlightenment would challenge religion and tradition. Wars would alter borders and shape today’s boundaries. This was the period that cultivated King George’s infant colonies into a rebellious United States of America. Spain would lose parcel by parcel her overseas holdings to other European powers. Napoleon’s France would march across continental Europe and establish new dominions from each victory. From India to the Americas and Europe it was truly global war.
This was the age of sail where the winds carried men to unknown peril and glorious riches. This was a time when a man’s opportunity for advancement could happen only by political intrigue or bold action, and fortunately for some the Royal Navy offered both.
Patrick O’Brian’s Master and Commander captures the era perfectly. The story is set during the Anglo-Spanish war in the 1800s where our hero Captain Jack Aubrey finds himself wasting without a ship in Minorca. Happily, the admiralty gives Aubrey the opportunity of command, a small brig by the name Sophie, and his adventure begins with convoy duty. While harnessing the wind of the Mediterranean, the crew encounters small actions aplenty, including a challenge from an enemy Xebec frigate.
Overall, the book reads quickly, but offers detail into life with the Royal Navy. The reader will find himself being versed in maritime jargon and equipment, including the infamous weather gauge. This reviewer found the book is best enjoyed with a fine wine or cold beer.