O'Brian, Patrick. The Far Side of the World. W.W. Norton & Company, New York * London, 1984.
Jack Aubrey is the captain of the frigate HMS Surprise and is ordered to take it to the Pacific Ocean to battle an American frigate that has been tormenting British whaling vessels. After being at sea for a while, he was looking forward to returning to England and settling his financial problems. Throughout the story he and Stephen Maturin voyage to unexplored areas of the sea chasing the Americans around Cape Horn. Aubrey's mission is to battle this frigate to prevent it from doing further damage to other British ships. Aubrey was a captain known for his famous accomplishments and passion. When asked where the ship was headed and no reply would be given specifically, Mr. Higgins replied, "Yet even so I should be delighted at the prospect of repairing my fortunes in a ship commanded by such a famous prize-taker."
(p.59) Getting to their destination was much easier said than done. The crew was said to live up to a specific moral code, yet they were corrupt and there was trouble among them. As they are on their journey to meet with the American frigate, they encounter another problem. The gunner of the ship was permitted to bring his wife aboard, but this soon became a problem. She was a favorite among all shipmen creating love, especially the one who began the affair with her. "I most sincerely hope it will be the only case of polyandry we ever see in this commission." (p 69) She becomes pregnant by a lieutenant on board and begs for help from Aubrey and Maturin. Begging for help, she becomes violently ill while carrying the child. Her husband is outraged and goes into a murderous rage.
While they were on their way to the aid of the other British ship, they would take periodic breaks and would anchor or moor in different areas to fish and take a break from their sailing. "It has been a slow rough passage, I admit; but it is not impossible that the Norfolk may have had it slower and rougher still. It is not impossible, that we may still find her lying there, refreshing her people and taking her ease." (p. 206) In one specific incident when they were moored on the side of the island in the Cumberland Bay, they could hear the crackling of gunfire in the Eastern Bay where the American officers were roaming the island shooting anything that moved. They were hunting for animals, but they were to cross the British, the British would be included in those being hunted. As they pursue their journey, they cross when Aubrey leads the ship into a foggy night and gets the ship into an accident leaving the crew and himself stranded in the ocean. They are rescued by a boat of Polynesian women, but soon find out that it is not a rescue at all. They are violent and cruel cannibals who hate all men because of past experiences. Maturin plans to get himself and Aubrey away before they become victims to the women's next plan. Patrick O'Brian is a unique writer and I like his passion for the ocean and sailing. The ocean symbolizes peace and happiness, which helps give the story a better atmosphere. It is filled with shipwrecks, murder, insanity and weather problems that give the book an exciting plot. I liked the book, but some of its dialogue was hard to understand. Despite the periodic parts with the harder dialogue, the book is very humorous and in my opinion the has most laughs in one book. Names like Awkward Davis and Fat-Arse Jenks, help to add to the humor of the book itself. The Far Side of the World is the tenth book in O'Brian's series and all the others lead up to it. I think I could have probably understood the story a little better had I read the others first. For my next book, I will probably choose one of the books before this one or the one right after.