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Nov. 11th, 2004

Tired. Christmas is already beginning to make itself felt... But so far it's still all good, I like having something to do, to have accomplished something at the end of the day - it's preferable to standing around being bored; and M. and I have worked out our little differences for the moment. Though one could wish K. wouldn't have chosen this particular time of the year for having a break-down of sorts...

Finished The Fortune of War, started The Surgeon's Mate & for the first time feel that I might eventually need a break. It's not that I'm getting bored or that the books are getting worse further into the series, but with their peculiar pacing and emphasis on characterisation and style rather than plot they begin to blur into each other a little already in my mind...

What still fascinates me, though, are all those tiny touches and subtle shifts of mood, the alteration and/or combination of a light ironic style (perhaps more prevalent in the earlier volumes) with deadly seriousness and deep emotions, the one setting off the other to the best advantage, never incongruous; how you have to pay such close attention to the tone of voice, the turn of a phrase. The details, the prose, the descriptions and characterisations are what makes these novels so enjoyable.

Occasionally though, part of me can't help wishing he would be just a little more... conventional maybe. Characters introduced and built up only to be randomly killed off when one has come to expect to see more of them... true to life, occasionally slightly exasperating in fiction.

The Fortune of War is another of those unstructured rambling novels, starting with a deceptive calm and lightness of tone, until all of a sudden and in short order there is a ship going up in flames, our heroes adrift in a boat and almost dying before they're picked up, a lost battle with Jack almost dying again; the remaining two thirds of the book are a moody, melancholy and rather introspective description of their time in American captivity, together with a little political intrigue and Stephen meeting Diana again, then, in the space of the last twenty pages or so, another battle, this time victorious. What I really liked best about this novel are the psychological aspects - Stephen to his dismay discovering how his feelings for Diana have changed, and his near-despair at this revelation; a gloomy Jack recovering from his wound in an hospital-cum-asylum. On the downside, I don't really like Diana, or rather I'm perfectly indifferent to her; in fact O'Brian has yet to write a female character I find even remotely interesting. I still can't quite pinpoint why exactly I feel like this - at a guess it's because in such a male world women by necessity play a less central part, and the connection the male characters share, in the very basic sense of knowing each other, is just so much stronger and more intriguing to the reader. Or maybe because he tries too hard and his (so far) invariably beautiful, interestingly flawed, courageous and slightly unconventional women bore me.

Jack cut the thread and handed back the mended coat; he looked out of the window, where the
Shannon's topsails winked in the evening light, and said, 'Dear Lord above, how I do wish I could set you clear of all this dirty, ugly, underhanded mess: how I long for the open sea.'


solitary summer

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