I rarely ever re-read books. I have a prodigious memory for what I read, and since I read mainly mystery novels, there isn’t really much point. My appetite for reading falls squarely past voracious into rabid,and as there are always new books to read, re-reading old ones takes up the time I could be using to consume new delights. In reading, I am definitely a novel-experience (pardon the pun) addict.
But I recently got a copy of the first volume in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, Master and Commander, in audiobook format. After I got used to Stephen Maturin speaking in an Irish accent (which was a “Duh” moment for me, because despite the fact he’s Irish, it never occurred to me that he would SOUND that way), I settled into the comfortable, warm place that is a beloved story, with characters as familiar as my own kin.
I am not normally a fan of sequential book series. Most authors I know use book series for two purposes – to avoid having to write real resolutions to story lines they simply don’t know how to finish properly, and, well, to make money. They disappointingly do not use the prime advantage serial format to actual develop characters into breathing complex people.
O’Brian is the happy exception that absolutely shatters the rule.
Usually it’s a book that will spur me to watch a miniseries, but in a happy twist of fate, it was the A&E adaptation of the “Hornblower” series of books by C. S. Forester that piqued my interest in the Golden Age of the British Navy. And that led me to a love affair with the works of Patrick O’Brian that endured, all consuming through twenty breakneck, breathless novels.
Patrick O’Brian died while writing his twenty-first Aubrey and Maturin novel. He was the rare writer that wrote in a nearly linear fashion, and the first three chapters of his final, unfinished and unpolished book was published, ending midsentence.
I have not read that last, unfinished book. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it is the need to leave my beloved characters exactly as they are when the man himself brought them to resolution, and not hanging, unfinished in his thought. Or if it is because reading that last piece will close the series for me. There will be nothing left new, nothing to look forward to but that faint feeling of mourning that occurs when a grand fantasy comes to its end.
But until I have to face the last-book-crisis again, I am happily standing on the quarter-deck, wind in my hair, with a sail on the horizon.