One of our greatest contemporary novelists, Patrick O'Brian is the author of the twenty volumes of the best-selling Aubrey/Maturin series, as well as many other books, including Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, The Unknown Shore, and biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso.
This early (1952) novel from the author of the scintillating Aubrey/Maturin novels ( The Truelove et al.) is very different from that seafaring series. For one thing, not much happens: Joseph Aubrey Pugh, university don and elliptical narrator of most of the book, comes into some money, leaves academia and buys a tiny cottage in the mountains of north Wales. There he plans to finish a book, take part in local life--fishing, sheep-shearing--and study the people, concentrating on the Vaughans, his nearest neighbors. Pugh admires the family: sturdy Emyr, his gentle parents, his six-year-old son and Bronwen, Emyr's beautiful and practical wife, with whom Pugh falls in love, his first love in his 30-odd years. They are thrown together and Bronwen eventually reciprocates his affection. But they never ``do'' anything or even talk of their emotions. Some readers may question Bronwen's ``testimony'' after a preacher's spiteful rumor-mongering leads to a tragic end. This is a young man's book, humorless and filled with romantic pessimism, but even back then O'Brian couldn't write a graceless sentence. (May)
"O'Brian's greatness is present. Calmly and with wit he shows how things go wrong in little worlds." -- Boston Globe "Patrick O'Brian has a power of bringing near to the reader...savagery and tenderness, beauty and mystery and boldness and dignity." -- Eudora Welty "A subtle and fascinating tale." -- Miami Herald