Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949


Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949 [Read] ➻ Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949 ➸ Nikolai Tolstoy – Thomashillier.co.uk This is the story of Patrick O'Brian's life up to his decision to move to Collioure in the south of France His childhood; his precocious writing success; his sailing experiences; and the truth behind This is the story of The Making Epub Þ Patrick O'Brian's life up to his decision to move to Collioure in the south of France His childhood; his precocious writing success; his sailing experiences; and the truth behind his first marriage divorce and name change are set forth with candor and sympathy Along the way Nikolai Tolstoy reveals the seeds of inspiration that would one day lead to comparisons Patrick O'Brian: PDF or to Jane Austen and even Homer Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson and their acuaintance lasted forty five years He stayed with his mother and O'Brian at their French home and was a freuent correspondent with the reclusive author discovering facets of his character and creative genius that were hidden from others Over the years he accumulated a vast collection of the author's papers correspondence and notebooks many O'Brian: The Making Epub Ú of which are reproduced here On the basis of this trove of original material Tolstoy has written the definitive biography that O'Brian and his admirers deserve.

  • Hardcover
  • 512 pages
  • Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949
  • Nikolai Tolstoy
  • English
  • 13 January 2016
  • 9780393061307

About the Author: Nikolai Tolstoy

Count Nikolai Dmitrievich Tolstoy Miloslavsky The Making Epub Þ Russian Николай Дмитриевич Толстой Милославский; born June is an Anglo Russian author who writes under the name Nikolai Tolstoy A member of the Tolstoy family he is a former parliamentary candidate of the UK Independence PartySource WikipediaThe photograph by Justin K Prim.



7 thoughts on “Patrick O'Brian: The Making of the Novelist, 1914-1949

  1. Neil R. Coulter Neil R. Coulter says:

    Having read the entire AubreyMaturin series and then having read Dean King's biography of Patrick O'Brian I was eager to read Nikolai Tolstoy's book which is part biography and part response to Dean King With only two major biographies of O'Brian published it's easy to look at both and perhaps come to a fuller understanding of the man I was particularly interested in Tolstoy's account since Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson by his second marriage so I assumed Tolstoy would have significant insider knowledge that King lacked I'd enjoyed King's biography but also found its tone a bit giddy and flippant I was prepared to prefer Tolstoy's book if it was serious and thoroughTolstoy does in fact write with a serious tone and with uite a bit detail on every page However I was very disappointed that his ambition was not limited simply to producing a accurate and complete biography of O'Brian; instead he felt the need to uestion many of King's assertions The end result is that Tolstoy's book suffers from a juvenile I know than this guy knew and I'll prove it attitude Tolstoy's primary criticism of King is that King had to make assumptions without the benefit of O'Brian's journals and private papers and without the cooperation of O'Brian and most of his family and friends O'Brian advised those closest to him not to cooperate with King's research and O'Brian himself never consented to speak with King; O'Brian died at just the time that King published his biography While that's a fair criticism it seems to me distasteful to then continually nitpick King's writing especially as Tolstoy himself is one of the people who did not assist with King's research So if King's biography is inaccurate it's partly Tolstoy's fault It would have been fine for Tolstoy to mention perhaps in the Introduction that King's book exists and is not as good as the book you're about to read But to then keep ridiculing King's best efforts throughout the book hinders Tolstoy's account What should have been a better biography too often becomes an embarrassing rantThe irony in comparing these two biographies is that King even with the limitations in his research sources put together O'Brian's story in a remarkably accurate way Yes there are details throughout King's reconstruction that are incorrect but in general his portrait of O'Brian is right on The reader who only reads King would come away with completely adeuate knowledge of O'Brian's life I do not see the egregious errors xiv in King's book that Tolstoy doesSometimes Tolstoy's corrections to King are valuable as when Tolstoy knows from letters or journals that O'Brian was not living where King thought he was living at various points in his life But other times the corrections seem negligible at best For example Tolstoy mocks King's suggestion that when O'Brian changed his name from Russ to O'Brian he was possibly thinking What the name change signified was this Farewell Richard Patrick Russ You bore your pain You made your mistakes You served your country Now thank God the madness is over td 316 But Tolstoy's own explanation of the name change on the next page is this Patrick grasped the opportunity of making a formal move symbolically consigning his early life above all his wretchedly unhappy childhood and distressing first marriage to the past 317 This seems to me almost exactly what King said The pettiness to which Tolstoy descends in his attacks is best exemplified in his need to correct King's assumptions about the pedigree of one of O'Brian's dogs 454 fn2 Seriously That was just sadA recurring and disturbing aspect of Tolstoy's portrait is the way in which he excuses O'Brian's family difficulties and especially in his poor relationship with his son from his first marriage Richard who was one of King's primary sources This attitude makes its first appearance at the end of chapter 7 where we are told that the inordinate revulsion which babies aroused in Patrick was undoubtedly instinctive and uncontrollable 172 To be sure we're in subjective difficult territory but I'm troubled by the glib explanation that yes O'Brian was terrible with children but you know he couldn't help it Later Tolstoy writes that O'Brian's introverted character made it impossible for him to sustain a sympathetic relationship with children 264 and that It must be acknowledged from the outset that Patrick was constitutionally incapable of being a good father to a child 398 I don't reuire a biographer to offer moral judgments on his subject but if Tolstoy is going to bring up O'Brian's obvious failings as a father can he not just call it what it is and assume better of O'Brian that he could have been a better man than he wasO'Brian's relationship with his first wife Elizabeth suffers from Tolstoy's perspective as well At one point while married to Elizabeth O'Brian worked as a tour guide in Switzerland with Elizabeth still in London While in Switzerland O'Brian had an affair with a young English tourist while concocting a false life history for himself a practice that was to become rather common to O'Brian Tolstoy's comment on this affair is this While Patrick's infidelity to Elizabeth is not creditable he should perhaps not be judged too harshly given the girl's willingness and the near impossibility of his wife's ever learning of the brief holiday affair 183 My oh myThat unfortunate and unnecessary attitude aside Tolstoy generally creates a full picture of O'Brian's early life especially as he reads O'Brian's short stories and novels for autobiographical detail But the lingering nuisance with this book is that it ends at just the point at which Tolstoy himself entered into O'Brian's life and began to know him Also it ends many years before O'Brian began writing the AubreyMaturin novels Since almost anyone who is interested enough in O'Brian to read a biography will have found O'Brian through AubreyMaturin it feels odd to deny the reader a glimpse of that moment of first composing Master and Commander If Tolstoy had written a companion biography that covers those years that would be all right But since King's biography covers the whole of O'Brian's life it's hard not to prefer that book over Tolstoy'sA final comment is whether or not it's worth reading even one book about Patrick O'Brian's life The lasting impression I will retain of O'Brian is of a rather unpleasant gruff impatient man I don't know that my knowledge of his life history adds a lot to the enjoyment of AubreyMaturin Certainly it adds something knowing a bit of the context from O'Brian's experience that emerged on the pages of his novels But I don't see O'Brian's biography in any way as a key to fuller appreciation of AubreyMaturin Therefore I would recommend at most a readthrough of King's biography for anyone who is interested; it's uicker pleasant in its tone covers O'Brian's whole life and conveys the general nature of O'Brian's character and activities in life But if someone wanted to know O'Brian only through his novels which in fact is how the man himself preferred the world to know him that would be completely fine too

  2. Catherine Mayo Catherine Mayo says:

    My first encounter with Nikolai Tolstoy’s biography of Patrick O’Brian was a passing one It was 2005 the book had just been published and an English review syndicated in my local paper portrayed it as a stinging attack on this extraordinary historical novelist “Disgruntled stepson claims ‘My stepfather was a nasty man’” would pretty much summarise it Was I going to read Tolstoy’s book Never in lifeI didn’t give a toss what kind of man O’Brian was All I cared about was that he had written some of the most brilliant historical novels in the English language His Aubrey Maturin tales had enthralled me; friends and family I had introduced them to were eually passionate O’Brian had created a world so rich and detailed his characterisations were so insightful and three dimensional his language so skilled and so evocative of the period he had surely earned the right to keep his private life privateThis embittered stepson I thought should go get a life Or if he was incapable of doing that he should at least keep his opinions to himselfThere the matter rested for almost ten years Late last year I realised that my collection of Aubrey Maturin books at eighteen was two books short In a state of suspended excitement I ordered the last two – “The Hundred Days” and “Blue at the Mizzen” How had I missed these final volumes Simple My husband Ken and I had discovered and read the first eighteen in the early mid 1990’s We were fertile ground Ken had joined the British Army as an armoury apprentice at fifteen and on leaving the army three years later had worked for Holland and Holland in London’s New Bond St – a gun shop run on truly Victoria lines He was passionate about military uniforms of the Napoleonic period and had made many beautiful miniature soldiers modelled and painted in exuisite detail I came from a sailing background majored in history at university and reread all of Jane Austin at regular intervalsTogether we explored the world of Nelson’s navy buying reference books and even a large kitset model of an early nineteenth century English frigate Then tragedy struck Ken had a massive stroke; within three days he was dead Life limped along in a grey haze punctuated by bursts of black grief when I ran out of things to keep my brain busy I was lucky – after four years the haze dispersed and I met someone new But by then I had realised that a number of things had died with Ken – some shared music for example I still can’t revisit The kitset frigate went into the attic where it still hides Conseuently I missed the entire 1998 controversy over O’Brian’s nationality something I am deeply grateful for I think we had gained the impression from somewhere – perhaps from the dustjacket of one of O’Brian’s pre Aubrey Maturin books – that O’Brian was Irish And again I couldn’t have given a toss whether he was or not All I really cared about was the glorious Irish Spanish ness of Stephen Maturin which O’Brian brilliantly createdSo the two last Aubrey Maturin books arrived just before last Christmas and it was only then utterly infuriated and flummoxed by O’Brian’s casual obliteration of Diana Maturin at the start of “The Hundred Days” that I decided to find out about him Perhaps I thought he had lived a charmed life Perhaps everything he wanted had conveniently fallen onto his plate; the two dimensionality of Maturin’s grief was because O’Brian had never experienced true loss himselfThe internet told me enough to want to explore further And finally reluctantly I decided to read Nikolai Tolstoy’s biography And what an achievement it isA paradoxical one to be sure because O’Brian was intensely private When he was cursed by fame around 1990 he found the whole experience not merely distasteful but intensely distressing Far from hating his stepfather as the 2005 review had indicated Tolstoy was very close to him for many years right up to O’Brian’s death O’Brian had loathed the idea of having any further public delving into his life so it is with some irony that Tolstoy decided after the publication of Dean King’s unauthorised biography “Patrick O’Brian A Life Revealed” to put the record straightDespite his deep affection for and understanding of O’Brian Tolstoy has not written a hagiography He is a historian and in the process of being scrupulously fair and honest he has often been brutal O’Brian was by his account freuently prickly competitive and paranoid unless he was with people he trusted and in an environment where he felt secure Why this became so makes fascinating readingTolstoy has restricted himself to O’Brian’s earlier years and the account ends in 1949 when O’Brian and his second wife the adored and adoring Mary prototype for both Sophie and Diana in the Aubrey Maturin books left Wales and moved to Southern France Tolstoy’s thesis is that O’Brian’s miserable and isolated childhood at the hands of his arrogant and terrifying widowed father went a long way towards creating O’Brian the man What is even frightening is that the imprint of his earlier years perhaps led O’Brian to repeat his father’s mistakes at least in part with his own son One is reminded of Monica Dicken’s powerful exploration of this syndrome in “Kate and Emma”Characteristically O’Brian destroyed many of his private papers But in another twist of irony he seems to have drawn extensively on his own life in his writing especially in some early novels and stories It is through these coloured by his own personal knowledge of O’Brian that Tolstoy is largely able to reconstruct O’Brian’s childhood and youth There is perhaps understandably a certain amount of repetition through the whole book – how do you write a fairly long and detailed biography about someone with so little raw material to hand Conseuently much of Tolstoy’s construct of O’Brian is based on hypothesis albeit well argued Tolstoy does succeed in debunking some of Dean King’s wilder guesses and – certainly for this reader – he does explain why O’Brian wrote Diana Maturin so cursorily out of his narrative in “The Hundred Days” Far from feeling nothing in the period shortly before and during his wife Mary’s death in 1998 – the same year that “The Hundred Days” was published – O”Brian probably felt too much Burying feelings is one way of hiding them and as Tolstoy so elouently portrays O’Brian was intensely private What he felt for Mary aka Diana was none of anyone’s businessThe final irony is that in the context of the novel the treatment of an important character is indeed the reader’s business A book is the meeting point of writer and reader the latter taking their own imaginative journey to complete the process And alas “The Hundred Days” remains deeply flawed by O’Brian’s public retreat from his private grief

  3. Phrodrick Phrodrick says:

    Stick close to your desks and never go to sea and you all can be rulers of the ueen's NavyThe man most of us know as Patrick O' Brian did just that or the literary euivalent He became the best author of fictional wooden sided naval warfare Along the way he nearly bests Jane Austin for capturing British life during this early 19th century And all along he was never a sailor never even Irish If somehow this reads as an overly done fictional plot; wait there is An unprepossessing marginal writer Richard Patrick Russ was born and raised an Englishman He may or may not have disputed his parentage but there is no case for him being Irish His first marriage would be a disaster It would end with him living in marginal circumstances He would then charm away a beautiful titled Russian bride convince her to give up life a of comfort and follow him into a bare existence Did I say titled Russian nobility How about he stole away the bride from Count Tolstoy Not That one but that family They would live mostly off the land in remote minimal cottages while he struggled to make keep them alive and make some money as a writerUltimately Richard would reinvent himself as the Patrick O'Brian author the 20 plus one published as unfinished AubreyMartin seagoingespionage adventuresIt may look like I have given away all of the O'Bian's secrets There are and there is the skilled writing of Nikolai Tolstoy Professor Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson and witness to many of the events described That this Tolstoy is also an accomplished historian and writer is a happy coincidence Tolstoy is clearly a fond and friendly biographer but his style is engagingBeing a fond biographer he is perhaps too forgiving of several of Patrick's many human failures If they are recounted without proper censure they are not whitewashed You can accept Tolstoy's excuses or not the facts are recounted Tolstoy is also a somewhat defensive biographer A fair amount of what is recounted is documented for the express purpose of refuting portions of O'Brian's life that a previous biographer either could not have known or was not written to Tolstoy's satisfaction Some of this is not as important to O'Brian's fans or to one who may have read the previous biographyMy conclusion is that Patrick O'Brian; The Making of a Novelist is a fascinating story Part of the fascination is its extremes and its improbability My biggest let down is that in the nine years since the publication of this book we have not heard what Professor Tolstoy has to report on the O'Brian from 1949 until his death in 2000 Half of his step fathers life and everything from his formally changing his name to the arrival of world wide fame In The Making of the Novelist we have the rags part but not the to riches More exactly Nikolai Tolstoy gives us the picture of the writer as a young man I want the rest of the story

  4. Rebecca Rebecca says:

    First off this edition is the 500 page Century edition which does not appear to be listed here As for the book itself it is a slog of a read I have the second recently released book A Very Private Life on loan from the library and am hoping that will be better This book could probably have cut out about a hundred pages without doing any harm but Mr Tolstoy seems to think a biography needs to have Every Single Detail of the subject's life no matter how small or irrelevant He also spends most of the book nit picking seemingly every criticism or mistaken claim that any other biographer journalist etc has ever written about his step father On one hand you can understand that being family he wants to put the record straight on key issues That said he goes into micro levels of detail at one point even criticising Dean King's biography over the way it uestioned the pedigree of one of the family's dogs Does it make any difference to the AubreyMaturin devotee whether the dog was pedigree or not No But that's just one example of Tolstoy's apparent need to correct literally every factual mistake or misinterpretation that King and others have ever published about PO'B Having said that he does do a good job of explaining PO'B's early life; the problems and lasting mental scars caused by an over spending father who essentially neglected his children after their mother died how a lack of formal education gave young Patrick insecurities that he never got over In that respect you get a vivid sense of his formative years and perhaps some explanation of why he struggled to connect with his own son given that Patrick himself spent much of his childhood isolated and not always even able to spend time with his own siblings The analyses of his works for possible autobiographical clues are interesting up to a point although some of them do get a bit repetitiveThe book covers his earliest literary ventures up to PO'B's move to France with his second wife the author's mother Mary a convenient fresh starting point at which to divide his life Here's hoping the second book is not such a slog fest

  5. Paul Paul says:

    Tolstoy is a very good writer his book on Merlin his amazing but this book is a curious failure First of all I think it's fair to say that the average reader of this book is a fan of O'Brian's AubreyMaturin series and might therefore be expected to have an interest in O'Brian's life during the writing of those novels but Tolstoy's account stops rather abruptly after 250000 ponderous words with O'Brian at age 35 ie with another twenty years to go before he begins publishing the AubreyMaturin novels One of the most obvious shortcomings of this volume is that Tolstoy is related to O'Brian and is ridiculously comically biased in favor of his stepfather and repeatedly excuses the fact that O'Brian abandoned his wife and small children one of whom had spina bifida to marry a woman who also abandoned her children an act which is objectively terrible and can hardly be mitigated let alone defendedThis book is also reminiscent of Ayn Rand's crazed marginal notations in C S Lewis's Abolition of Man insofar as literally every chapter includes a dozen or references to a previous biography of O'Brian Dean King's far brisk and readable account At times I found myself longing for King's narrative instead despite the latter's occasional errors

  6. Mike Mike says:

    Although Patrick O’Brian first published a book as a teenager in 1930 his real success as a novelist only came late in his career when the fifteen volumes of the series set in the Royal Navy at the beginning of the nineteenth century began to claim an increasingly wide audience O’Brian was born Richard Patrick Russ but for various reasons decided to ‘remake’ his own history renaming himself changing his nationality and concealing his first marriage and subseuent divorce Tolstoy recreates that previously hidden life shared on and off with eight brothers and sisters a difficult self centred and yet creative father who makes various disguised appearances in the novels and a warm and loving step mother who never uite managed to replace O’Brian’s own mother This biography unlike the one Dean King produced in 2000 around the time of O’Brian’s death has claims to be definitive since Tolstoy was O’Brian’s stepson and had access to a vast collection of letters notebooks and photographs not available to King as well as being part of O’Brian’s family for forty five yearsThe first of two volumes it takes the reader up to the time O’Brian decided to move with his second wife to Collioure in the South of France It’s jam packed with detail and there are times when Tolstoy tests his reader’s patience by repeating information to remake a point Nevertheless fans of O’Brian’s books will be enthralled to learn the real history of this extraordinary writer

  7. Catherine Langley Catherine Langley says:

    A roughmagic read Rough with Mr Nikolai Tolstoy's flensing of Mr Dean King's fact versus fiction biography Magic with Mr Tolstoy's definitive and insightful biography I remain in awe of Mr Patrick O'Brian's brilliance and a lover of his AubreyMaturin novels

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