Now that I’ve finished The Yellow Admiral, I only have three books left in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series. So there’s a good chance I’ll finish this year! I’ve been enjoying the books a lot, but I’m also ready to be done. And this book felt a little bit like a winding-down sort of book, although that changes a bit at the end. As usual, I’m going to be noting major plot points (to give myself a memory aid when I get to the next book), so there will be plenty of spoilers.
Much of the book is set on land, and I always enjoy seeing Jack and Stephen (especially Jack) dealing with life away from sea. As usual, Jack finds life on land a bit of a trial. He’s spending time at Parliament, but making a name for himself for being, well, kind of obnoxious in his argument. But, as a reader, I enjoy seeing him get riled up for a good cause. In this case, he wants to keep the common land in his neighborhood from being divided up among individual owners, which would mean the less wealthy people in the area would not be able to persist in their farming as they can when they all share common land for grazing and the like. This position puts him at odds with his own admiral, who tries to keep him from a crucial vote on the question. It takes some clever plotting by Diana to keep him on track.
Diana is back in this book, and she’s actually happy! I like Diana, unlike some readers, and I’ve sympathized with her in all her waffling and wandering in previous books. But it’s nice to see her home and appreciating her life. And when Stephen and Jack are having money troubles, she’s even ready to sacrifice to help get their families through. Also, there’s a delightful scene where Diana proves herself to be an admirable carriage driver, despite Jack’s open worrying.
Jack’s minor dispute with Diana over her driving is quickly solved, but he has a bigger fight with Sophie that doesn’t go so smoothly. When Sophie’s mother finds out about Jack’s affair back in The Surgeon’s Mate, she works Sophie up into a lather about it. Understandably upset, Sophie confronts Jack, and it does not go well. I love Jack and Sophie, so this was extremely distressing, but it also led to a fascinating conversation between Sophie, Diana, and Clarissa Oakes. This series is very much centered on men, but I do like the way O’Brian writes his women.
As for the sea-faring, it’s not very exciting. Jack spends a lot of time captaining the Bellona on a blockade. His main worry is that when he finally gets promoted to admiral, he won’t be given a squadron, making him a “yellow” admiral, which is considered a shameful status. His disputes with his current admiral make his getting yellowed look more likely. And the likely end of the war means he’ll have fewer chances to distinguish himself before his promotion. But Stephen, with his connections, cooks up a scheme to get him temporarily off the naval lists until he’s able to right his reputation. But then the war takes a turn with Napoleon’s escape from Elba, and we’re off to the next book!