I noted in my review of Blue at the Mizzen that the book felt like a transition to a new era, rather than the conclusion it ended up being when Patrick O’Brian died. At his death, he’d written almost three chapters of the next volume, and those chapters are presented here.
It’s impossible to properly review this book, since its not a complete story, but I can say that it’s a good start. Jack and Stephen are called back from Chile, with Jack to take up his new command as an admiral. However, family relationships are proving complicated, as Jack’s daughters appear to be jealous of any bit of attention that Stephen’s daughter receives, and they are responding by bullying her. Jack and Stephen decide to bring all the girls aboard ship, where Brigid’s previous experience at sea will give her a leg up over the other girls, perhaps ultimately putting them back on an equal footing. And the new object of Stephen’s affection, Christine Wood, is being approached by one of the men on the ship, and Stephen has to resort to a duel to put a stop to it.
So these few chapters show this to be another shipboard book, but one that’s full of some of the domestic drama that I enjoy. Christine gets a little more time to grow as a character, and perhaps a full book would have let me warm up to her relationship with Stephen. It’s too bad we don’t get to see how it all turns out!
The volume includes both the text of the typed manuscript and a copy of the hand-written original, with the two versions presented on facing pages. Where the typed manuscript ends, the hand-written version continues on for several pages. I didn’t spend much time comparing the typed and hand-written versions, and the handwriting is difficult enough that I didn’t put much effort into deciphering the final pages. It was fun to see where the story was heading and to imagine where it might end up. But Blue at the Mizzen, with its concluding promise of smoother waters ahead, serves better as a final volume. This is more of a curiosity for fans (and probably anyone who made it to the 21st volume would count in that number.)