Summary and book reviews of The Hundred Days by Patrick O'Brian

The Hundred Days

by Patrick O'Brian

The Hundred Days
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  • First Published:
    Oct 1998, 280 pages
    Oct 1999, 280 pages

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Book Summary

Napoleon escapes from Elba, and the fate of Europe hinges on a desperate mission: Stephen Maturin must ferret out the French dictator's secret link to the powers of Islam, and Jack Aubrey must destroy it.

Napoleon, escaped from Elba, pursues his enemies across Europe like a vengeful phoenix. If he can corner the British and Prussians before their Russian and Austrian allies arrive, his genius will lead the French armies to triumph at Waterloo.

In the Balkans, preparing a thrust northwards into Central Europe to block the Russians and Austrians, a horde of Muslim mercenaries is gathering. They are inclined toward Napoleon because of his conversion to Islam during the Egyptian campaign, but they will not move without a shipment of gold ingots from Sheik Ibn Hazm which, according to British intelligence, is on its way via camel caravan to the coast of North Africa. It is this gold that Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin must at all costs intercept. The fate of Europe hinges on their desperate mission.

In Algiers, Maturin navigates the violent currents of oriental politics and braves a desert journey that ends in a moonlit lion hunt high in the Atlas Mountains. Aubrey's quarry is a swift xebek of the Algerian corsairs: through the Straights of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic, he chases them to a bleak and apparently impregnable fortress island.

Boldly conceived and brilliantly executed, The Hundred Days is Patrick O'Brian's most ambitious book yet, and surely one of his most rewarding. He succeeds in grafting his familiar, ever compelling principal characters to an historical event of tumultuous significance: the final defeat of Napoleon. The result is entertainment, excitement, and an intriguing exercise in "what if . . ." history, all encompassed in a magnificently rounded and complex work of fiction.

The Hundred Days

The sudden rearmament that followed Napoleon's escape from Elba had done little to thin the ranks of unemployed sea-officers by the early spring of 1815. A man-of-war stripped, dismantled and laid up cannot be manned, equipped and made ready for sea in a matter of weeks; and the best vantage-points in Gibraltar were now crowded with gentlemen on half-pay who with others had gathered to watch the long-expected arrival of Commodore Aubrey's squadron from Madeira, a squadron that would do something to refurnish the great bare stretch of water inside the mole -- an extraordinary nakedness emphasized by the presence of a few hulks, the Royal Sovereign wearing the flag of the Commander-in-Chief, and a couple of lonely seventy-fours: no stream of liberty-boats plying to and fro, almost no appearance of true wartime life.

It was a wonderfully beautiful day, with a slight and varying but reasonably favourable breeze at last: the sun blazed on the various kinds of...

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Media Reviews

Philadelphia Inquirer

One of the best novelists since Jane Austen. . . . The Hundred Days may be the best installment yet in . . . [the Aubrey/Maturin] series. I give O'Brian's fans joy of it.

New York Times Book Review - Terry Teachout

Taken as a whole, the Aubrey-Maturin novels are by a long shot the best things of their kind, so much better than the competition that comparisons long ago ceased to be relevant they are uniquely excellent. .

New York Times Book Review - Richard Snow

The best historical novels ever written. . . . On every page Mr. O'Brian reminds us with subtle artistry of the most important of all historical lessons that times change but people don't, that the griefs and follies and victories of the men and women who were here before us are in fact maps of our own lives.

Chicago Sun-Times - Stephen Becker

[The Aubrey/Maturin series] accomplishes nobly the three grand purposes of art to entertain, to edify and to awe. You will meet nothing like O'Brian in all literature, and the sooner you make his acquaintance the better for all of us. He is one of the very few writers ever who not only entertain us vastly but alter us morally.

New Yorker

They're funny, they're exciting, they're informative. . . . There are legions of us who gladly ship out time and time again under Captain Aubrey.

Los Angeles Times - John Balzar

It has been said that this series is some of the finest historical fiction of our time, transforming a musty genre into art. Aubrey and Maturin have been described as better than Holmes and Watson, the equal of Quixote and Panza. . . . All this is true. And the marvel is, it hardly says enough.

Washington Post - Ken RinglE

To compare even the best of his predecessors to him is to compare good straightforward table wine with the complexity and the elegance of great Bordeaux. . . . Though each book is essentially self-contained, the Aubrey-Maturin series is better thought of as a single multi-volume novel, that, far beyond any episodic chronicle, ebbs and flows with the timeless tide of character and the human heart.

Commonwealth - Edward T. Wheeler

The experience of reading O'Brian is that of gracious acceptance at one of the banquets of life's feast. . . . It's hard not to find him irresistible.

Author Blurb Eudora Welty
[Patrick O'Brian has] the power of bringing near to the reader. . . savagery and tenderness, beauty and mystery and boldness and dignity.

Reader Reviews

Garrett Brattain

This book is one of the greatest I've ever read. It makes me think that i'm actually in the boat too.

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