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Patrick O’Brian: A Very Private Life

Patrick O’Brian: A Very Private Life

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An intimate portrait of the reclusive and brilliant author, written by his step-son Nikolai Tolstoy.

The English novelist Patrick O’Brian is much admired for his best-selling Aubrey-Maturin series of sea novels – the unexpected success of the series secured his place in literary history. Far less is known about O’Brian’s personal life, largely because he preferred to keep it that way. In A Very Private Life, O’Brian’s step-son Nikolai Tolstoy draws upon his step-father’s archives and papers to faithfully capture a life dedicated to the written word.

This biography covers the latter part of O’Brian’s life, from the moment of his arrival at Collioure in the south of France in 1949, where he wrote all his major works, to his death in 2000.

Throughout his career, O’Brian’s writing was supplemented by his translation work, which saw him translate the likes of Simone de Beauvoir and Henri Charriere. Tolstoy also captures O’Brian as he conducted research for the biography of his close friend and neighbour, Pablo Picasso.

Tolstoy maps his step-father’s literary career, from its poverty-stricken beginnings to the remarkable success O’Brian enjoyed later in life. He notes how through a cruel irony of fate, just as his step-father’s literary career attained greater acclaimed, O’Brian’s pleasure in his achievement began to diminish.

This truthful, warm and insightful biography is a testimony to Tolstoy’s respect and admiration for his step-father, one of Britain’s most loved literary figures.
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