This is the story of Richard Temple – prisoner of war, sometime adventurer, lover and artist – told with insight, empathy and drama by one of the world's master storytellers.
Captive in a brutal German prison towards the end of World War II, Richard Temple has been stripped of everything that once defined him: pride, courage, his very identity have all been surrendered in a desperate bid to protect his secrets from the Nazis.
But with the real Richard Temple suppressed to the point of near-extinction, a sudden respite in his torture allows him a moment of rare release, when he can lower his guard and remember who he is. Huddled in his cell, too badly beaten to move, the action of the novel takes place in the Richard’s mind as he retraces a convoluted course from an unhappy childhood, through a vague and uncertain adolescence to a complex, compromised adulthood, shot through with artistic sensibility and the myriad impulses that make a man.
Patrick O'Brian's signature combination of narrative flair, intuitive sympathy and psychological insight make this a fascinating exploration of how passive resistance can be a form of courage and what it truly means to be a hero.