Testimonies: A Novel

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W. W. Norton & Company, Jul 17, 1995 - Fiction - 224 pages
2 Reviews
In 1952, Delmore Schwartz, the most influential critic in postwar America, wrote of Patrick O'Brian's first novel, Testimonies: "a triumph...drawn forward by lyric eloquence and the story's fascination, [the reader] discovers in the end that he has encountered in a new way the sphinx and the riddle of existence itself". Schwartz's imagination was fired by this sinister tale of love and death set in Wales, a timeless story with echoes of Thomas Hardy and Mary Webb. Joseph Pugh, sick of Oxford and of teaching, decides to take some time off to live in a wild and beautiful Welsh farm valley that seems at the other end of the earth from the life he has known at the great university. There he falls physically ill, and is nursed back to health by Bronwen Vaughn, the wife of a neighboring farmer. Although Bronwen's husband Emyr is a successful farmer and a pillar of the community, there is a streak of sado-sexual violence in him that has ruined their marriage. Slowly, unwillingly, Bronwen and Pugh fall in love; and while that word is never spoken between them, their story is as passionate and as tragic as that of Vronsky and Anna Karenina. People, and Emyr's family in particular, begin to take note of the friendship between Bronwen and Pugh. The visit of a famous preacher punctures the boil of jealousies and suspicions in the small community, and the violence that follows comes almost as a relief. Readers who know O'Brian's story-telling from the Aubrey/Maturin tales will find in this book confirmation of the great range and depth of his gifts as a novelist.

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User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A welcome reissue of O'Brian's moving and very fine first novel—a novel of "unassuming proportion and immaculate design" (Kirkus, August 1, 1952). This precursor to the author's Captain Jack Aubrey ... Read full review

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User Review  - booksinthebelfrey - LibraryThing

A landlocked departure for the author of the Aubrey/Maturin novels (which I've not read, although The Nutmeg of Consolation is among my favorite book titles!). Read full review

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About the author (1995)

Patrick O'Brian's acclaimed Aubrey/Maturin series of historical novels has been described as "a masterpiece" (David Mamet, New York Times), "addictively readable" (Patrick T. Reardon, Chicago Tribune), and "the best historical novels ever written" (Richard Snow, New York Times Book Review), which "should have been on those lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century" (George Will).Set in the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, O'Brian's twenty-volume series centers on the enduring friendship between naval officer Jack Aubrey and physician (and spy) Stephen Maturin. The Far Side of the World, the tenth book in the series, was adapted into a 2003 film directed by Peter Weir and starring Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. The film was nominated for ten Oscars, including Best Picture. The books are now available in hardcover, paperback, and e-book format.In addition to the Aubrey/Maturin novels, Patrick O'Brian wrote several books including the novels Testimonies, The Golden Ocean, and The Unknown Shore, as well as biographies of Joseph Banks and Picasso. He translated many works from French into English, among them the novels and memoirs of Simone de Beauvoir, the first volume of Jean Lacouture's biography of Charles de Gaulle, and famed fugitive Henri Cherrière's memoir Papillon. O'Brian died in January 2000.

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