To many, Patrick O'Brian was the greatest British novelist of the twentieth century. The fifteen volumes of the series set in the Royal Navy of the beginning of the nineteenth century and featuring Aubrey and Maturin have been hailed as 'the best historical novels ever written' by the New York Times. This volume will tell the story of O'Brian's life up to his decision to move to Collioure in the South of France. His oppressed childhood, his precocious writing success, his first marriage, divorce and name change are all dealt with. Along the way Tolstoy reveals the seeds of inspiration that one day would lead to comparisons with Jane Austen and even Homer. Nikolai Tolstoy was O'Brian's stepson and knew him better than any other person. His acquaintanceship with him lasted forty-five years during most of O'Brian's marriage to Mary Tolstoy, Nikolai's mother. Tolstoy stayed with the couple regularly at their French home and was a frequent correspondent with the reclusive and secretive author, discovering facets of his character and creative genius that he showed to no one else. Tolstoy was the sole beneficiary of his stepfather's will and is one of the Trustees of O'Brian's estate. He
Nikolai Tolstoy is a highly recognised historian and biographer. His previous works include The Quest for Merlin, The Minister and the Massacres, The Night of the Long Knives, Victims of Yalta, and Stalin's Secret War.