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Three Bear Witness This is an early and little known O'Brian novel having never been printed in paperback before this edition One might think O'Brian's signature is adventure stories or perhaps sea stories in which case this would appear a typical being set in a remote valley in North Wales Looked at a different way this book is entirely in keeping with the famous works of its author; it relies on deep character study and interaction to tell a powerful story THIS REVIEW HAS BEEN CURTAILED IN PROTEST AT GOODREADS' CENSORSHIP POLICYSee the complete review here This book was slow but intense from beginning to end I have never read anything like it I don't know how many people would enjoy it but in the end I had to give it 5 stars I thought about it for weeks after finishing it O'Brian has a gift for character setting and story which makes a very strong combination This was powerful and somewhat disturbing but I think it left me a better person for having read it This is a gut wrenchingly painful novel to read You can see the end coming like two trains on the same track heading at one another This is Patrick O'Brian's first novel written in the 1950s and it is a dandy You can't put it down and the title Testimonies means everything I have read O'Brian's Aubrey Maturin series multiple times and I honestly have to say that this is right up there with the very best of that series I have always loved O'Brian's elegant writing style and this very first effort sets the standard for all that was to comeThe novel takes place in a remote part of Wales shortly after the turn of the 20th century but it has the feel of the mid to late 19th century and certainly has the feel of a plot crafted by Thomas Hardy or even George Eliot It is ever so well written and completely brings you into the world of sheep farming in the valleys and mountains of WalesI'll be reading this again to be sure A solid 45 stars for me A staggeringly moving and painful novel about an undeclared love in bleak circumstances Patrick O'Brian's strangely obliue and vivid style that his devotees adore in the AubreyMaturin novels is here but this is written in a different key Perhaps the mournfulness of certain episodes in the romance of Diana and Stephen or the painful history of Clarissa Oakes may prepare an O'Brian reader for the mood of this small deep wound of a tale that will remain a weight on your heart for at least a month post reading Del Schwartz the most influential critic in postwar America wrote of Patrick O'Brian's first novel Testimonies A triumphdrawn forward by lyric elouence 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' 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 There he falls physically ill and is nursed back to health by Bronwen Vaughn the wife of a neighboring farmer 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 From BBC Radio 4 Extra 4 Extra Debut A haunting tale of secret passion set in a remote Welsh valley in the 1950s Stars Philip Madoc Alan Moore and Manon Edwards When reading the Master and Commander series especially when Maturin and Aubrey huddle for late night conversation in the captain's uarters the astute reader soon realizes that author Patrick O'Brian is up to a lot than merely spinning a few sea yarns Yes indeed he is a serious writer And I mean that in the best way possible This work written nearly 20 years before the start of that series and standing as O'Brian's first novel after a 14 year break caused mostly by the second world war is something close to a masterpieceThe novel has nothing to do with the naval life It is set in a remote Welsh valley where a retired Oxford don goes to spend his remaining days in peace and solitude There he falls in platonic love with a married woman Eventually things fall apart This is a story as old as the hills so what makes the book so good? The interweaving of the three title testimonies The languid pace The extremely specific lived in detail of what it's like to live and work on a sheep farm The reflections on God love perception and language This book was a true delight O'Brian's first novel and a number of things that appear in the Aubrey Maturin series turn up here Not of course the subject matter The book has much of O'Brian's signature ability to use irony Telling the story of a fraught relationship through a series of different narrators allows each of the voices to both illumine and cast shadows on the others The total effect is a kind of ironical distance not for the first time this skill of O'Brian's reminds me a great deal of Austen at her best Unlike the other books by him I have read this is done in first person narration although the Bronwen sections and some of the Pugh sections are taken down like evidence for an inuest or a trial Part of the allure here is that not everything is made explicit Exactly what Emyr does for instance that puts his wife off early in their marriage is never stated forthrightly Similarly how Bronwen comes to her end is also kept somewhat opaue There is deep poetry in many of Pugh's reflections and profound misunderstandings about what has come about as a result of his taking up residence in a Welsh valley As first novels go this is pretty polished and accomplished stuff view spoiler Bettie's Books hide spoiler I first became aware of Patrick O'Brian via his late '80s obituary in the WSJ This was my introduction to his Aubrey Maturin Master Commander series to which I became a devotee' and as such have described as Jane Austen for men based upon the richness of the conversationsTestimonies is a very different O'Brian This is a novel of unreuited love set in the upcountry of Wales It is a tragedy caused by village pettiness and professional jealousy The language is beautiful in the description of the high country and sheep keeping and the characterizations of the people and relationships It was a great joy to keep the Welsh word reference at handVery different than Aubrey Maturin but very reassuring to realize that O'Brian has talents of description and emotion far beyond those so ably done against the background of high seas adventure in the Napoleonic Age


About the Author: Patrick OBrian

The Aubrey Maturin Series on Goodreads


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