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Book Review: Testimonies by Patrick O'Brian

I read Testimonies as quickly as I could. I had great hope that for a few reasons it would become on of my favorite reads, but about a quarter way through I realized Testimonies wouldn't be the sort of novel to make it to my 'favorites' shelf. Set in 1940's North Wales in a fictional village based on the village of Cwm Croeser where the author and his wife spend a holiday in Wales. The main character Pugh is a schoolteacher from Oxford who seeks respite from the rigors of academic life in a cottage in the Welsh countryside. Upon utterly and reluctantly falling in love with the young wife, Bronwen, of the son in the neighboring farm, Pugh struggles with his feelings and begins to understand as he spends more time with Bronwen and her in laws that Bronwen's husband is sexually violent towards her. The book doesn't get more explicit than that, thankfully, but here is inevitably trouble and no redeeming moment, which leads to a tragic ending that you should've seen coming from the first page. Despite O'Brian's rolling, lyrical writing that is very poetic at times, especially when describing the Welsh countryside, it was a dark novel that ends worse than it began. Just because a novel is well-written doesn't make it a good novel.

Patrick O'Brian is best known for his series of nautical historical fiction set in the years of the Napoleonic Wars featuring two very memorable characters, Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Referred to as The Master & Commander series, the series is 21 books long and though I have not finished the series yet, I have loved O'Brian's writing and decided to try out his other works of fiction.

Testimonies deliveries a short, dark, dramatic novel that does entertain, but it is not the sort of entertainment I am looking for.

2.5 stars for this short read. You can find it on my virtual shelf here but you wont' find it on my bookshelf at home as I don't keep books I don't enjoy in my library at Sunbird House.

Until the next book review, be well.


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