The Ionian Mission Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 28 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Ionian Mission.
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The Ionian Mission Summary & Study Guide Description

The Ionian Mission Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian.

The year is 1813 and Britain is at war with France. Stephen Maturin, physician and secret intel

ligence agent, joins Captain Jack Aubrey aboard HMS Worcester, a ship of the line traveling to the British naval blockade of the French fleet in Toulon. Maturin arrives late which frustrates Aubrey's desires to vacate a troublesome financial situation in England. Worcester sails south, picking up various travelers on the way, and encounters a French warship which flees after the first broadside is fired. Arriving off Toulon, Worcester joins the British fleet commanded by Admiral Thornton and over the next weeks and months Aubrey's ship performs tedious but wearing blockade duty with the offshore squadron. During this time the tedium is broken only by Maturin's abortive involvement in a failed political intrigue and the arrival of William Babbington, commanding Dryad, an old shipmate and friend. Also during the blockade period HMS Surprise, commanded by Francis Latham, joins the fleet. Aubrey sends letters home commenting on his low spirits and divisions among the crew. Worcester is next detached to deliver political messengers to a specific port. The trip nearly becomes eventful when a French squadron is found sheltering in a neutral harbor. Aubrey has been commanded to scrupulously regard neutrality and thus cannot fire first. He attempts to frighten the French commander into firing first but to no avail, and Worcester sails back to Toulon blockade without having fired in anger. The crew divisions deepen as some newcomers begin to accuse Aubrey of cowardice. After more weeks of blockade a storm brews up and the British fleet is driven off station and then pursues the French fleet which has escaped during the heavy weather. Driven as hard as possible, the British fleet nearly catches the French fleet but in the end fails to engage them. During one brief firefight Latham is killed. During the heavy weather pursuit Worcester's spine is broken. Aubrey returns his failing ship to port and is ordered to take command of Surprise. Handpicking the best of Worcester's crew, Aubrey transports Maturin and Professor Graham to the Ionian sea where he calls upon three separate political figures, courting each to join with Britain and attack French interests. Graham anticipates the four-part negotiation will take months to conclude but Aubrey selects one of the Ionian leaders on a gut feeling. Their die being cast, the British send for guns, powder, and supplies to deliver to their new ally in the fight against France. However, one of the other local actors, Mustapha, moves to seize the transports precipitating a local crisis. Aubrey moves instantly to intervene and catches Mustapha's two-ship fleet at sea. A chase ensues as Aubrey maneuvers to gain the advantage against Mustapha's massive cannon. Aubrey first captures Mustapha's smaller ship and then crosses its deck to board and capture the larger ship—an action reminiscent of his hero Lord Horatio Nelson. Having seized victory, Aubrey stands on the awash deck of Mustapha's sinking ship and takes account of his officers to find they have all survived the action.

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