I have recorded three or four of Patrick O’Brian’s marvellous Aubrey/Maturin novels set during the Napoleonic Wars as well as his first published novel The Catalans. His writing is rich and his characters strong. So I was thrilled to be entrusted with Nikolai Tolstoy’s long and detailed biography of O’Brian (O’Brian happened to be Tolstoy’s step-father). A VERY PRIVATE LIFE is detailed and contains many extracts from his diaries that are painfully honest. Because I admire O’Brian’s writing so much, I wanted to like and admire the man. But that’s not easy. He comes over as curmudgeonly, grumpy and rather disagreeable. Tolstoy’s book is a fascinating study of this complex man.