The Rendezvous and Other Stories - Patrick O'Brian
These twenty-seven stories were selected from previous collections between 1950 and 1974. Right from the start they're wonderfully written, in a beautiful but not overly-ornate style. Almost every one glories in descriptions of natural settings; quite a few are hunting and fishing tales (that was a bit unexpected to me) and others take place out-of-doors for other reasons.

In the majority of these stories, O'Brian's main focus is on searching, subtle moral analysis of single characters and their failings. That the incidents that illuminate them so often are outdoors is simply a sign of the author's inclination, for the most part; although the wilderness is also a suitable place for people be seen separated out in high relief from society. Then, too, many of the characters are loners. Another frequent theme is the effects of stress, and sometimes abnormal states of mind.

In a few of the earliest stories, the narration is so oblique that it's difficult to even determine what is happening. The later stories are clearer, but not by being explicit about their themes: rather by masterfully weaving their themes into their narration.

I had always thought that the rather quirky dialogue in O'Brian's historical novels was an attempt to capture the style of the period; but in all these contemporary stories, though dialogue is rare, it sounds just the same. So I suppose the dialect spoken is "O'Brianese". No matter, it's only a minor distraction. On the whole, I appreciated almost every story here, and thought a few of them brilliant ("The Chian Wine", "The Long Day Running", "The Rendezvous", to name a few at random).