As winter gloom tries to close us in, an ocean adventure may be just the thing needed. For several years now, ocean adventure for me has meant another Hornblower book. These great books by C. S. Forester tell the tale of Horatio Hornblower from impoverished midshipman in the late 1790's to powerful and wealthy Admiral and Lord in the 1820's. I listened to them all on audiobook and enjoyed every single one, although I must admit to cringing at a few spots. For example, in Flying Colours, which recounts Horatio's imprisonment and flight in France, he has an affair. Since betrayals and are well-known to happen during wartimes, I suppose I slogged through those sections out of what Hornblower would call "sheer bloody-mindedness"--in other words, just to get through it.
The attraction of the books is in the tremendous detail of life at sea during the days of the great sailing and fighting ships,as well as the excitement, terror and intricacies of the Napoleonic wars. Those elements combine beautifully with the brilliance of Hornblower's analysis of battle situations--which is, of course, really Forester's meticulous and inspired portrayal of events which he himself never saw nor experienced. Hornblower's own terror, social anxiety, and shy nature make him more the hero than otherwise.
Eventually totaling 12 books, the Hornblower series by C. S. Forester has had long and widespread acclaim. The books continue to be popular, in newer and more formats all the time. Several successful tv movies were made from the first books and starred Welshman Ioan Gruffudd (Amazing Grace and Fantastic Four). Originally published largely in The Saturday Evening Post as true serials, Forester started with the three Captain Hornblower books: Beat to Quarters, A ship of the line, and Flying Colours, then filled in with later and earlier books in the chronology. For chronological order, start with Mr. Midshipman Hornblower.
Overall series' rating 4 out of 5 stars