So back some years ago, when I was reading the Hornblower books, I got a bit burnt out and left the last three for when I’d appreciate them more. That time arrived with my recent fit of Napoleomania, so C.S. Forester’s Hornblower and the “Atropos”, Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies, and Hornblower During the Crisis all got read quickly.

Everything I’ve said in the past about the Hornblower books is still true, and these books were great. Of the three, my favorite was Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies, which sees Horatio in command of Britain’s fleet in the Caribbean, and has a sort of nostalgic, nearly elegiac, feel to it. Because sure, Horatio’s reaching the top of his profession, but he’s also an older man who can’t indulge in the simple pleasures of the sea the way he used to; and, what with the war over, his profession is a much diminished one. After a man has matched himself against Napoleon for his whole career, can it be anything other than a coda to deal with pirates and slavers, even if he is an Admiral?

And speaking of codas, I should mention that Hornblower During the Crisis is actually an unfinished book — Forester died during the writing of it, so halfway through it stops, and gives the author’s outline of how the plot was to have progressed. I wasn’t sure if this would prove satisfactory or frustrating, but I ended up appreciating it. It’s unfortunate that we’ll never get to read the complete book, but the bits that are there are fun and tell a story enough in their own right.

Highly recommended, though of course you’ll want to start with Beat to Quarters.


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