Tuesday, October 19, 2010

47. Commodore Hornblower by C.S. Forester

I probably should not have read this book. The gentleman who sold it to me was very persuasive and said it was one of the best of the series. For those of you who don't know, C.S. Forester is Patrick O'Brian of his day and more. His Horatio Hornblower series are considered the true classics of British naval fiction and some may even consider O'Brian a bit of a pretender. I shouldn't have read Commodore Hornblower because it is quite far into the series and it makes a lot of references, both about stuff that actually happened and Hornblower's own change in perspective and outlook that I think would have been much more satisfying and rich had I arrived there along the same path as the main character himself.

Well blow me down, I just did a bit of perfunctory research and it turns out that the books are not written in chronological order of Hornblower's life and that Commodore Hornblower is in fact the 4th book (of 10 and a partially written one). So maybe I'm fine. Also, ten novels is a lot more digestible than the twenty of the Aubrey-Maturin series, so it is conceivable that I could read this entire series. Also, when I say digestible, I also felt that, at least in this one novel, the terminology was much lighter than in the O'Brian books. A lot of Commodore Hornblower takes place on land (they are stationed at Riga to defend a siege by Napoloenic forces), so perhaps the other books are harder to parse. I found the relations between the characters in the one Patrick O'Brian book I read to be much richer and more complex, but I also felt lost for a lot of the naval warfare stuff, which is something I actually do want to enjoy. With this book, I found it much easier to understand what was actually going on and there are some tricky miilitary maneuvers, including a cool long-distance mortaring of a trapped french cutter that normally would have been safe in a friendly harbour.

I didn't really mean to make this review a comparison between the two series, and it is specious at best since I've only read a single book from each. On its own, Commodore Hornblower was engaging, entertaining and a great read. It has excellent British mettle, great strategy, even a bit of sex and some rip-roaring adventure. Thoroughly satisfying. It has given me a taste for more.


meezly said...

the dude on the cover looks like Roger Moore.

meezly said...

dude on the cover looks like Roger Moore.