To be Commander-in-Chief of the West Indies, with nothing more to worry about than the suppression of the slave trade, the hunting down of piracy and the policing of the Caribbean, was pure joy to Rear Admiral Lord Hornblower.
©1958 Cassette Productions Ltd (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
I remember discovering C.S. Forester in my school library in high school, with "Flying Colors" and "The Commodore" -- he opened up a whole new world of adventure to me. I could not find more at the time, and then discovered Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels, and I've only recently returned to my old friend Hornblower. It's been a delight to discover how truly brilliant a storyteller Forester is.
Christian Rodska does a magnificent job with the narration, as always. Here, we have an array of memorable voices for governors (Spanish and English), sailors of all descriptions, and even an unfortunate marine musician....
Hornblower in the West Indies is far from his best, but is still a very enjoyable read. The main issue is that the War is over and Hornblower has a peacetime job as Admiral in the West Indies -- not quite the dashing position of Captain, where he was always most comfortable. It means Forester has to create slightly artificial situations to get Hornblower into the thick of action.
The book also suffers somewhat for being a collection of stories, with only a slight narrative thread tying them together. Each is well-written and with a satisfying conclusion, but there is little drive pulling the listener to a rousing conclusion. That said, this *is* a satisfying conclusion to the Hornblower series, with our hero at last confronting his crushing insecurities and having one last bow on stage before hauling down his flag.
I especially appreciate the job Rodska does with Hornblower's wife Barbara. Many narrators struggle with a subtle presentation of the opposite sex, and Barbara has an absolutely crucial role in the last story. Thank goodness, Rodska pulls it off with flair.
As a matter of fact, I have dim memories of another collection of short stories I read as a youth, which included an elderly Hornblower and his lovely wife encountering someone claiming to be Napoleon's heir....
One awkward aspect: the last story, "The Hurricare," is repeated in its entirety! Better than leaving precious material out, as we've discovered in other Hornblower audiobooks, but it did confuse me a bit. I do wish the publishers would treat this wonderful series with more care.
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