Horatio Hornblower sails South American waters and comes face to face with a mad revolutionary in a novel that ripples with risk and gripping adventure. Throughout his escapades, Forester's hero remains resourceful and courageous.
©1937 Cassette Productions SA (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Genre fiction, trashy to literary--mystery, action, sci fi, fantasy, and, yes, even romance. Also history. Listener reviews help a lot!
"The Happy Return," also known as "Beat to Quarters," is the first-published (1937) adventure of Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN. It was followed in 1938 by "Ship of the Line" and "Flying Colours." Later books, published after WWII, went backward to cover Hornblower's early career, and forward to his rise to admiral and the peerage. "Midshipman Hornblower," chronologically the first story, was published in 1950.
Having listened to all the Aubrey/Maturin books and feeling bummed that there were no more left to hear, I decided to try this book, since I knew it sailed similar seas (British navy during the Napoleonic Wars). This first Hornblower adventure does not disappoint. The distant, all-powerful captain with extraordinary navigational skills and an almost uncanny connection to his ship (there's a reason ships are thought of as female), sailing under sealed orders to a dangerous assignment in a faraway and exotic (in this case the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and Panama) locale; encounters with the enemy won sometimes by guile, sometimes by superior seamanship, and always by sheer guts; unimaginable pain and privation, encounters with stunning cruelty--it's all here, guys and gals! There's even a shipboard romance.
What is not here, unfortunately for his fans, is any character even remotely resembling Stephen Maturin. As it is, Hornblower is limited largely to conversations with himself, we don"t get to see the Central American volcanoes through Stephen's naturalist eyes, or get his spy's-eye view of the intrigue. This "criticism" is unfair to Forester, however, and shouldn't deter anyone from enjoying these earlier books, which undoubtedly influenced O'Brian.
I have enjoyed both Simon Vance's and Patrick Tull's approaches to narration of the O'Brian books. Christian Rodska never gets as ponderous as Tull or as exuberant as Vance, but reads with clarity and energy. I particularly enjoyed his Spanish accents. All in all, this one's worth the listen.
As good as the best, maybe better.
Everything except that it ended. Fortunately, there is another in the series which takes up where this one leaves off.
I have listened to his other Hornblower narrations, and this is as good as the others, which are great.
In the battle with the Natividad, when the crew cheered for "Hornie" as he berated and threatened them.
Lovers of historical adventure novels and just plain first class writing should start with Midshipman Horblower and get on board for one of the best reads in the English language. Churchill and Hemingway were big Hornblower fans. Find out why.
I am an avid eclectic reader
Christian Rodska did a wonderful job narrating the story. Hornblower sails to central America and a secret mission. Forester description of the land and people brought a picture to my mind as if I was watching a movie. Forester's battle scenes are almost as good as Patrick O'Brian. It is hard enought to fight another ship without having to worry about the wind in the sails and directions you can sail. This was the first book in the series and I am looking forward to reading more in this series. I understand Forester has written many book such as African Queen that became movies. I shall see what Audible has of Forester's books.
Fast Paced Fun
Hornblower is my favorite character. He is so self critical he doesn't know he is an awesome sea captain.
I like Rodska's reading style. He has an easy to understand British accent and read the book at a pace which matched the story.
Hornblower of course. I guess I would have to do all the talking though since all he would do is harumph!
A lot of people compare Hornblower to Aubrey/Maturin. Hornblower is much more to my liking. The Happy Return has lots of action and moves at a brisk pace as opposed to the 3 Aubrey/Maturin novels I have listened to which I found to be long and slow reads.
I haven't read any Hornblowers since the 1970s, but I like naval adventures in general and remembered liking them very much, so I wanted to read them again. I chose this one because it was the first written. I know most people prefer to read series in chronological order, but I always find a series more accessible in the order written.
The Happy Return did not disappoint me. I enjoyed it tremendously. The performance was all right - my only real beef with it is some very bizarre and distracting mispronunciations.
I always appreciate a book like this one, since I get more exercise and housework done when I'm motivated to continue listening. I wouldn't want to listen to it all in one sitting - too long - but it was absolutely a pleasure.
Early adopter, longtime listener, bookhungry.
Don't start the Hornblower books with this one, the first that Forester wrote. Hornblower here is sketched in, self-absorbed, and slightly annoying; the Lady Barbara romance is off-kilter. Start with the great Midshipman Hornblower, a much more enjoyable book, and let this one come in its chronological sequence. Not bad, just not representative of the best of this series.
And Buffalo George
Quintessential Hornblower. This one's a movie, starring Gregory Peck, made in 1951: "Horatio Hornblower, RN." Unlike former books in the series, this one's a whole story, not a collection of stories. In this plot, the bad guy is a Panamanian named "El Supremo"--great sense of humor, that Forester. And, HH's ship blows up his nemesis ship and sinks him: the description is moving. Further, HH flubs a romance that will probably come back to bite him later. Our hero should have worked out some of his social foibles by his age, 37, in this book. But does not. Oh well, let's see what the next one brings?
This book is the basis for the movie Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N. (1951) with Gregory Peck. The movie is very good and worth viewing but since I saw it first it tends to spoil the suspense.
I have been listening to the series in order of Hornblowers career. So this book being the first written leaves me wondering. How did Hornblower get command of the HMS Lydia? How did Hornblower get reunited with Mr Bush?
Still, it is a good listen and the narration is great.
"Good audiobook brought to life by Christian Rodska"
I have recently devoured probably everything by Bernard Cornwell, finishing with the "Sharpe" books and wanted something similar, and after some searching I found Hornblower.
And I am pleasantly surprised, being written in the 30s-50s, I had assumed they would be a bit old fashioned or Boys Own-ish but they feel modern and have a dry wit that is brought out superbly by Christian Rodska the narrator.
They are books with action and battles etc but there is a lot of depth to the story and good characterisation too.
I haven't read the print version. If I did, I would choose Kindle, because then I could instantly look up all the nautical terms. As it was, I consulted Wikipedia a few times.
Hornblower himself - although a friend of mine says his self doubts become very annoying after a while.
I liked Wellesley's sister too, and her relationship with Hornblower.
He's a one man cast. He has a great set of easily recognisable voices, including a credible Spanish accent, and very clear diction.
Amusingly, given how effortless his reading of the text is, he appears to struggle with the chapter numbers.
If you've never read/listened to a Hornblower story, they are pretty much what you'd expect, done very well.
Possibly the best in the series. Contains the dramatic action of the contest between the Lydia and the Natividad.
"Good Story Had me transfixed!"
I really enjoyed this book, probably the most out of the all books so far.
The forerunner of all the later naval writers and still eminently readable. Highly recommended read.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.