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)2010 BBC Audiobooks Ltd
Love it when the narrator makes a good book better.
"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.
Great writer, good story. Not as good as the later books when Hornblower is young.
Hornblower needs a buddy like Stephen Maturin.
This is the first-written and probably the best of the ten Hornblower books. Unlike many of the others, it is a continuous narrative rather than a sequence of episodic short stories.
For those interested in the British navy of the Napoleonic era, Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin books are the outstanding literary series. Forester does not have anything like O'Brian's complex picture of everyday life on board, or for that matter his sense of humour, but the Hornblower books are gripping page-turners, and their action sequences in particular are brilliant. The climactic single-ship action between the Lydia and the Natividad, described over several chapters, is terrifyingly vivid.
Christian Rodska gives an aptly gruff, boys-own-adventure sort of reading.
I could do without the last chapter or two which deals with romance instead of action, but the rest is pure gold. It is no wonder this one, the first written launched such a large number of sequels.
As a long time of the Patrick O'Brien books, specifically the Patrick Tull narrations, I had hoped that the Hornblower stories would at least provide the same level of interest for me. The same applies to Cornwell's Sharpe books, too. Sadly, this is not the case. I could go on about the writing style, use of language, character development, etc. But it boils down to this: I do not like the character Forester has created, at least in this book. He is wooden, weak, false and shallow in my opinion. For example, his continual self-doubt and agony over his abilities and his career make him irritating, not interesting or complex. It is as though he is an actor playing the part of ship's captain. It's just not believable. A person with that temperament would not, and could not advance in the royal navy of that time, let alone accomplish the feats attributed to him. And then there's the silly shipboard romance making no sense at all. I understand that this is the first of a series and will try not to judge all of the books based on this one, but I will have to carefully consider purchasing another one and will not do so for at least some time. The narration was workmanlike and adequate, but could not save the experience.
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