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Publisher's Summary

Exclusively from Audible

The year is 1808 and somewhere off the coast of Nicaragua, C.S. Forester's hero returns, ready to embark on his next swashbuckling adventure.

The fifth instalment in the series, The Happy Return follows Captain Horatio Hornblower as he commands the thirty-six-gun frigate, HMS Lydia. Sent out on a mission to weaken the colonial Spanish government, Horatio must form an alliance with a narcissistic revolutionary leader with delusions of grandeur, who goes by the name of 'El Supremo'.

Simultaneously faced with an advancing Spanish fleet and their far superior fifty-gun ship, Natividad, Horatio must find a way to 'take, sink, burn or destroy' his enemies or fail and be made to face the British courts. Adding insult to injury, Horatio is furthermore challenged by the arrival of a singularly attractive passenger, the influential Lady Barbara Wellesley. Vulnerable, alone and seeking passage to England, Horatio cannot refuse the lady, but as a happily married man, he finds himself tortured by Barbara's tempting nature and astounding beauty.

An English novelist, C.S. Forester was highly praised by his contemporaries for his Napoleonic naval warfare series, and later for the publication of The African Queen.

Despite his natural ability and endless imagination, Forester came to writing much later than expected. Having originally studied medicine at Guy's Hospital, it was only after his travels with the Royal Navy that he was artistically inspired, developing in particular, a fervent love of story-telling. Sadly stricken with arteriosclerosis whilst voyaging to the Bering Sea, C.S. Forester was crippled in his later life, but his imagination and his skill with a pen survived for years to come.

Narrator Biography

Christian Rodska is an English television and voice actor best known for his role in the 1970s series Follyfoot.

From The Monuments Men and The Eagle of the Ninth to The Likely Lads, Z Cars, The Tomorrow People, Coronation Street, Bergerac and Casualty, his extensive and diverse acting career has led him to become a highly solicited radio and audiobook narrator.

He has now voiced over 150 unabridged audiobooks including Winston Churchill's biographies, Evelyn Waugh's Men at Arms and Sebastian Faulks' A Possible Life. He has been praised for his ability to vary in vocal pace and style and as such, Christian boasts 12 Earphone Awards from Audiofile Magazine.

©1937 Cassette Productions SA (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What members say

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  • Carol
  • Massachusetts
  • 11-29-10

AKA "Beat to Quarters"

"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.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

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  • Michael
  • Helena, MT, United States
  • 04-23-12

Horblower is Great!

Where does The Happy Return rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

As good as the best, maybe better.

What did you like best about this story?

Everything except that it ended. Fortunately, there is another in the series which takes up where this one leaves off.

Have you listened to any of Christian Rodska’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to his other Hornblower narrations, and this is as good as the others, which are great.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

In the battle with the Natividad, when the crew cheered for "Hornie" as he berated and threatened them.

Any additional comments?

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Thomas
  • Starkville, MS, United States
  • 11-08-11

Finally the naval novel I've been waiting for...

If you could sum up The Happy Return in three words, what would they be?

Fast Paced Fun

Who was your favorite character and why?

Hornblower is my favorite character. He is so self critical he doesn't know he is an awesome sea captain.

What does Christian Rodska bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

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.

If you could take any character from The Happy Return out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Hornblower of course. I guess I would have to do all the talking though since all he would do is harumph!

Any additional comments?

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.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Jean
  • Santa Cruz, CA, United States
  • 02-04-12

The Happy Return

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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First but not foremost

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Walter
  • Haverford, PA, United States
  • 05-24-13

Enjoyed it even more than the first time!

What did you love best about The Happy Return?

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.<br/>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.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Thank you Forester

Great writer, good story. Not as good as the later books when Hornblower is young.

Hornblower needs a buddy like Stephen Maturin.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • CB
  • 12-01-17

Good story. Fantastic narration.

Brilliant narration. This might be the only audio book I've heard where the narrator gets ALL the voices right. Usually they can manage one or two main characters .... rarely all, especially a male narrator attempting female voices.

The only fault, in my opinion, lies with the author who's Anglophile prejudice against the Spanish is pretty much baked into the story and characters .... even considering the historical 'facts,' these cultural prejudices almost ruin the story, making characters into caricatures.

O'Brian really does take the series up a notch.

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Fantastic book

One of my favorite books.

The battle scenes leave me as tired as Hornblower they are so realistic.

It is one of the best love stories I have ever read.

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Slow start, great by the end

Still working through the series, but I really enjoyed this one. I was iffy on the plot of El Supremo, but it really gets good, and there is a top notch naval battle. On to Ship of the Line....

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  • A
  • 09-27-13

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Dr Caterpillar
  • 08-08-16

Delivers

Would you consider the audio edition of The Happy Return to be better than the print version?

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.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Hornblower himself - although a friend of mine says his self doubts become very annoying after a while.<br/>I liked Wellesley's sister too, and her relationship with Hornblower.

What about Christian Rodska’s performance did you like?

He's a one man cast. He has a great set of easily recognisable voices, including a credible Spanish accent, and very clear diction.<br/>Amusingly, given how effortless his reading of the text is, he appears to struggle with the chapter numbers.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

If you've never read/listened to a Hornblower story, they are pretty much what you'd expect, done very well.

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  • Mr Ian R Hames
  • 10-31-15

Masterful

Possibly the best in the series. Contains the dramatic action of the contest between the Lydia and the Natividad.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-28-15

Good Story Had me transfixed!

I really enjoyed this book, probably the most out of the all books so far.

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  • VNHSUMMERS
  • 07-25-15

Hornblower

The forerunner of all the later naval writers and still eminently readable. Highly recommended read.

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  • Andrswal
  • 09-03-16

Better without the mush

The descriptive passages are outstanding as are the long naval battle scenes but why do we have to know about his love life! The anxst lover was completely out of character to the decisive naval man as indeed were the self deprevating diatribes

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Billy Walsh
  • 03-12-16

favourite so far

Would you listen to The Happy Return again? Why?

yes! the battle of the Lydia V Natividad was amazing

Any additional comments?

Excellent book slow to start and slow finish. To say the battle is epic is no exaggeration. loved it

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  • peter brazel
  • 03-08-16

Captain Hornblower

Great ship battles, you could see the broadsides and here the noises, of the ship, great Narrator, and great story writer is C.S.Forestor , I love his writings, now a great fan.
I give this book 10 out 10 , real great read, , regards Peter Brazel