C.S. Forester,
Lieutenant Hornblower
(Little, Brown & Co., 1951; Back Bay, 1998)

In Lieutenant Hornblower, we begin to see just how capable young Horatio truly can be.

Posted as a lieutenant aboard HMS Renown, Hornblower is far enough down the chain of command to excite little interest. But a paranoid captain makes life hell for the company of lieutenants beneath him, and the level of discontent belowdecks might have risen to the point of mutiny had the captain not taken an inopportune tumble down a hatch. Injured and inarguably mad, the captain is quickly and quietly replaced by the ranking officer, Lt. Buckland, which also raises Hornblower and the other lieutenants a notch in rank.

A mission to route out a nest of Spanish privateers in the Caribbean puts the new captain and his officers to the test, and again and again Hornblower rises to the challenge, turning defeat into victory and earning accolades from his superiors. It's a promising beginning to a promising career -- so long as Britain's ongoing war with France continues.

Although ostensibly about Hornblower, the events of Lieutenant Hornblower are seen largely through the eyes of Lt. William Bush, who is for most of the novel Hornblower's immediate superior. It's a perfect perspective for keeping tabs on the action as it unfolds, providing an uninterrupted view of Hornblower's burgeoning brilliance at sea.

This engrossing book had me carrying it with me wherever I went and turning pages as fast as I could. It's a fascinating look at life in the British navy and, even more so, at the developing character of Horatio Hornblower. I am eager to continue through the remaining nine books in the series.

review by
Tom Knapp

12 September 2009

Agree? Disagree?
Send us your opinions!

what's new