Sunday, September 10, 2006

Book 69: Hornblower and the Hotspur

NUMBER: 69
TITLE: Hornblower and the Hotspur
AUTHOR: C.S. Forester
STARTED: September 3, 2006
FINISHED: September 5, 2006
PAGES: 344
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: "Repeat after me," said the parson.

SUMMARY: [From barnesandnoble.com] Preparation for war against the French, daring commando-style raids and the rigours of naval discipline - classic ingredients of this adventure which tests Hornblower's ingenuity and courage to the limit.

REASON FOR READING: Working my way through the series

THOUGHTS: How can you not love a book about warring adventure on the high seas? There's action, drama, and sexy ships. Throw in Forester's fantastic character of Horatio Hornblower and you have yet another "can't-put-it-down" book.

Hornblower and the Hotspur
includes all the elements that made the first two books in this series fantastic reads: dramatic plots, creative characters, and beautiful prose. This book, however, adds one more element the Hornblower saga: romance. With this addition, Forester adds a new depth and complexity to his series that gives the book a more well rounded and intriguing dimension. In the past, Hornblower thought only of himself and how other saw him. This self-measurement is self ever present. Hornblower careful ways his actions and words against how other would view him. This is perhaps best seen when Hornblower must contemplate how to deal with the fate of his personal servant, a man who has strucks a superior officer. Hornblower debates over pages and pages how to deal with this man; a man who clearly knew better, felt regret, but in the heat of the moment dealt a blow to a bully who more than deserved it. Hornblower knows the man must die under British law, but he can't help but wish for a better outcome. The way Hornblower resourceful solves the crisis of conscience and law, highlights why the Hornblower series has become a best seller.

In Hotspur, Forester continues Hornblower's trend of self-analysis, but now, he throws a wife into the mix. Hornblower readily admits that he is not in love with his spouse, but Forester writes Hornblower's thoughts in such a way that you cannot fault him for marrying a woman he only feels the merest affection for. Hornblower may have married the woman out of feelings of responsibility and guilt, but the reader can see that, though he may not love her, he knows that he must be the best husband he can be. And, when Forester details how Hornblower struggles to become the best man possible, it strengthens his character for both the reader and the story.

While the central point of Hotspur is the resurgence of Britain's war with France, Hornblower's domestic life creates an unexpected tension in the lead character that counteracts the naval side of his life. Forester allows the reader into his lead's mental debates and passions. The drama that this creates endears Hornblower even more to the reader. We get to see him grow and mature as both a naval officer and a man. Hornblower must careful balance his naval life with his new, landed responsibilities. No longer must he think only of his fate, but that of his wife and, later on, children as well. One of the most endearing scenes occur when Hornblower receives word that he is to be a father. Forester artfully shows Hornblower's internal progression from shock, to acceptance, and impatience about the birth of his child.

This new, tender side of Hornblower - the one who writes weekly letters to his wife, Maria, and plays with his son - dramatic parallels his life as a naval officer at war. We see him risk his life for his country, by engaging in a battle of minds and cannons against a French ship. We see his daring attempt to harrass the French navy as it sits at anchor. We see him put out the fuse of a lighted howitzer shot with his own hand.

Forester's skill comes into that he shows Hornblower's courage, daring, and responsibilty. He does not merely state what Hornblower has done to earn such prestige in the eyes of his comrades. He shows. He describes the action in artful prose, with a flair that makes the reader hear the sails flap and the cannon boom. Forester describes the cramped ship quarters and the blood after a battle. He creates complete scenes that puts the reader in Hornblower's world.

Then he lets you into Hornblower's head. Forester shows his lead character's doubts and fears, his own personal flaws of characters. Forester lets Hornblower talk about being annoyed that he now has to worry about dieing because it would cause pain to his wife. Hornblower is shaken to the core with fear when he realizes that live ammunition is burning on his ship's deck. Forester let's Hornblower tell the reader all his insecurities and weaknesses, and then Forester shows him overcoming adversity. It is this triumph of self that makes Hornblower a once in a lifetime character.

Hotspur indicates better than any of the other books in the series I have read, why Horatio Hornblower has become such a powerful character in fiction. He is mere man, who knows he's a mere man, but refuses to let that stop him from doing superhuman actions.

MISCELLANEOUS: I want to own this series so bad it's not even funny.

KEEP/SHARE/CRINGE(?): It must go back to the library. *whimper*
RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

CR: The Scourge of God by William Dietrich
RN: Not a clue.

5 comments:

Zeek said...

I haven't read these, but I have been meaning to rent the Hornblower BBC series. Might have to try reading it first!

Oh I see you're reading Mr D'Arcy! Can't wait to hear what you thought of it!

Gates Books said...

I HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommend the miniseries. At least the A&E one with Ioan Gruffud (or however you spell it).

So far I am LOVING the Darcy book. I could not put it down last night.

Zeek said...

Yep the A&E one is the one I'm talking about! LOVE Ian, he's so hunky. :P

Hee! I was the same way reading MDTAW! I know Austen purists hated it, in fact the say its more a spin off of Colin Firth's portrayal of D'Arcy, but hey that's good enough for me!

Here's my review of it.
- no spoilers, I promise!

Gates Books said...

Ioan is a tasty morsel of a man. I saw the series once, and then bought the boxed set for myself. Between the sexy mans and the sexy ships, I could not resist.

Firth version, eh? So far, I have Darcy looking and acting more like Matthew Macfadyen from the most recent version.

As I am not a purist, this book is right up my alley.

Zeek said...

It was right up my ally too!

I *do* want to read her next one in the series, but alas, my tbr is already out of hand ... some day!