Ship of the Line, by C. S. Forester

C.S. Forester - biographies

C. S. Forster and the Hornblower Saga, by Sanford Sternlicht C.S. Forester is a beloved and fascinating writer. Many readers, including the avid fans of the Hornblower Saga, will be interested in the excellent and interesting biography of C.S. Forester written by Sanford Sternlich, entiteled C.S. Forester and the Hornblower Saga. Despite its title, this book covers all of Forester's major works, not just the Hornblower series. For true fans of Forester, it is simply a treasure cove!
(Link to this book at Amazon UK: C.S.Forester and the Hornblower Saga - US readers can click the image of the book.)

It is now 1810 and the Napoleonic Wars are still raging. Captain Horatio Hornblower has now been assigned command of a fine ship of the line, a two-decker, and 74 guns, called HMS Sutherland. Hornblower's love Lady Pamela Wellesley has married Ship of the Line, C. S. Forester an admiral whose ego considerably outweighs his talents, and as faith will have it Hornblower has been appointed into his squadron. With very little time to prepare and very short-handed, the Sutherland is sent to sea to first do convoy duty and then later to harass Napoleon's flank, and blockade the Mediterranean coast of Spain to prevent supplies from reaching the French.

Sutherland does a good job during the convoy duty, and then afterwards Hornblower is fortunate enough to be let loose to cruise the Catalonian coast. Now Hornblower stages an astonishing sequence of solo raids against the French in the span of just a few days. Each raid is more challenging and inventive than the previous and each requires his cunning ability to calculate risks to the fullest. Needless to say, Hornblower wrecks considerable havoc. As a result he captures a number of prizes and makes a large amount of prize money. But even so, his Admiral is not very pleased with him.

The end of this novel is a spectacular cliffhanger. Hornblower is more or less forced, partly by his admiral and partly by his own fear of being viewed as a coward, to engage four French ships of the line on his own with Sutherland with the rest of the squadron just over the horizon. With such odds, his concern is not with winning, but with doing as much damage as he possibly can. The resulting battle is one of the most gruesome ever in the Hornblower saga – a truly epic battle.

This book really is a book that you will probably find very hard to put down. There is so much action and excitement that I could hardly take a break from it. In addition it is very well written by C.S. Forester. Ship of the Line is clearly among the best in the Hornblower Saga.

Flying Colours, by C. S. Forester

Flying Colours tells the tale of Flying Colours, by C: S. Forester Horatio Hornblower’s imprisonment in France, and his adventurous escape. It is one of the most endearing and interesting novels in the Hornblower saga. The book follows the action in Ship of the Line, where Hornblower in the end was forced to surrender following the death of three-quarters of his crew after a heroic battle. This is the seventh book in the Hornblower series.

Hornblower is now a prisoner of the French and is soon to face trial in Paris, where he will be tried on false charges of violating the laws of war, and is likely to be executed as part of Napoleon’s attempt to rally the empire behind him. As he, his coxswain Brown, and his trusted first mate lieutenant Bush are transported through France, they manage to escape. And the escape is a true adventure. The three escape into a stolen river boat. The water is cold, and several times the boat capsizes from rapids. But when the boat goes over a small waterfall, the boat is lost and the three men almost perish in the freezing water.

Hornblower and his friends manage to recapture an English vessel, Witch of Endor, and fight their way over to the English fleet. However, Hornblower is worried, as he knows that another court-martial awaits him in England, this time for his surrender of a British ship. And while he usually is full of self-doubt, that is perhaps more the case in this book than in others. But it turns out his worries were unnecessary: Hornblower, who was supposed to be dead, is well received, and when he returns to Spithead, he is received as a hero. And his court martial turns out to be a formality. Instead of being condemned, he is presented to the King and Knighted Sir Horatio Hornblower.

In Flying Colors, Hornblower finally manages to capitalize on his achievements and success. Flying Colours has all the qualities that make this series so popular – lots of attention to the background, well drawn characters, exciting and clever action, and the likeable and fragile personality of Hornblower. It is a very good read, even though most of the book takes place on land. It is a well-written and very satisfying tale.

Commodore Hornblower, by C.S. Forester

Commodore Hornblower (UK title: The Commodore) was the fourth Hornblower book to be written, but in the internal chronology of the Hornblower saga it is the eight.

It is now 1812, and HornblowerCommodore Hornblower, by C. S. Foresterhas been knighted for his gallant escape from France, has purchased the manor Smallbridge, and is now married to the woman of his dreams, his beloved Lady Barbara. The book starts with an extremely delightful scene from their new home. He seems to like his new life, but even so the only place he really feels at home is at sea.

So it is with more than a little relief he receives new orders from the Admiralty, appointing him a Commodore and sending him off to a delicate mission in the Baltic region with a small squadron of his own. His flagship is HMS Nonsuch, a 74 gun two deck ship of the line. His orders are to do what he can to prevent Napoleon’s progress in the region. He is, however, placed in a delicate situation: If he fails, literally the entire continent of Europe will be allied with Napoleon against solitary England. Should he succeed the tide of the war may, on the other hand, be turned.

His first success is when his squadron meets an English merchant vessel that seems to behave strangely, and obtains information that leads him to destroy a French privateer in Swedish waters. By doing this he provokes a French action which alienates the Swedes and makes them align themselves with the Russians.

Then later he is ordered to assist the Russians in defending the city of Riga from the rapidly advancing forces of Napoleon. His does this in his own, very intelligent and quite dashing fashion, and once again distinguishes himself when a hopeless siege defense is turned into a brilliant rout and gives Napoleon's army a taste of defeat.

Commodore Hornblower has most of what you want from an excellent nautical fiction book: Hostile armies, seductive Russian royalty, difficult diplomacy, nautical perils such as ice-bound bays, and assassins in the imperial palace, bomb vessel action, and tough fighting. And Hornblower gets to meet the Tsar of Russia, Marshal Bernadotte of Sweden and Clausewitz.

And in the midst of his considerable success, Hornblower, of course, is his usual self – brave and brilliant, but even so all the time full of self-doubts. A very human and fascinating hero.

There are very few authors that can write as funny, ironic, exciting and realistic as C. S. Forester. Commodore Hornblower is simply a very entertaining and wonderful book!