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The way of a ship upon the sea December 15, 2006

Posted by sensawunda in Books.

The Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester

I’ve been aware of the Hornblower novels since I read, a long time ago, that it was an inspiration for Star Trek. But I confess I never got around to reading any of them until I saw the A&E miniseries starring Ioan Gryffudd. I read “Mr. Midshipman Hornblower” (first in the series by chronology) and didn’t feel all that motivated to continue. To some extent, these are “guy” novels.

That much is borne out by the fact that after my husband noticed and read my copy of “Midshipman,” he immediately wanted to read more of the series. So we picked them up at the library, and I decided to give it another try with #2, “Lieutenant Hornblower.”

That’s when I started to enjoy Forester’s writing. For one thing, he opted to write “Lieutenant” from the point of view of Hornblower’s colleague, Lt. Bush. Bush is a simpler man than Hornblower, with a more limited emotional range, and Forester makes the difference between the two men clear.

What does float Bush’s boat (sorry) is the way of a ship upon the sea. This was an opportunity for Forester to write some lovely descriptive passages, to the point where I found myself standing in the hallway reading, unwilling to put the book down even though I was supposed to be getting ready to go somewhere. You don’t get that in the books from Hornblower’s point of view—with him it’s just dispassionate observation of the performance of the ship and the men.

Forester has good plot-based reasons, as well, for stepping away from Hornblower’s point of view in this book; I won’t go into that, although if you’ve seen the A&E series, you might be able to guess. I’ve only read two more after this one, so far. I sort of hope a later book gets into Bush’s head again.




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