Friday, August 20, 2010

Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies

Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies
© 1957 C.S. Forester
250 pages

Although not the last Hornblower book published -- Hornblower during the Crisis was a work-in-progress when Forester died -- it is the novel set latest in Hornblower's life. The Napoleonic wars are over: after twenty years of tumult, Europe is finally at peace. Owing to his many years of excellent service, Rear Admiral Hornblower has earned a position in the peacetime navy, keeping watch over Britain's forces in the West Indies. Though described as a novel, West Indies is more kin to a book of interrelated short stories. Hornblower has no singular campaign to manage, but the storm-tossed seas of the tropical Atlantic give the admiral little rest. There are pirates and slavers afoot, and the Americas are awash in revolutions as various people attempt to rid themselves of colonial overlords.

West Indies has an altogether different tone from the rest of the books, save Midshipman Hornblower. While its stories offer drama, the consequences of failure are less severe than they would be in wartime. Instead of gathering intelligence and striking blows that will defeat a tyrant, Hornblower is kidnapped, chases pirates and slavers, and contends with a hurricane while settling into a contented old age.  It's cozy, comfortable. For my own part I enjoyed it. Though not the great adventure that other books -- Lord Hornblower, for instance -- were, it's a gentle farewell to the man whose adventures I've enjoyed reading so much through the spring and summer.

Fair winds and clear horizons, captain.

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