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Hornblower: Beat to Quarters (Hornblower Saga) Paperback – September 30, 1985
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In short, start with this and the next two as a trilogy, then proceed in any order you want.
Based on the films, I was not expecting Hornblower to show much internal life--he always seems to be superhuman on screen, but in the book he must struggle with his softer nature to develop his imperious style. Likewise I expected nothing interesting in the way of female characters, but it was a happy surprise to find Lady Barbara Wellesley on board ship.
If you will forgive a few O'Brian/Forrester comparisons: O'Brian is funnier. Forrester's battle scenes are a bit easier for me to follow. Hornblower is a more interesting or at least complex character than Aubrey, but O'Brian has the advantage of Maturin, who not only adds character but allows for dialogue rather than the perennial internal monologues Hornblower has with himself because he has no one of rank to talk to.
I hope that more seasoned readers of the series will agree with this appeal to newer readers: Even if you have read neither author, this book is a good place to start.
I might add that, in my opinion, any aspiring writer would do well to read Forester, not to copy his style, but to realise that any good author can entertain, but only the great can enthrall; and only the greatest can make you "see" a character (even a minor one) in only two short lines of print.
His death robbed the reading world of one of its most readable authors.
This book is the first of a trilogy of connected titles that cover Horatio's rise from an unknown frigate's captain to one of the most famous officers in the Royal Navy. Posted to duty west of Central America, he is expected to navigate not only the water of the Pacific, but the troubled political waters of rebellion and shifting alliances that characterized the Napoleonic wars. He's required to engage a ship of twice his might not once but three times. And of course, he meets Lady Barbara -- destined to become one of the most intruiging characters in his life.
I was surprised to find little discontinuity with the "prequel" books that were written after Beat to Quarters. The book almost seamlessly blends with the cannon of Horatio's life, referencing his previous adventures with the Castilla and Captain Pellow. The only real continuity problem is that Bush seems to have lost his memory of the events in the second and third books.
This books works because it doesn't try to confine itself to a simple genre. It is, of course, a splendid action adventure and wonderful historical fiction. But it also works as a simple character drama -- establishing three powerful characters -- the taciturn Hornblower, efervescent Bush and charming Barbara -- and creates memorable scenes built solely from conversation and interaction.
To make the story even more delicious, it involves a series of misadventures based on the slowness and uncertainty of communications. Those who have studied the War of 1812 will probably remember that the Battle of New Orleans was fought well after the British and Americans had already made peace. But the word had not yet gotten to New Orleans. Similar issues are involved in this book.
Unlike most of the other books in the series, Beat to Quarters will probably be as appealing to female readers as to male ones. For over half of the book, Lady Barbara Wellesley is a central character. Unlike the earlier books where male-female relations are made as simple and brief as possible, Beat to Quarters shows how two outstanding people of opposite sexes might come to respect and appreciate each other, despite vast differences in their circumstances and social standing.
Beat to Quarters is an extremely important book in the series, because it sets up major plot developments in Ship of the Line (the next book chronologically in Hornblower's life in the series) which many people feel is the best action book that Mr. Forester wrote about Hornblower.
If you have not yet read any of the Hornblower novels, I strongly urge you to begin with Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a re=read for me, but I enjoy the Hornblower series every time. Not sure I would have joined them in their chosen profession at that time, but then I never said I was a... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Dorothy Gregory
Whether you are already a naval bluff, or someone new to the genre, you cannot go wrong with C.S. Forester. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Ronan K.
Very well written. It gave me a different picture of Hornblower as I had from the movie I saw decades ago. It was fun to read.Published 5 months ago by Albert Holden
Hornblower at the top of his game and keeps running into trouble or new situations.
A good book for any new fan.
I have been collecting books of this series for years and love them. I read and reread them over and over and Beat to Quarters is one of this excellent series by Forster.Published 6 months ago by Shive 1969
Read the series if you are interested in the age of sail. Historical fiction at it's best.Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
On at least the third reading (perhaps the fourth), I am still amazed at the depth and beauty of this story. Read morePublished 9 months ago by albacore