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"The Happy Return," also known as "Beat to Quarters," is the first-published (1937) adventure of Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN. It was followed in 1938 by "Ship of the Line" and "Flying Colours." Later books, published after WWII, went backward to cover Hornblower's early career, and forward to his rise to admiral and the peerage. "Midshipman Hornblower," chronologically the first story, was published in 1950.
Having listened to all the Aubrey/Maturin books and feeling bummed that there were no more left to hear, I decided to try this book, since I knew it sailed similar seas (British navy during the Napoleonic Wars). This first Hornblower adventure does not disappoint. The distant, all-powerful captain with extraordinary navigational skills and an almost uncanny connection to his ship (there's a reason ships are thought of as female), sailing under sealed orders to a dangerous assignment in a faraway and exotic (in this case the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and Panama) locale; encounters with the enemy won sometimes by guile, sometimes by superior seamanship, and always by sheer guts; unimaginable pain and privation, encounters with stunning cruelty--it's all here, guys and gals! There's even a shipboard romance.
What is not here, unfortunately for his fans, is any character even remotely resembling Stephen Maturin. As it is, Hornblower is limited largely to conversations with himself, we don"t get to see the Central American volcanoes through Stephen's naturalist eyes, or get his spy's-eye view of the intrigue. This "criticism" is unfair to Forester, however, and shouldn't deter anyone from enjoying these earlier books, which undoubtedly influenced O'Brian.
I have enjoyed both Simon Vance's and Patrick Tull's approaches to narration of the O'Brian books. Christian Rodska never gets as ponderous as Tull or as exuberant as Vance, but reads with clarity and energy. I particularly enjoyed his Spanish accents. All in all, this one's worth the listen.
30 of 32 people found this review helpful
Where does The Happy Return rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?
As good as the best, maybe better.
What did you like best about this story?
Everything except that it ended. Fortunately, there is another in the series which takes up where this one leaves off.
Have you listened to any of Christian Rodska’s other performances before? How does this one compare?
I have listened to his other Hornblower narrations, and this is as good as the others, which are great.
Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?
In the battle with the Natividad, when the crew cheered for "Hornie" as he berated and threatened them.
Any additional comments?
Lovers of historical adventure novels and just plain first class writing should start with Midshipman Horblower and get on board for one of the best reads in the English language. Churchill and Hemingway were big Hornblower fans. Find out why.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I have recently devoured probably everything by Bernard Cornwell, finishing with the "Sharpe" books and wanted something similar, and after some searching I found Hornblower.
And I am pleasantly surprised, being written in the 30s-50s, I had assumed they would be a bit old fashioned or Boys Own-ish but they feel modern and have a dry wit that is brought out superbly by Christian Rodska the narrator.
They are books with action and battles etc but there is a lot of depth to the story and good characterisation too.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Would you consider the audio edition of The Happy Return to be better than the print version?
I haven't read the print version. If I did, I would choose Kindle, because then I could instantly look up all the nautical terms. As it was, I consulted Wikipedia a few times.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Hornblower himself - although a friend of mine says his self doubts become very annoying after a while.
I liked Wellesley's sister too, and her relationship with Hornblower.
What about Christian Rodska’s performance did you like?
He's a one man cast. He has a great set of easily recognisable voices, including a credible Spanish accent, and very clear diction.
Amusingly, given how effortless his reading of the text is, he appears to struggle with the chapter numbers.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Any additional comments?
If you've never read/listened to a Hornblower story, they are pretty much what you'd expect, done very well.
Would you listen to The Happy Return again? Why?
yes! the battle of the Lydia V Natividad was amazing
Any additional comments?
Excellent book slow to start and slow finish. To say the battle is epic is no exaggeration. loved it
Great ship battles, you could see the broadsides and here the noises, of the ship, great Narrator, and great story writer is C.S.Forestor , I love his writings, now a great fan.
I give this book 10 out 10 , real great read, , regards Peter Brazel