Friday, July 25, 2008
Captain Hornblower, after two hard years on blockade at Brest, has relinquished the helm of the Hotspur. He has no ship, only the promise of one. Meanwhile there are battles to be fought.
This reading of HORNBLOWER DURING THE CRISIS includes two other stories, "Hornblower's Temptation" and "The Last Encounter," all published after C.S. Forester's death in 1966.
"Because Forester died before completing this novel, the reader is left with a summary sketch and his own imagination for final details of the plot. For Forester devotees, this will not detract from the essential verve and dash of Hornblower's last chase." (The Christian Science Monitor)
I was probably one of the few people reading this book that did not realize Forester died before finishing it. I was disappointed, since the story was just getting good, but thanks to the notes that Forester left, we know what he intended to have happen to Horatio. This book is 4th in the series chronologically. Hornblower is relinquishing the Hotspur to another captain and is setting off for Plymouth so that he can receive his "post command" as promised by Lord Cornwallis. Unfortunately, the hoy boat that is to take him to Plymouth is sighted by a French frigate and the men on the hoy (now including the officers of the crew of the Hotspur which ran aground) must somehow avoid the French frigate or try and capture it themselves. Thanks to Hornblower's excellent thinking, a plan is devised and they succeed in capturing the frigate, as well as some important documents that were on board.
Hornblower is rushed to London with the documents, which have Napoleon's new seal on them, and a new signature of his. The Admiralty is very pleased with them and make him an offer he basically cannot refuse. He gets command of a new ship, but he must also be a Spanish spy - and that's where it ends!
As usual, the writing was fast and easy reading, I love the Hornblower books, and despite being unfinished, it was a pleasure reading about my old friends, Horatio and Bush again.
There were also two short stories at the end of the book. Hornblower's Temptation took place while he is still under the command of Captain Sawyer (who went insane and had his crew mutiny under him). Hornblower has to manage a condemned Irish deserter and must come to terms with it after the deserter is hanged, and solves a puzzle while he is at it that eventually lets his guilty conscience rest. It was pretty good, but I did guess all along what was really going on.
The last story I have not read, for it is at the end of Hornblower's career, he is retired, and I'd rather save this story for after I've read all the books.
All in all, this was an enjoyable read, but very disappointing that it was unfinished. I'm sure at the time it was published (1966) his readers must have been devastated by the news of Forester's death.