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Hornblower in the West Indies (1958)

by C. S. Forester

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Horatio Hornblower (11), Horatio Hornblower: Chronological Order (11)

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1,6742410,692 (3.92)20
As commander-in-chief of His Majesty's ships and vessels in the West Indies, Admiral Hornblower faces pirates, revolutionaries, and a blistering hurricane in the chaotic aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.

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Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This is the last complete novel in the chronology of its leading character, the redoubtable Horatio Hornblower of the British Navy. (Other Hornblower books were written, but they were either incomplete novels or they were written out of chronology with the narrative.) Though not quite the end of Hornblower's life story as chronicled by C.S. Forester, it is a bit of a farewell, nonetheless. Comprising several novellas all set in the Caribbean Sea, the book is episodic but well tied together. Hornblower is still a master sailor and still filled with self-doubt, and Forester's nautical prose is still as clear and musical as ever. Each of the sequences is rich in detail, and a last segment dealing with a storm at sea is an utterly brilliant word-picture of nature at its most terrifying. It's becoming clear that there are only superb Hornblower books. It is one of the most consistent and enjoyable characters ever put into print over several books, and I am sorry to see the series nearing its end. ( )
  jumblejim | Aug 26, 2023 |
This is the last Hornblower novel chronologically, the second last by publication order, and the last that was not a reread for me. I was a little apprehensive going in, because the post-Flying Colours novels had been disappointing to me, because things seemed too good for Hornblower, who works best as a character when he's on the back foot. (I'm convinced that if Forester knew he was going to write more than the original trilogy, he wouldn't have married Hornblower off at the end of Flying Colours.) Additionally, Forester occasionally struggles to bring cohesion to some Hornblower novels (e.g., Commodore Hornblower, Hornblower and the Atropos).

Well, I need not have worried, because Admiral Hornblower is one of the best Hornblower books, a great way for the series to end (or almost end). Hornblower feels much less overly accomplished in this one-- sure, he's an admiral, but when you're an admiral essentially on your own in the West Indies, that often constrains you more than it enables you. Much moreso than Commodore or Lord, Admiral captures how more responsibility makes things more difficult. So in some ways this is a return to the Hornblower of old, the captain we met in Beat to Quarters and Ship of the Line, and the wily young officer of Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and Lieutenant, but he's been successfully transposed to a new setting. One supposes it would have been possible to do the Star Trek thing, and have Hornblower technically be an admiral but still facing captain's problems, like in The Motion Picture or The Wrath of Khan, but Forester gives him admiral's problems that he deals with in his usual fashion: rogue French armies, diplomatic relations with Spain, sailors who need executing, and so on.

The book also benefits from being, like Mr. Midshipman, a series of short stories (or probably novellas, as there are just five of them) rather than a novel, though they don't have individual titles (in my edition at least; I see titles listed on Wikipedia). Forester doesn't struggle to unite disparate incidents, but can simply show the reader a series of problems across two years of being stationed overseas. There are a lot of great individual stories here, such as Hornblower having to violate his word for the first time in his career, or Hornblower's inventive solution to catching a slave ship when treaty forbids him to set sail immediately, or Hornblower facing a band of pirates, or accidentally supporting the wrong side in a revolution.

The very best one, though, is the last one, which covers Hornblower's need to enforce discipline by death (moreso than ever before, but for the most trivial of disobediences), his insecurities in his marriage, and a dramatic hurricane. It's great stuff, Hornblower at his most human as he doesn't quite believe in Barbara's love for him, and at his most superhuman as he tries to keep a tiny ship afloat in a gigantic storm, needing all his cleverness and charisma. The storm itself is some of Forester's very best writing, and I found the whole thing an emotional and fulfilling wrap-up to the Hornblower saga. Whether it's since Mr. Midshipman or Beat to Quarters, he's come a long way, no matter how you look at it.
  Stevil2001 | May 24, 2019 |
As I've been reading through the Hornblower Novels, I've wondered what this book would be like. In the midst of tales of action and adventure, the thought of the hero as a middle-aged admiral doesn't seem all that appealing. Fortunately, Mr. Forester's imagination is better than mine. Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies is a satisfying end to the series. In this book, Horatio Hornblower, is more of a trickster than an action hero. He still has his skirmishes, but saves the day with strategy rather than brute strength. (Well, his own brute strength that is. He does employ the more vigorous men under his command.) Unlike the previous books, the tale is less of a day to day account of a particular mission, but rather tells the highlights of a three year posting in the Caribbean. It ends with a final sea voyage, and a battle against nature rather than enemy ships.
--J. ( )
  Hamburgerclan | Feb 9, 2019 |
Bonaparte has been beaten, so Hornblower is now off righting the wrongs of pirates & slave-runners in the Caribbean. It's all a bit period James Bond, but I've learned about the history of the Napoleonic Wars from this series of books.
Read in Samoa Feb 2003 ( )
  mbmackay | Nov 27, 2015 |
In his final assignment Hornblower is appointed Rear Admiral and CO of the West Indies station, He deals with issues arising from the revolutions in South America, and the Slave Trade. Barbara and he survive a hurricane on the trip home. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Jan 20, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
C. S. Foresterprimary authorall editionscalculated
Beulwitz, Eugen vonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Howard, GeoffreyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodska, ChristianNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Rear admiral Lord Hornblower, for all his proud appointments as commander-in-chief of His Majesty's ships and vessels in the West Indies, paid his official visit to New Orleans in H. M. schooner Crab, mounting only two six-pounders and with a crew of no more than sixteen men, not counting supernumeraries.
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As commander-in-chief of His Majesty's ships and vessels in the West Indies, Admiral Hornblower faces pirates, revolutionaries, and a blistering hurricane in the chaotic aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars.

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