RogerBW's Blog

Flying Colours, C. S. Forester 09 December 2022

1938 Napoleonic naval fiction, third written but eighth by internal chronology. Captured at the end of the previous book, Hornblower is to be taken to Paris for a show trial and execution.

I continue to feel that Forester felt by this point that he'd done ship-fighting: there's one substantial battle here, which Hornblower observes from the fort in which he's held prisoner, but otherwise it's all on a much smaller scale, as Hornblower (with the wounded Bush, and the "servant" Brown) take advantage of a snowstorm to escape, take a small boat down-river, lie up with an accommodating member of the ancien régime, then get to the coast and eventually to England. Possibly the most powerful section for me has Hornblower, aboard a ship stolen from the docks at Nantes, operating a six-pounder nearly single-handed to try to sink boats full of French sailors ready to take back his undercrewed prize.

I am less impressed with the lying-up, with a Comte who just happens to be the perfect host for an escaped British prisoner, complete with complaisant widowed daughter-in-law. It all seems far too easy, far too obviously the author's hand at work, particularly since Hornblower was shown back in The Happy Return to be the sort of man who would turn down a chance to make the perfect woman his mistress because of his marriage vows. (Bar guvat juvpu zvtug unir fnirq vg sbe zr jbhyq unir orra vs gur Ivpbzgrffr unq orra gelvat sbe n puvyq gung fur pbhyq cnff bss nf gur trg bs ure yngr uhfonaq, naq guhf na urve gb gur gvgyr; ohg ab fhpu yhpx.)

For a while, in desperate straits and with constant physical labour, Hornblower is almost happy; but by the end, when he has everything he's ever wanted (position, fame, financial security, a son, Lady Barbara), it's all turned to ashes for him. I do find this a bit tedious when it's carried on at such length, but the action does largely make up for it.

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Previous in series: A Ship of the Line | Series: Hornblower
Previous in series: A Ship of the Line | Series: Hornblower (chronological)

  1. Posted by J Michael Cule at 12:37pm on 09 December 2022

    The Viscount and his widowed daughter in law return in one of the later books, just in time to unir vg nyy raq haunccvyl nsgre nyy. Vs V jrer gb jevgr sna-svp onfrq ba guvf V'q unir gur jvsr naq gur pbaphovar tnat hc ba uvz naq sbepr gur vqvbg gb or unccl... Ohg gung'f zl creiregrq 21fg praghel pbaprea sbe pbzzba frafr naq pbzzba qrprapl fubjvat guebhtu.

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