Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hornblower in the West Indies... a review

Chronologically, and rather sadly, this is the last book Forester wrote about Hornblower...  Forester wrote the whole series somewhat out of order, but if you order them by the period they depict, then this one set in the 1820's marks the end of Hornblower's career - my thanks to Wikipedia for the content of the following....

The one's in bold are the novels that I read - there are a number of other short story's that he also wrote, which are difficult to get hold of as they were published in various magazines and periodicals of the time....  the last book Forester wrote was "Hornblower and the Crisis" which was unfinished, as he died during the writing of it - I've read various reviews, and like the last Aubrey novel, which was also unfinished, I chose not to read it...

UK Title
Story Dates
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower
Jan 1794–Mar 1798
Hornblower and the Hand of Destiny
Oct 1796–Dec 1796
Short story
Hornblower and the Big Decision
Short story subsequently published as Hornblower and the Widow McCool in Hornblower and the Crisis
Lieutenant Hornblower
May 1800–Mar 1803
Hornblower and the Hotspur
Apr 1803–Jul 1805
Hornblower and the Crisis
Aug 1805–Dec 1805
Novel (unfinished) plus Hornblower and the Widow McCool and The Last Encounter
Hornblower and the Atropos
Dec 1805–Jan 1808
The Happy Return
Jun 1808–Oct 1808
A Ship of the Line
May 1810–Oct 1810
Hornblower's Charitable Offering
Jun 1810
Short story that reads like a chapter of A Ship of the Line
Flying Colours
Nov 1810–Jun 1811
Hornblower and His Majesty
Short story
The Commodore
Apr 1812–Dec 1812
Lord Hornblower
Oct 1813–Jun 1814
Hornblower in the West Indies
May 1821–Oct 1823
The Last Encounter
Nov 1848
Short story subsequently published in Hornblower During the Crisis

Returning to the subject however, Hornblower in the West Indies is not a single story, but rather a series of novella's all linked together (similar to Mr Midshipman Hornblower). It is set against the background of his command of the West Indies station (ie.the Caribbean  across to the coats of South America), with a squadron consisting of three frigates and fourteen brigs and schooners. In the book he fights pirates, stymies an attempt by veterans of the Imperial Guard to release Bonaparte, captures a slaver under trying circumstances, gets involved in the revolution lead by Simon Bolivar, and at the end survives a hurricane on his return home...  lots of action and Hornblower shows no signs of easing up on himself - he continues to be one of the most self critical hero's of any book in English literature. I prefer the single story format, but this is a fitting end to a fantastic series ...  very recommended....  8/10


  1. I remember reading "Hornblower & The Crisis"- at school. My old English teacher was ex-navy. All I can remember is it suddenly just "stops".

    1. Matt - I also read that a Hornblower expert had finished the book based on Forester's notes.... funny I know, but I just didn't want to read it.... same reason I didn't read the Aubrey book as well....

  2. I've never read any Hornblower novels, perhaps I should?

    1. Ray - wthout a shadow of a doubt... :o)

    2. Absolutely. Then Aubery-Maturin if you find you enjoy the genre.

  3. Started reading this just before Christmas then got to busy to get back to it.

    Great, great series of books. I'm trying to get my kids to read them (without much success),