The year is 1808 and somewhere off the coast of Nicaragua, C.S. Forester's hero returns, ready to embark on his next swashbuckling adventure.
The fifth instalment in the series, The Happy Return follows Captain Horatio Hornblower as he commands the thirty-six-gun frigate, HMS Lydia. Sent out on a mission to weaken the colonial Spanish government, Horatio must form an alliance with a narcissistic revolutionary leader with delusions of grandeur, who goes by the name of 'El Supremo'.
Simultaneously faced with an advancing Spanish fleet and their far superior fifty-gun ship, Natividad, Horatio must find a way to 'take, sink, burn or destroy' his enemies or fail and be made to face the British courts. Adding insult to injury, Horatio is furthermore challenged by the arrival of a singularly attractive passenger, the influential Lady Barbara Wellesley. Vulnerable, alone and seeking passage to England, Horatio cannot refuse the lady, but as a happily married man, he finds himself tortured by Barbara's tempting nature and astounding beauty.
An English novelist, C.S. Forester was highly praised by his contemporaries for his Napoleonic naval warfare series, and later for the publication of The African Queen.
Despite his natural ability and endless imagination, Forester came to writing much later than expected. Having originally studied medicine at Guy's Hospital, it was only after his travels with the Royal Navy that he was artistically inspired, developing in particular, a fervent love of story-telling. Sadly stricken with arteriosclerosis whilst voyaging to the Bering Sea, C.S. Forester was crippled in his later life, but his imagination and his skill with a pen survived for years to come.
Christian Rodska is an English television and voice actor best known for his role in the 1970s series Follyfoot.
From The Monuments Men and The Eagle of the Ninth to The Likely Lads, Z Cars, The Tomorrow People, Coronation Street, Bergerac and Casualty, his extensive and diverse acting career has led him to become a highly solicited radio and audiobook narrator.
He has now voiced over 150 unabridged audiobooks including Winston Churchill's biographies, Evelyn Waugh's Men at Arms and Sebastian Faulks' A Possible Life. He has been praised for his ability to vary in vocal pace and style and as such, Christian boasts 12 Earphone Awards from Audiofile Magazine.
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Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By A on 27-09-13
Good audiobook brought to life by Christian Rodska
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
By Paule on 19-09-18
RIp roaring adventures on the high seas!
I have been a fan of the Hornblower books since I was a teenager, and they are still as fresh and exciting as they ever were. Christian Rodska reads them beautifully, using the naval terms easily, conveying the excitement and the tension of the dramatic passages of action, but also communicating the internal struggles of our moody hero. His reading of them brings them to life and I would recommend them to anyone.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Carol on 29-11-10
AKA "Beat to Quarters"
"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
By Michael on 23-04-12
Horblower is Great!
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