I realize that I am reading these books out of order. Sometimes I’m a little bit obsessive about reading the first book followed by the second. Other times I just don’t care. When I discover a book through the library I usually don’t care. I just read whichever one is available next time I go in.
Hornblower and the Atropos is an excellent work of naval fiction. Horatio Hornblower is given his first command of a ship as Captain. His wife is ready to deliver their second child in a couple days, Lord Nelson has just been killed and the Atropos is in need of a captain to get it into shape for the funeral ceremony.
After Nelson’s funeral the Atropos is sent to the Mediterranean where Hornblower and her crew are tasked with recovering a treasure of sunken gold from one of their own ships out of a Turkish Harbor without letting the locals know what he is doing.
One of the trademarks of Forester’s writing is that he dwells upon the details but he does it in such a fascinating and adventurous way that you don’t realize until afterwards that you have just learned a great deal about life at sea or sailing British naval vessels. In this case he teaches us about politics and tactics while describing the working of underwater fuses and nineteenth century deep water diving techniques.
It is all very fascinating with edge of the seat tension.
I don’t know if there is anything negative to say about Forester or this book in particular. There are setbacks and novel tactics and brilliant bits of ship to ship violence that keep the reader reading while telling it all from the point of view of Hornblower, a conflicted man who loves his family, but also loves his country and might be hard pressed to decide which love is greater.