When I was a kid, my parents' friends, the Bricelands moved to Sparta Lake, NJ. We visited them there a number of times. My older brother, Hal, and their son, Allen, were enamored at the time with the stories of Horatio Hornblower. Hornblower sailed the seas for Her Majesty's Royal Navy back in the 1790s, fighting the French, Spanish, and Barbary Pirates. Something like that. Anyway, Hal and Allen seemed to think the stories were oh so fascinating. I was too young to read myself, and was intensely jealous.
Somehow, I never came across Hornblower after I was able to read competently, at least not until now. My friends in Canada have released the first of the Hornblower "novels" to the public domain. That is, the first in terms of Hornblower's life adventures, not the first actually to have been published. This book tells how he began his life at sea, but it was published some 13 years after the first book in the series, and another five or six books after that. So naturally, international criminal that I am, I snagged myself a copy. Bless the Canadians.
I used the word "novel" in quotes because this isn't so much a novel as a collection of short stories. The stories are chronological, in terms of the life of Hornblower, but there's really no significant thread wending through them, other than Hornblower gets older and more experienced with each adventure, and some tales have some characters that appeared in earlier ones. But, wikipedia says the Hornblower books are novels, so who am I to say differently?
Whatever, there are some books for 11-12-year old boys that are still worth reading in one's later years, such as Penrod
or Tom Sawyer
, and some, like Hornblower
, that can't retain their interest for more mature, jaded folks. This book didn't much excite me, and I doubt I'll be looking for other Hornblower books any time soon. Were I allowed to give plusses and minuses, I'd put a minus on the 3*s. The book wasn't odious, but not all that interesting either.