Customer Review

22 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenges, Ingenuity, Intense Action and Romantic Thoughts!, 15 July 2004
This review is from: Captain Hornblower R.N.: Hornblower and the 'Atropos', The Happy Return, A Ship of the Line (Paperback)
The books about Horatio Hornblower include some of the most interesting and exciting novels ever written about warfare at sea during the days of sailing ships. Hornblower himself is a charming hero who doubts himself, has many weaknesses, and uses his sense of the odds to calculate the best course to take. He is more like Clark Kent than Superman in that way, but can turn into Superman briefly when the occasion calls for it.
Throughout the prior volumes of this wonderful series, there has been lots of "ship of the line" envy on Hornblower's part as he made do with commanding lesser vessels. In Ship of the Line, Captain Hornblower finds himself getting his heart's desire, a two-decker called the Sutherland.
Complications soon arise when Hornblower discovers that his new admiral has just married Lady Barbara Wellesley, with whom Hornblower is in love. Hornblower and his wife (Maria) meet the admiral and Lady Barbara in a social scene that you will not soon forget.
With too little time to prepare, the Sutherland is soon at sea with an under sized and inexperienced crew. What follows is as action-packed a book as you can imagine. Ship of the Line has a greater variety of difficult and unusual challenges thrown Hornblower's way than any reader could possibly hope for. The details of the conflicts are stunning in their scope and scale. If you are like me, you'll find yourself racing through the pages to see what happens next . . . knowing that there are surely big surprises ahead. As usual, Hornblower's imagination and quick thinking make for enormous differences in the outcomes from what would be expected.
You will enjoy the complications brought about by Lady Barbara's new husband. And Hornblower's thoughts of Lady Barbara intrude throughout the book, like the musings of a love-sick schoolboy.
The book is also interesting because Hornblower is faced with many decisions that could wreck his career, leaving him unemployed at half pay for the rest of his life. While many today would enjoy an early retirement, Hornblower is only happy at sea . . . and in battle. With his strong sense of duty, he makes decisions that may surprise you from time to time, which makes the story all the richer.
If you have never read any of the Hornblower books, I suggest that you start with Mr. Midshipman Hornblower and proceed through in the chronological order of Hornblower's career through the series (not the order in which they were written).
If you do decide to read this book first to see if you like the books, let me caution you that the book ends in such a way that you will probably immediately decide to read the next one. For that reason, try to resist reading Ship of the Line until you have read its six predecessor volumes.
Do you always take time to locate new solutions that others have not tried before? Once you see a possible solution, do you stick with that idea to work through the problems . . . or are you soon discouraged by the first foul wind?
Assume there is a solution vastly better than any you have tried before . . . or have thought of yet. And keep thinking until you find it!
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