© 1945 C.S. Forester
My previous reads in the Hornblower series have been through collections of the shorter works, but Commodore Hornblower is a standard novel set shortly after Captain Hornblower. Hornblower has by now distinguished himself as one of the most capable and celebrated officers in the Royal Navy through a life of service punctuated by imaginative and bold approaches to problems. Fittingly, he is promoted to commodore and given a flotilla to take into the dangerous waters of the Baltic Sea — dangerous not just for the French ships and pirates prowling about, but for Hornblower’s nebulous mission that will certainty involve diplomacy. Napoleon Bonaparte is nearly emperor of Europe, having composed a Grand Army filled with soldiers from subject nations. Only Britain’s navy and Spain’s guerrillas oppose the Corsican’s ambitions, and he is now moving that army in the direction of Russia to effect its coercion. The loyalty of the Baltic nations may shift suddenly as Napoleon presses on, and Hornblower is tasked with responding to potentially changing diplomatic conditions on behalf of the British empire.
While he isn’t attempting to prevent Britain from becoming wholly diplomatically isolated, Hornblower must still fight the French along the coasts. When Napoleon makes good his threat and invades Russia, Hornblower and his men must lend succor to the besieged city of Riga and do all they can to bolster resistance against the continent’s would-be master. I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as I have previous Hornblower novels, with the exception of the novel’s beginning and its diplomatic intrigue. Being a history student, I enjoyed seeing Forester’s foreshadowing. He also alludes to the world of 1945, using characters’ backstories relating to Napoleon’s rise to hint to readers that history is repeating itself.