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The Happy Return (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order #6)

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  5,017 ratings  ·  186 reviews
June – October 1808

In The Happy return (US-title: Beat to quarters), a still young Hornblower is captain of the 36-gun frigate Lydia. He sets his course for Spain and Nicaragua in his ongoing quest to cut Napoleon's lines wherever he crosses them.
Mass Market Paperback, Later print of 0140008357, 237 pages
Published 1980 by Penguin (first published 1937)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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I quite enjoyed "Beat to Quarters" and thought it was a fine sea-adventure tale; I didn't understand most of the nautical terms used so some of the action probably went over my head--however, I never felt lost or completely confused.

I enjoyed the writing style, which was pleasant and easy to read, with plenty of humorous touches. The ocean battles were exciting and dramatic; Hornblower was a good character, and the strategies he uses were interesting and never boring.

Mike Hankins
Before there was "Master and Commander," there was Horatio Hornblower. The name might sound goofy to modern ears, but for a few generations, it has been synonymous with high seas adventure in the age of sail. Created in the late 1930s by C. S. Forester, the character has endured a long, successful series of novels and short stories, a feature film starring Gregory Peck, and a series of TV movies starring Ioan Gruffold. It even influenced other pop culture pieces, such as Star Trek. The director...more
Kristian Olesen
The ITV series of Hornblower telemovies arguably constituted one of the high points of my childhood. That's the first point. The second point is that I recently read several installments in Patrick O'Brien's excellent Aubrey-Maturin series, and developed a fondness for the Napoleonic period and all its accoutrements (the Sharpe series is another example of the Napoleonic page-turner). Thirdly, the publication date helpfully informs me that "Beat to Quarters" was copyrighted in 1938, which puts i...more
Will Todd
This review is for the complete 11-book series of THE HORNBLOWER SAGA by C.S. Forester, which I just finished reading last night.

[Note: Individual books have individual star ratings (mostly 5-star, a few 4-star), but the descriptive review will be the same for each, and encompass the entire series, as follows.]

Actually, I just finished reading the complete series for the second time, the first being as a teenager some 30 years ago.

It's remarkable to me that I have only just this moment realized...more
I adore the Hornblower books for their intricate plots; for their chaotic naval engagements that Forester was so very adept at describing; and for their inside look into the twists and turns of the strategic, singular mind that is Horatio Hornblower's. Through his mounting exploits, Hornblower's character achieves heroic proportions. Beneath this stature, however, is a wellspring of doubt, ambition, and anxiety that courses through Hornblower at the onset of crisis. For their sheer weight in sto...more
Lucy Cokes
Another winner from Forester. His first Hornblower book is presented with flair and compassion. Hornblower has never been such a human in the skin of an other-worldly entity – harsh, but only because he needs to succeed, for others, as well as himself – it is after all, his duty: ‘They love him not for anything he does or says, but for what he is.’ (p.212, Bush)
Beneath his lion like front he faces as much insecurity as the next man – the thought of mutilation – or indeed, of hair-loss – makes h...more
I think this is the first Hornblower book Forester wrote (I get mixed up with the US and British titles), and it's definitely a good one. Adventure on the high seas! Derring-do in the face of overwhelming odds! Our hero, tortured by his inner demons! (Wait, isn't that every Hornblower book?) Only thing is, if you read in chronological order, as I've been doing, it's suddenly very odd to have Hornblower being all wary in the face of the unknown, as represented by Bush. Who has been there since Li...more
Long ago I read the first Aubrey Maturin book and absolutely hated it. Easily one of my most hated fiction books of all time. To this day I am baffled at the popularity of the series. Maybe later books are vastly better. Maybe people didn't read them in order. I don't know.

The Hornblower books are one of those things that I've always been vaguely aware of. I had always associated them with bad, mindless best seller pablum. Like a 1930s James Patterson, all action, no nuance. For some reason I ca...more
Paul Nuthall
I've been familiar with Hornblower for years, thanks mainly to the TV films that I never watched, the Gregory Peck movie that I've never seen, and the fact it's listed as one of the inspirations for the original Star Trek series. I wanted to begin it at the beginning; since there are two 'first' books in this series (chronological and publication order) I settled on the order they were written - and I'm glad I did.

The Happy Return ('Beat To Quarters' in the US) is a rollicking action/adventure/r...more
I like Hornblower saga despite:

- hero who is trying to look like really hard man and managed to look like cretin in his inner view, despite the wide social acceptance of his stiff attitude.

- hero who has problems with women...almost virgin type

- hero who is bastard to everybody just because he wanted to be coldblooded captain

- hero who is loved by his crew and having problem with exceptions

Hornblower was sent on the mission which was as crazy as it sounds. The enemy of our enemy...more
Aug 18, 2008 Tom rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Young people looking for adventure
This is the first Hornblower book written by C.S. Forester although it is the fifth (or sixth) in chronological order.

This is a beautifully written story of a lonely captain of an English warship on duty in South America. Far from his superiors Hornblower bears the responsibility of every decision in dealing with the lunatic El Supremo whom he has been tasked to aid in overthrowing Spanish rule.

Taught battle scenes interspersed with the insanity of El Supremo and the day to day affairs of the Ly...more

I love this book! Anyone who is in love with the great Age of Sail will adore this book and the rest in the series.
Captain Horatio Hornblower locks horns with a Spanish ship-of-the-line and an insane Central American landowner who has been persuaded to revolt against the Spanish Empire by Great Britain. He captures the ship and gives it to his mad ally . . . . . only to find out that Spain has changed sides in the war against Napoleon and is now with England fighting France.
The battle scenes...more
Extremely disappointed that the "hero" is unfaithful to his wife in this otherwise exciting and well-written book. Aside from heroism on the high seas, the author could easily have chosen to uplift us with a tender, heroic love story, but opted for an awkward recurring theme of infidelity. The Hornblower series could be among the greatest adventure novels of all time. Instead, they are just disappointing and uncomfortable to read. Based on their plot summaries, it appears that several books afte...more
Timons Esaias
I reread this book for a class I'm teaching, the first time I've looked at it again for at least three decades. It is still an enjoyable, rapid read (I'll be fascinated to see what the college kids think of it, as compared to _All Quiet on the Western Front_ and _Catch-22_) and a good primer for narrative techniques that haven't aged in three quarters of a century.

I'm pulling two paragraphs out of the opening pages (beginning "Up and down,") for a lesson in giving background information while no...more
I have never thought about the total allegiance a crew would need to have towards their captain and how the captain would go about establishing such respect.

This book was a little heavy on the 'ship' side for me (descriptions of ship life - running a ship, steering a ship, etc) so I skipped over some pages. Overall it is a good read. For some reason, I really liked the El Supremo character, a crazy, maniac of a leader but kind of fun for me to picture. Maybe my kids should call me "La Suprema".
Mark Wilson
This was my favorite entry so far. The cover declares it number 5 in the series, but with a later volume of short stories that fit between, this is commonly now called the 6th volume.

In this story, we not only get the requisite battles, trials, and grand stratagems we have come to expect, we get even more depth to our tortured, self-doubting hero. He meets the confident, strong and beguiling Lady Barbara, and their developing relationship is handled masterfully and sensitively. A brilliant succe...more
Numero uno. This was the first Hornblower book Forester wrote, and it shows. Hornblower's personality is rather different than the Hornblower of "earlier" books. Forester runs into some of the problems that plague Cornwell's Sharpe at times. Writing books out of chronology is hard. Bush apparently has never met Hornblower before this voyage, as opposed to having known each other for years, Maria was a childhood friend, Hornblower had several bad commissions before this, etc, etc.

But the plot mak...more
People who are interested in British ship captain will probably enjoy this. While reading it I spent most of my time wishing Hornblower would accidentally be killed by a stray bullet or that his ship would mutiny and string him up. So I guess this setting doesn't really work for me. (view spoiler)

If didn't think the writing was that awe inspiring either. The captain...more
The appearance of Lady Barbara Wellesley, and all I could imagine was Gregory Peck and Virginia Mayo in "Horatio Hornblower" from the early '50's.

The much touted battle scene of the Lydia with the Natividad in this volume is exceptional. One wonders how those wooden worlds could have taken such battering and then refitted at sea, making due with what was on hand on any small island they could find. While the nautical life in the Georgian navy is the true spectacle of this book, the humanizing a...more
Dan Yingst
It started as my least favorite of the series and may have ended as my favorite thus far. This mirrored my perception of Hornblower throughout.
Hamdanil Rasyid
Jul 13, 2014 Hamdanil Rasyid rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction
Enjoyable read. Lively adventure with a lot of humorous scene too. I like the part where Hornblower tried to balance "following order" and the good of the British Empire, with his objection over El Supremo's madness and barbarity, and only to finally have to reverse what he achieved.

There are many nautical terms and events that I didn't completely understand, I wish there were some footnote or glossary for those. But I never got completely lost and with a little bit of Google I can even underst...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 23, 2010 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Fiction
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Kenji
Hornblower was the inspiration for Star Trek's Captain James Kirk, as well as Cornwell's Sharpe. Hornblower is more cerebral and socially awkward than Kirk, more educated and refined than Sharpe. In his own right, Hornblower is certainly an engaging and complex character and the series is an interesting study in leadership, and a fascinating portrait of life at sea in the age of sail. Beat to Quarters (The Happy Return in British editions) is sixth chronologically, but was the first one publishe...more
Christopher Ota
***May contain Spoilers***

"Beat to Quarters" has introduced me to a fantastic character in seaman Horatio Hornblower. The notes on the author claim that Hornblower is one of the most famous English heroes, rivaled only by Sherlock Holmes (and of course, James Bond). This is a marine naval story with fantastic battles between ships, good detail about what it's like to be months or years at sea, and touching aspects to how relationships develop in close quarters. I really enjoyed the straightforwa...more
Mike Reiring
I read about half of Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels a few years ago, and was completely addicted to his tales of adventure on the high seas. The novels are amazing in their detailed description of life on a King's ship at the turn of the 19th century. They follow the two main characters through naval battles, political intrigue, domestic challenges, and international espionage.

Jack Aubrey is an up and coming British Royal Navy officer in the time of the Napoleonic wars. Stephen Maturin...more
Having chosen to read the Hornblower series in chronological order rather than in publication order, I was primed to notice the little discrepancies in backstory created by the series having been begun in the middle of his career. It made for a jarring beginning to the book, in that references to his first command and early career happen in the first few pages and did not concur with the books I'd just finished reading, and I had to do a little mental fumbling to reconcile the references to his...more
I finished Beat to Quarters last night and if C.S. Forester weren't already dead, I'd kill him. And this is a good thing.

This so-called Book #6 (not book 5 as noted above, by the way) is really the first novel in the Horatio Hornblower series, published in 1937. Forester wrote the other 1-5 stories as prequels (including the last publication, "Hornblower during the Crisis" (Horatio Hornblower Series #4) which is a collection of short stories and is unfinished), as well as books 7-11. I love how...more
First off, let me say that I read this book before, several years ago.

I don't know what made me go back and revisit it this time, but I'm glad I did. These books aren't exactly weighty or substantial in terms of quantity, but the quality really can't be beat, for period fiction anyway.

This was the first Hornblower story published, way back in the 1930s, but it actually starts in the middle of Hornblower's career, his third or fourth command. It's definitely a good introduction to the character,...more
Joaquin Garza
Hay que clasificar la saga del Capitán Horatio Hornblower como una de aquellas obras que, fuera de sus méritos literarios, es importantísima porque creó una escuela y luego creó una industria. Las aventuras del rígido, indomable, inflexible, profesional e increíblemente capaz capitán de navío y de su tripulación mientras surcan los mares nos suena ubicua y común si la imaginamos trasplantada al espacio. Es correcto: Star Trek es fundamentalmente la primera torcedura estilística que lleva a la ma...more
Septima Severa
Wow, the half of series.
I would never have thought that I ever would hold Beat to Quarters (The Happy Return) in my hands. Is it the passion for naval stories or the passion for English-written books that brought it to me? Could I ever imagine of reading at least some of the H. H. stories? Yes, I could. But I have to admit that my imagination often overtakes my own skills...

It is apparent that Beat to Quarters was written first, maybe because H. H. is not the same as in previous books; and stil...more
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  • The Nutmeg of Consolation (Aubrey/Maturin, #14)
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Cecil Scott Forester was the pen name of Cecil Louis Troughton Smith, an English novelist who rose to fame with tales of adventure and military crusades. His most notable works were the 11-book Horatio Hornblower series, about naval warfare during the Napoleonic era, and The African Queen (1935; filmed in 1951 by John Huston). His novels A Ship of the Line and Flying Colours were jointly awarded t...more
More about C.S. Forester...
Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #1) Lieutenant Hornblower (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #2) Hornblower and the Hotspur (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #3) The African Queen Hornblower and the Atropos (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #5)

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