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Beat to Quarters (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order #6)

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  7,840 Ratings  ·  286 Reviews
June 1808, somewhere west of Nicaragua-a site suitable for spectacular sea battles. The Admiralty has ordered Captain Horatio Hornblower, now in command of the thirty-six-gun HMS Lydia, to form an alliance against the Spanish colonial government with an insane Spanish landowner; to find a water route across the Central American isthmus; and "to take, sink, burn or destroy" ...more
Paperback, 324 pages
Published September 30th 1985 by Back Bay Books (first published 1937)
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Betsy I read it in high school if that helps. It certainly helps to know something about the time period though.
Betsy Since it is the first of the trilogy that makes up Captain Horatio Hornblower set, I am fairly sure that it does form a part of the movie. However, it…moreSince it is the first of the trilogy that makes up Captain Horatio Hornblower set, I am fairly sure that it does form a part of the movie. However, it has been a long time since I saw the movie so I am not positive of how much. (less)

Community Reviews

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Mike (the Paladin)
Sep 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
I started reading these years ago and still enjoy them. I've recently been trying to fill in gaps in my reading of the story (chronologically speaking). This is the story where Hornblower first meets Lady Barbara.

In the book Hornblower is thrown into an untenable political situation where (again) his lack of self confidence convinces him that his career is ruined (as I said, again).

As always good narration, good plot, good characters. These are excellent books.

Oct 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good Hornblower novel, a bit shorter than some. This one concentrates on the hardship of a long time at sea. What the sailors would put up with is incredible. The food is enough to gag a maggot &, surrounded by water, they barely get enough 'fresh' water (7 months in a cask!) to live. When repairs are needed, the efforts are truly heroic. They empty the ship entirely, refit & fix her as if she were in a refit yard, & sail off in 2 weeks!

Hornblower's navigation is fantastic. T
Kristian Olesen
Jun 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Jamie Collins
Aug 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: age-of-sail
Read this again over the weekend. It's fun and engaging, and a much lighter read than O'Brian, although I've been reading about Jack Aubrey for so long that it's hard to sympathize with Hornblower's insecurities - the way his insecurities make him behave, anyway. He's only redeemed when you see him through Lieutenant Bush's eyes.

Hornblower's internal commentary when he meets Lady Barbara is just awful. An Englishwoman must be unsexed to be in Panama without a male escort. Her disregard for her c
May 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: naval
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
Will Todd
Oct 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hornblower
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
Michael Campbell
Dec 12, 2017 rated it liked it
A fun read with a good deal of action. C.S. Forester did his research, and his books always throw you into the times with little effort.

Horatio had been building himself up to be a decent character in the last few books I read, but he felt a bit flat in this book. I couldn't get into the "romance" that appears in this book between him and Arthur Wellesley's sister.

The main antagonist of the book was interesting enough. There were also some deep insights into the political climate of the time,
Aug 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chronologically, The Happy Return is the sixth book of the adventures of Horatio Hornblower by C.S. Forester. It was the first book of Hornblower adventures written by Forester, published in 1937. It's the eighth book I've read so far, so as you can see, I've not been following either sequence. lol
With all that preamble, The Happy Return, like most of the Hornblower stories, was an excellent adventure. In this story, we find Horatio in a new location, in the Pacific, off the coast of Nicaragua.
May 16, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 03, 2008 rated it liked it
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".
Mar 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well, I started to read the Horatio Hornblower series. Always been a fan of the Master and Commander series, and knew this was similar. One decision to make is between reading them in the order in which they are set, or the order in which they were written. I chose the less popular route of reading them in the order in which they were written. This means I began in the middle of Hornblower's career, when he is already the captain of his own ship (a frigate, in this case).

This first novel was ver
Septima Severa
Jul 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 sti
May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
“Strategy, Mayhem and Temptation on the High Seas”

In his 5th novel feathering the swashbuckling adventures of Captain Hornblower, C. S. Forester continues the journey of proud service and personal maturation of his beloved naval hero. As captain of the LYDIA Horatio receives orders from the Admiralty to perform a nearly impossible mission off the coast of Central America. Combining battles of delicate diplomacy with actual maritime engagements he must cope with a mad dictator (think Caligula)
Christopher Ota
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
***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
John Gribbin
Still working my way through the Hornblowers, this time as audiobook. Happy Return is intriguing because it is the first one Forester wrote, and he clearly had not planned the books that come earlier in Hornblower's career at the time. The result is that there is some minor disagreement between the books on things like dates, which doesn't really matter, but when reading them in chronological order there is a major snag about the relationship between Hornblower and his First Lieutenant, Bush. By ...more
Paul Nuthall
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: naval-tall-ships
C.S. Forester is well known for his series of books on fictional Royal Navy captain Horatio Hornblower. Between 1937 and 1967 Forester would publish 11 volumes, and do it much in the fashion of the Star Wars stories. Forester published “Beat to Quarters”, “Ship of the Line”, and “Flying Colours” in 1937 and 1938. While this was publishing numbers 1, 2, and 3…since Forester went on to publish prequels and sequels…it ended up chronological numbers 6, 7, and 8. Similar to Star Wars, these first thr ...more
Lucy Cokes
Jul 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: age-of-sail
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
Mar 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
May 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nancy Ellis
May 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This was also published as "The Happy Return" in the UK. Hornblower becomes more "real" to us in this book, as Forester devotes quite a bit of time to exploring his thoughts and feelings. It's not until near the end that we finally learn that his children did indeed succumb to smallpox, but we don't know yet how this has affected his wife Maria. He is thrown into turmoil by the arrival on board of Lady Barbara Wellesley, and we are treated to his emotional warfare. Somehow we know Lady Barbara i ...more
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I was bothered by the inconsistencies between Hornblower as described in Beat to Quarters and the idea of the character I had formed from the previous books (chronologically). It seems Forester wrote the earlier character as the ideal he decided he wanted him to be instead of the character he originally wrote in Beat to Quarters. There are definite similarities but there seems to be a manipulative quality to this Hornblower that was lacking in the previous, later written, ones. It took a while f ...more
Mar 21, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone
I recorded all of C.S. Forester's Hornblower books in 50-55 minute episodes for Golden Hours, my local radio service for blind and reading-impaired listeners. Too bad I didn't make CD copies for myself, since the radio station broadcast the tape versions and then erased them too reuse.

I guess I'll have to re-record them for Golden Hours and this time keep a copy.

I have read and re-read the entire Hornblower series over a dozens times each, three times aloud: once from the upper bunk to my brothe
Oct 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: navalfiction
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
Feb 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing

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
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
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  • The Letter of Marque (Aubrey & Maturin #12)
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  • The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower: A Biography of C. S. Forester's Famous Naval Hero
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...

Other Books in the Series

Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order (1 - 10 of 11 books)
  • Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order, #1)
  • Lieutenant Hornblower
  • Hornblower and the Hotspur
  • Hornblower During the Crisis
  • Hornblower and the Atropos
  • Ship of the Line
  • Flying Colours
  • Commodore Hornblower
  • Lord Hornblower
  • Admiral Hornblower in the West Indies

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“Hornblower sat down at table; in the seven months' voyage every luxury had long since been consumed. The coffee was a black extract of burnt bread, and all that could be said in its favor was that it was sweet and hot. The burgoo was a savoury mess of unspeakable appearance compounded of mashed biscuit crumbs and minced salt beef.” 0 likes
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