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Ship of the Line

(Hornblower Saga: Chronological Order #7)

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  7,128 ratings  ·  249 reviews
Hornblower leads his first ship of the line into enemy waters in this installment of C. S. Forester's beloved adventure series, called "exciting, realistic, packed with grand naval action" by the New Yorker.

May 1810, seventeen years deep into the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Horatio Hornblower is newly in command of his first ship of the line, the seventy-four-gun HMS Suther
Paperback, 292 pages
Published 1999 by Back Bay Books (first published 1938)
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Average rating 4.31  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,128 ratings  ·  249 reviews

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Philip Allan
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
A Ship of the Line was the second book written by CS Forester in what would become his Hornblower series. It was commissioned in the wake of the success of the first Hornblower novel, The Happy Return (called Beat to Quarters in the US), which had originally been written as a standalone work. There is a perceptible element of the author feeling his way still. We see him easing towards the idea of a series of books (which was still an unusual concept in the 1930s), without yet fully committing. H ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I read many of these books years ago and have started reading the ones I missed...or don't recall all that well, "chronological order". That is as Hornblower's life progresses.

Here Captain Hornblower is in command of his first *ship of the line.

*Note: A ship of the line was a war ship of at least 2 decks of guns. It was called a "ship of the line" from the tactic or strategy of running "your" ships in a line across the stern of the enemy thus allowing "your" **broadside to be fired into the rea
May 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm tempted to take away a star for the cliff hanger ending, but otherwise it was as good as all the others. As a captain of a ship of the line, 74 guns, Hornblower has plenty of opportunities to strut his stuff. Lots of action.

While the manning of ships has been mentioned before, a special point is made of it this time. The gov't didn't give Hornblower enough men any more than they provided uniforms or many other things. They simply expected the captain of the ship to properly crew his ship, al
Jamie Collins
Re-reading the Hornblower books. I don’t like this one quite as well as Beat to Quarters. It’s an interesting read, and the naval stuff is fascinating, but this is terribly bleak.

It begins with Hornblower desperate to get away from the wife he dislikes, grumpy because Lady Barbara got married, and depressed because he can’t legally kidnap enough men to fully man the miserable ship he now commands. There’s a cheerful (if bloodthirsty) section in the middle where he harasses the French along the S
Dec 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: age-of-sail
It's good to see that the amount of bare flesh on display in the TV series is based firmly in book-canon. I feel like Hornblower and the Eighth Doctor would get on well, what with their carefree attitude to nudity. (Yes, I am focusing on the important parts of the book, dammit.)

One day I shall make a graph with 'Chronological Progression Through Hornblower Series' on the X-axis and 'Urge to Give Hornblower a Slap and a Damn Good Talking To About Personal Relationships' on the Y-axis. Then I sha
John Gribbin
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
A middling Hornblower, both in terms of his career and quality of story. Forester has a penchant for getting his hero off the ship and on to dry land to fight battles (as if Sharpe suddenly took command of a ship and raced off to fight a French frigate), and in this one he gets him on to dry land to fail to fight a battle, in one of the dullest sections of the entire canon. Compensated for by two lovely (and lively) bits of action at sea. As others have warned, though, this is only half a book, ...more
Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it
I can still remember the first line from the novel, even though probably 22 years have passed since I first became acquainted with the novel. My father used to read these Hornblower stories to me as a child and in looking back, I feel an urge to revisit those heroic tales of bravery from a far distant time.
This was one of the first works he read when he was growing up (along with the works of Jack London) so it has probably played a part in forming his world view. I too am drawn to this picture
Dec 10, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: naval adventure lovers
Initial fyi: my main purpose in reviewing these books is not with adults in mind, but for the parents or adult friends of reading children.

While this is full of adventure and amazing action, I am finding that so far I like the books in the series that were written later, rather than earlier. This was the 2nd Hornblower book written and it follows the precedent of "Beat to Quarters"...a little more violent and in my opinion Hornblower is allowed to dwell too much on his feelings for a certain som
Father Nick
Nov 30, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: age-of-sail
I might have written before about the fascination I have with the sailing ships of a bygone age, but reading this book has rekindled my wonder at the mastery of the art of naval warfare as it was practiced in the so-called "Age of Sail". Again and again I am awestruck at the huge accumulation of knowledge required to command a single ship effectively, and how worthless individual lives seemed to be when ships faced off against each other in combat at sea. This particular novel is an account of H ...more
Nancy Ellis
Jun 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I certainly am learning more about the Napoleonic Wars than I ever knew I wanted to know!! Already 17 years going, the French still have control of the coast of Spain. Hornblower is now under the command of Admiral Leighton....not the brightest crayon in the box.....who also happens to be the new husband of Lady Barbara, Horatio's flame. Horatio still has the hots for her, even though he has vowed to remain faithful to his wife Maria, who of course is pregnant again. Understandably, Horatio is h ...more
Oct 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
This reads like the sophomore effort it is: while some of Hornblower's trademark brilliance makes an appearance, most of the book is a slog through the horrors and stupidities of war. Forester is clearly trying not to duplicate his first book but is just as clearly unsure how to tell a different sort of story and still entertain.

Because this is only rarely entertaining. Hornblower is awake to the psychological toll of war, but reading as he destroys the livelihoods of French civilians or accompl
Clay Asbury
Apr 24, 2012 rated it liked it
Love the Hornblower series, started reading them in the same order as the BBC/ITV series which I had really enjoyed. Although this book tells the story of Capt. Hornblower as a middle aged man, it was written well before the books about Horatio as a young lieutenant and midshipman.

Ironically, one gets the impression that as Forester grew older he passed on the wisdom and humility he acquired to the younger Hornblower. Although, I liked this book, the character of its central protagonist is more
Aug 03, 2016 rated it liked it
A typical rollicking read in the Hornblower series.
In charge of his own ship, Hornblower needs to prove himself and do something with a grossly understaffed boat.
It’s odd that the author, to show how “modern” Hornblower in effect is, has him resorting to whippings only with reluctance, having no faith, but keeping up appearances for the good of discipline, and having a daily bath. He then makes two casual racist references in the course of the story which sort of jump out and hit you in the face
Noah Goats
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Ship of the Line, Hornblower is given command of a bigger ship (the titular Ship of the Line) and sent off to the coast of Spain to wreak havoc on the French. This novel is entertaining, but not quite as good as Beat to Quarters, mainly because Ship of the Line is so loosely plotted. Also, the romance with Lady Barbara was a highlight in the previous book, but here, with Lady Barbara so far away and Hornblower mooning over her like a school boy... it's almost cringy. Still, Hornblower is a gr ...more
Jun 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hornblower is so hilarious as a character. He is so stoic and sharp on the outside, yet terribly self-conscious on the inside. He literally thinks his next steps out in his head to appear more badass than he actually feels. Adorkable ain't the word! ...more
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this one a lot more than I thought I would and I'll read more from this series. ...more
The Professor
Oct 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing
“He hated the land”. Hornblower sticks it to the French. If “A Happy Return” illustrated Hornblower’s lethalness against a single ship “A Ship Of The Line” crazily ups the ante as Horatio inspires his crew of gaolbirds and prisoners to five victories in three days leading the reader to wonder why this guy isn’t Admiral rather than the boozy, complacent dinosaurs he reports to.

Even after just two novels it’s clear Forester relishes putting Hornblower on the back foot and then stacking the deck a
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kevin Findley
This should probably be a 4 star rating, but the ending felt like the last chapter cut off several pages too short. Extremely jarring, and took away from what was an enjoyable read.

Horatio is in full form here as the Captain of his own ship and everything a fan likes (and hates) about the character is in effect. Forester portrays his hero fully, perhaps a little too much on the warts of his personality.

Still a good read and recommended for anyone who enjoys the author, seafaring tales, or hist
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: don-t-bother
I have been reading Forester's Hornblower series in order and although they can't compare with the Patrick O'Brian series set in the same historical period (could anything?), I love a seagoing novel and this series is not bad. For some reason, the Kindle edition of A Ship of the Line drops entire lines from the beginning of each chapter. I think these lines would normally be capitalized, but why they should be omitted is a mystery. Another mystery is why Hornblower says "Ha...h'm" as often as he ...more
Nate Hendrix
Jun 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
This series is as good as the Sharpe series. Lots of action and I think we may have lost a main character. The end is a huge cliffhanger, what will become of Hornblower? One of the things I like about this series is that in spite of the fact that they were written in the 1930's, they are as good or better than many books written today. ...more
I think this is the first Hornblower book I've read. His musings and small thoughts made the battles seem more real, although I must confess, I tune out battles in books and therefore a rather large chunk of this was lost to me. ...more
Michael Cayley
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another novel in C S Forester’s Hornblower series continues to show the author’s knowledge of naval matters of the Napoleonic era. There are vivid descriptions of life at sea, of naval battle, and of the hardship and rigid discipline men endured. Really enjoyable.
As the title implies, Hornblower is given command of a ship of the line, the seventy-four Sutherland. To balance this reward, Forester throws a number of obstacles in our hero’s path. Hornblower’s ship is woefully undermanned, even after leaving port. To make matters worse, Lady Barbara is now the wife of Hornblower’s direct superior, Admiral Leighton. Of course Hornblower navigates a course around these obstacles, and delivers his best imitation of Captain Thomas Cochrane by wreaking havoc on F ...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
Simon Mcleish
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Originally published on my blog here in July 1998.

Re-reading A Ship of the Line is like encountering an old friend; it must be getting on for twenty years since I last read any of the Hornblower series. I was prepared for the book not to appeal, or not to match up to the other Napoleonic navy novels I've read in the meantime.

I was more impressed than ever, and it has become clear why Forester set the standard that every historical naval writer has had to live up to since. He does not ignore the
Mike Franklin
May 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is a million miles away from my more normal preference for Science Fiction and yet I was extremely impressed by it. I came to it from my love of David Weber’s Honor Harrington books which openly acknowledge their debt to Forester and Horatio Hornblower, and I was not disappointed. This was a well-paced naval adventure that has the reader cheering Hornblower on along with his crew. Okay, so the reality that such a humane and considerate naval captain could even exist in those days of fl ...more
Jun 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Based on other reviews, this might not have been the best Hornblower novel to make my first. I found the main character fascinating even in the things that made him annoying--he's astonishingly vain in the sense of ALWAYS being horrifically aware of the image he's presenting. Is he being commanding enough? Do the men respect him? Is he cutting exactly the right kind of figure? His dislike of his wife is based almost entirely on a feeling that she's not properly elegant and impressive for a capta ...more
Jan 12, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The second novel written in C.S. Forester's magnificent Horatio Hornblower series (though it's the 8th in chronology -- how in the world did Forester write 11 Hornblower books in non-chronological order? Wow.) This one, like all of the others, is a joyous, adventuresome read. It hasn't so much plot as some, being mainly the recounting of events in the course of one sailing mission, but that doesn't keep it from being a terrific reading experience. Its surprising ending has me scrambling to find ...more
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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

Other books in the series

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

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190 likes · 103 comments
“I did not ask for objections, but for comments, or helpful suggestions. I looked for more loyalty from you, Captain Hornblower.'

That made the whole argument pointless. If Leighton only wanted servile agreement there was no sense in continuing...”
“Bush could never understand Hornblower's disciplinary methods. He had been positively horrified when he had heard his captain's public admission that he too had baths under the washdeck pump — it seemed madness for a captain to allow his men to guess that they were of the same flesh as his.” 1 likes
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