Adventures in Bookland: Hornblower and the Atropos

Hornblower and the Atropos
Hornblower and the Atropos

Has anyone remarked on the double entendre in our hero’s name? No. Then I won’t either.

Right. The book. Yes. I know I had all sorts of interesting things to say about it, but I finished reading it a month ago and the interesting things have slipped away into the place all those bon mots and lightning quick quips go when you actually want to use them, to be replaced by leaden, frankly rather dull, words. Words like episodic, entertaining and edifying: they all apply but really, if you’ve read any Hornblower, you’ll know that already.

What did I have to say that was interesting? Ah, was it this: this is story as single-person drama. While it’s not written in the first person, it’s absolutely Hornblower’s story – something evinced by the relatively small amount of dialogue. It’s all action and Hornblower planning on, or reflecting on, action. As such, it’s a peculiarly solipsistic book. Not bad for that, but I think having read four Hornblowers I need to take a break for a while. It might have helped if Hornblower had a sense of humour, but he’s as devoid of that as he is of musicality. Music is a bit hard to do in a book; humour is almost as hard.


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