Friday, August 13, 2004

Lieutenant Hornblower ~ C.S. Forester

May 30, 2003

I bet the slash fic writers have a field day with this one.

The plot of course revolves around crazy Captain Sawyer, who gives Ahab a run for his money in the insane leadership department. And poor Horatio, a lowly junior lieutenant, does his best to keep Sawyer from getting everybody killed. But really this book is about Lieutenant William Bush and Horblower, establishing their relationship as Hero and Loyal Sidekick.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the book told from Bush's point of view. I love Bush; he's a decent, steady guy, a welcome relief from Horatio's incessant self-criticism, and a good foil to him as well. It's a clever way to show the beginning of their friendship, to portray it from a secondary character's perspective. Horatio pretty much runs the show, as he always does, while Bush looks on in bemused amazement. The unexpected tenderness and affection between them is moving, especially since the characters are in such a macho setting. ( I thought it was kind of morbidly hilarious, how the Article of War punished practically every infraction with a death sentence. No wonder they had to keep pressing men into service). It was kind of bittersweet, they lead such lonely, harsh lives, so busy being manly that they can only express any sort of emotion through the most oblique methods. Well, and they're English too. Luckily Forester manages to avoid the melodramatic sentiment that plagues most stories about comrades-in-arms (Seriously, people say that "chick flicks" are sentimental, but any war movie about army buddies has just as much, if not more mushiness).
I see now why poor Archie had to be killed off in the movies. They can't be the Three Musketeers because Horatio's a leader, not a team mate. He's too forceful and dynamic a personality ( I think he probably did push Sawyer; he's clear-sighted and objective enough to see that Sawyer needed to be removed from command, and I think he's reckless enough to do it, if it meant the good of the crew and the ship).
As for poor Maria, I pity the woman (at the moment). She's poor and plain, lives with a horrible mother, and is basically a workhorse. Horatio's probably the first person in her life to treat her like a human being with feelings, so no wonder she falls head over heels for him. And Horatio, for all his nautical skill, is pretty stupid when it comes to people, and is exactly the kind of guy who would propose to a girl just be nice. Idiot. I kept yelling at him that you don't marry someone just because you feel sorry for them and you're lonely, but did he listen?
Ironically, the most suspenseful part of the book for me was the card game with Admiral Parry in Portsmouth. I'd already seen the movies and knew how the battles would turn out, but card games can be pretty dicey, especially when you pay your rent by hustling people at whist.
Favorite scene was probably when Bush is wounded in battle and Horatio rushes to his side:

"Bush! Bush!" That was Horblower's voice, pleading and tender. "Bush, please, speak to me."

Which they totally messed up in the movie, they had Styles run to Bush's aid, and missed a great opportunity for Ioan Gruffud to actually show some emotion, since he usually has to be the stoic officer of His Majesty's Navy. Horblower's such a great character, I love him dearly but he drives me crazy too, he's so freaking uptight and neurotic.


At 10:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Horatio doesn't make it easy to love him, does it? But we do anyway. *wub*

I find it interesting how, once Sawyer was out of the picture, they all began to turn naturally to Hornblower for leadership, even Buckland.

I think Hornblower pushed Sawyer, too--and I believe Forester meant for us to think so.

At 10:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oops, that was me. :-)



Post a Comment

<< Home