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The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower
By C. Northcote Parkinson

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The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower
By C. Northcote Parkinson
Charnwood Large Print, (2000)
ISBN: 0-7089-9093-9
Genre: Historical Fiction/Biography, Adventure

Other Editions: Standard Print - Hardcover | Standard Print - Paperback

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - June 6, 2001

It goes without saying that Horatio Hornblower was a great naval hero. But, did he really exist or was he merely a fictional character created by C. S. Forrester? The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower will really make you wonder. In this book C. Northcote Parkinson has created a stunning biography of the daring and courageous Hornblower, a Royal Navy Officer that entered the service in 1794 as a poor midshipman and who rose to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. Along the way he was also knighted, and invested as a Viscount.

C. S. Forester featured Hornblower in twelve thrilling novels that strongly evoke the history and the feel of Naval life in the late 1700's through the mid 1800's. In this fictional biography of this fictional character, Parkinson has managed to evoke the same feel and the exhilaration of Forester's work.

If you have never read any of Forester's books dealing with Hornblower, or seen any of movies based on the book, never fear. This book is quite able to stand alone as a compelling and exciting work that explores life at sea during the Napoleonic era. Parkinson does this by recounting some of Hornblower's experiences in battle, his first command, his work as a spy, and the horrors of being taken captive by the enemy. While this book can be read without having any foreknowledge about Hornblower, knowing a little something about him will show just how phenomenal and well executed this book is. Parkinson is defiantly a Hornblower fanatic and he must have spent years studying Forester's Hornblower, as well as the history of the period, in order to create such a realistic biography.

Like any real biography, this one traces Hornblower's life from his earliest beginning until his death. It explores his education, his early family life, the women he loved and those he married, his children, his ambitions, and what his life was like after he retired from the active Navy. Along the way Parkinson fills in many of the blanks left by Forester's novels. He also implies that Hornblower may have been a bit more mercenary than Forester ever made out!

Parkinson does a wonderful job with this book. He "explains" how Forester came upon his knowledge of Hornblower, and why his own work adds to the information expounded upon by Forester. In Parkinson's case, he explains how he found some boxes of documents dealing with Hornblower which had been misplaced for years. Using this new found documentary evidence, Parkinson was able to ‘fill in all the blanks' and to correct any errors contained in Forester's books. To round out the authentic feel of this biography, Parkinson has included detailed footnotes, excerpts from Hornblower's letters and books, excerpts from diaries and memories that mentioned Hornblower, and detailed ancestral charts. The only thing that this book lacks to complete its ‘authenticity' as a real biography is a detailed bibliography.

Parkinson is a natural story teller, and in this fictional biography he has penned a diverting and well-written novel that is hard to put down. If you were not a Hornblower fan before reading this biography, you will be by the end...

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Related Reviews:

The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower can be purchased directly from Ulverscroft, which is the parent company of Charnwood.


Note: Many of the books in C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower Series have been published in large print.

Unfortunatley, most are now out-of-print.

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