She was a high-spirited and lovely creature, and running over with excitement at this new adventure. Hornblower watched her curiously. Her infancy had been passed in the most splendid court in Europe; her childhood as a prisoner of the revolutionaries. Her father and mother, the King and Queen, had died under the guillotine; her brother had died in prison. She herslf had been exchanged for a parcel of captive generals, and married to her cousin, had wondered through Europe as wife of the heir to a penniless but haughty Pretender. Her experience had left her human-- or was it that the formalities of shabby, genteel royalty had not succeeded in dehumanising her? She was the only living child of Marie-Antoinette, whose charm and vivacity and indiscretion had been proverbial. That might explain it.Forester is a first-rate novelist and while his books are often categorized at junior fiction there is enough inner conflict to make them an interesting read for adults. The descriptions are so vivid that one can feel the ship rocking on the waves. Horatio realizes that he is a hero in spite of himself and has survived the Napoleonic Wars by a miracle. He is fascinated with the French and with Catholics, possibly because of Marie de Gracay, the great love of his life, who reappears in Lord Hornblower. Marie's presence throws a wrench into Horatio's already tumultuous relationship with his strong-willed wife, Lady Barbara. Barbara is as cold and ambitious as Marie is warm and self-sacrificing. Horatio is torn, but events happen quickly and choices are made for him.
Forester does not glamorize Napoleon but exposes him for the dictator he was, with an emphasis on the loss of life caused by the wars of conquest. The restoration of the Bourbons is shown as an event to be celebrated, while not minimizing their shortcomings. Forester's research is flawless and his writing is entertaining. I highly recommend his novels. Share