Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Spin Book Review: CS Forester- The Happy Return

Title: The Happy Return (aka Beat To Quarters)
Author: C. S. Forester
Vintage Penguin No. 835   (1951)


When I saw the Classics Club Spin Book was number 20 of my TBR pile of books I was a little disappointed. It was one of my Vintage Penguins entitled The Happy Return by CS Forester.  I had never read anything by him before and I thought it would be some sort of pirate story.

But a deal is a deal so Book 20 it was.  Travellin' Penguin and I reluctantly travelled to 1808 off the coast of Nicaragua in the Pacific.
We were under Napolean's rule and had been travelling for months.

We put ashore to meet Don Julian Alvarado better known as El Supremo, a monster of a man (we found out later) who you weren't sure was going to get along with Hornblower's men or kill all of them. 

He claims to have links to the powers of the Aztecs and sees himself as quite the powerful land owner and leader.

They exchange the things they need on both sides and there is quite a bit of suspense at not knowing what this El Supremo is going to do. It is a nerve wracking time for us.

While in the harbour we encountered the Natividad, a Spanish lugger sailing in which is more powerful than our own.  We know Spain is the enemy so Captain Hornblower waits until nighttime when he can capture it and control the men.  El Supremo demands this ship is given to him so he will have the beginnings of a navy but before it is handed over the Spanish sailors are saved and hidden upon his own ship, The Lydia because he knows El Supremo will kill all of them if found. He believes all of them were killed in battle.

Once the exchange of goods is finished and he has tackled the Navidad he leaves for the high seas.  He again encounters another Spanish ship and finds out there is a treaty between England and Spain under Napolean so he returns to the area of El Supremo to destroy the ship he had handed over and kill El Supremo.  Another big battle.

I know, a bit of a convoluted tale but quite entertaining.  He also manages to pick up a young England lady, Lady Barbara Wellesley who cannot be left on these islands as typhoid is rampant and she must be saved from it.

So Captain Hornblower brings her aboard and talk about putting the cat amongst the pigeons.

I enjoyed the writing of CS Forester, his descriptions were quite interesting and I learned a lot about the ships and the daily running of them.  The characters were well fleshed out, I cared about them when they went to battle and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book.

Naturally Captain Hornblower, married of course, falls for the English woman and they have long dark conversations behind the scenes thereby creating yet another storyline.

I can't see myself reading all the other books in the series, about 10, but if it weren't for the Spin and the random list of my TBR books (Penguin collection) I drew up.  I never would have chosen this book.  It was a great exercise as it was the first Spin I participated in and what a great time we had.