A picture isn’t worth a thousand words. A picture DEPRIVES YOU of a thousand words. You may look at this picture of the Battle of Trafalgar –
– but without C. S. Forester, all you’re seeing is a bunch of ships getting shot to hell. I’d never read the Hornblower series as a kid, (more’s the pity) and that means I’ve been poor in my sea words. It also means I found a linguistic bounty in “Midshipman Hornblower” (the chronological first in the classic series detailing the naval career of one Horatio Hornblower.) Sure, I’d glimpsed “mizzenmasts,” “jibs,” “brigs,” “frigates,” and “carronades,” (as through a deep sea mist) but other words, like “xebecs,” “fothers,” “fanegas,” “coamings” and “halliards” have the novelty of treasure islands for me.
I love archaic terms.
“Mr. Midshipman Hornblower” covers the years 1794-1798, with young Hornblower getting his sea legs in a series of exciting vignettes. Horatio HB sort of rocks the boat, and we rock with him because C. S. Forester puts you out there, drenched by the spray of the ocean spray, sea-sick, while the shrapnel of nautical nomenclature flies fast all about. Occasionally, he’ll let a little too much poetry seep in, with quasi-euphonious tongue-twisters like “a flaw of wind blew a wave of flame aft,” but this is a rip-roaring read overall.
RATING : COOL! A hawsehole for your gudgeon’s bollards!