Mr Midshipman Hornblower
Seventeen year old Horatio Hornblower commences his career in the Royal Navy as an inexperienced midshipman in January 1794. The late teens is considered late to begin as a Midshipman, eleven or twelve would be more the normThrough a series of challenges and adventures both in and out of combat, Hornblower proves he is actually talented in both seamanship and leadership because his life experience and attitudes give him better perspective, whilst loyalty and fortitude allow him to be resilient in the face of hardship
This was a hard choice as I am a bit of a fan of these heroes of History books, Sharpe, Aubrey and of course my boy Horatio Hornblower, who I finally plumped for on this list.
Mr Midshipman Hornblower is the first in the Young Hornblower omnibus which is how I have read the entire Hornblower saga and is the first set of tales (chronologically speaking) of a gangly youth who joins the navy in the Napoleonic wars.
It is dense with nautical detail, ropes and whistles, salty sailors and stiff upper class Officers but the adventures are always more important than the historical detail. They are just so wonderful. Pithy and fun, never shying away from the harshness of life at sea whilst engaged in a war fought predominantly at sea where civilillian supplie boats were just as vital as warships and sea battles, but also throwing our young hero into daring raids, pitting him against zealots and bullies, and earning him the loyalty and respect of the men and officers alike.
Horatio is never brash or gung ho, in fact he is personally critical of himself and worries over every decision that might end in dark for his fellowmen due to a decision he makes and for me it makes him one of the finest literary heroes of our times.
Why it is in my top twenty?
This source material gave me the sight of Ioan Gruffudd’s bare bottom in the seminal ITV adaptations of the nineties. I read every book with a voracious appetite and return to them often. In fact I ran a Hornblower book club on Facebook for a whole year to share my love with others.