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The Happy Return

Narrated by: Christian Rodska
Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (238 ratings)

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Summary

Exclusively from Audible

The year is 1808 and somewhere off the coast of Nicaragua, C.S. Forester's hero returns, ready to embark on his next swashbuckling adventure.

The fifth instalment in the series, The Happy Return follows Captain Horatio Hornblower as he commands the thirty-six-gun frigate, HMS Lydia. Sent out on a mission to weaken the colonial Spanish government, Horatio must form an alliance with a narcissistic revolutionary leader with delusions of grandeur, who goes by the name of 'El Supremo'.

Simultaneously faced with an advancing Spanish fleet and their far superior fifty-gun ship, Natividad, Horatio must find a way to 'take, sink, burn or destroy' his enemies or fail and be made to face the British courts. Adding insult to injury, Horatio is furthermore challenged by the arrival of a singularly attractive passenger, the influential Lady Barbara Wellesley. Vulnerable, alone and seeking passage to England, Horatio cannot refuse the lady, but as a happily married man, he finds himself tortured by Barbara's tempting nature and astounding beauty.

An English novelist, C.S. Forester was highly praised by his contemporaries for his Napoleonic naval warfare series, and later for the publication of The African Queen.

Despite his natural ability and endless imagination, Forester came to writing much later than expected. Having originally studied medicine at Guy's Hospital, it was only after his travels with the Royal Navy that he was artistically inspired, developing in particular, a fervent love of story-telling. Sadly stricken with arteriosclerosis whilst voyaging to the Bering Sea, C.S. Forester was crippled in his later life, but his imagination and his skill with a pen survived for years to come.

Narrator Biography

Christian Rodska is an English television and voice actor best known for his role in the 1970s series Follyfoot.

From The Monuments Men and The Eagle of the Ninth to The Likely Lads, Z Cars, The Tomorrow People, Coronation Street, Bergerac and Casualty, his extensive and diverse acting career has led him to become a highly solicited radio and audiobook narrator.

He has now voiced over 150 unabridged audiobooks including Winston Churchill's biographies, Evelyn Waugh's Men at Arms and Sebastian Faulks' A Possible Life. He has been praised for his ability to vary in vocal pace and style and as such, Christian boasts 12 Earphone Awards from Audiofile Magazine.

©1937 Cassette Productions SA (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

What members say

Average customer ratings

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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Another good one

who ever reads these is excellent
my only criticism of this book is the ending

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Strange title - good book.

Title is a little bewildering but never mind that. The book is still as good as ever. The previous book was really three short stories expertly sewn together into one book. This one is different. Mostly just one long chase and battle between two ships. Great stuff!

Christian Rodska goes a bit overboard (pun intended) with his Spanish accents sometimes. Still a terrific narrator though.

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one of the best in the series

contains an epic sea battle and a couple of unexpected surprises for Hornblower fans the

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a very good listen

a well spoken story which helped to bring the characters through in all their glory

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Cracking

Perfect narration and a totally engrossing story. Opened my eyes to what all the Hornblower fuss is about. Loved every moment, very visual and visceral. You get a good idea of the conditions of those press ganged into hardship in the navy but really you can set aside any compassionate liberal views for a while. It's from the viewpoint of the leaders ; responsibility, decency, fairness and bravery in the face of overwhelming odds. A real rip snorter

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  • P2
  • 19-09-18

RIp roaring adventures on the high seas!

I have been a fan of the Hornblower books since I was a teenager, and they are still as fresh and exciting as they ever were. Christian Rodska reads them beautifully, using the naval terms easily, conveying the excitement and the tension of the dramatic passages of action, but also communicating the internal struggles of our moody hero. His reading of them brings them to life and I would recommend them to anyone.

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childhood memories

Having seen the Gregory Peck film aged about ten, my infatuation for the ship's of the like of the Lydia and by recourse the Napoleonic era began. my mother purchased several of Forester's books and now almost 50yrs on I revel in my listening of the masters works again. I am also a fan of Christian Rodska, who's narration has led me to other novels and authors. an excellent boys own adventure for we boys never grow up, and to my 1st of 6 granddaughters whose name is Lydia.

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A top-drawer yarn

Where does The Happy Return rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

My favourite

Who was your favorite character and why?

Hornblower himself, or Barbara, or Bush - there's lots to choose from. They're good people in difficult situations doing their best

What about Christian Rodska’s performance did you like?

Christian Rodska's performances of the Hornblower books are the best performances of any audiobook I've listened to

Any additional comments?

If you liked adventure stories (like Treasure Island, or King Solomon's Mines) as a kid then I think you will like this

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Delivers

Would you consider the audio edition of The Happy Return to be better than the print version?

I haven't read the print version. If I did, I would choose Kindle, because then I could instantly look up all the nautical terms. As it was, I consulted Wikipedia a few times.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Hornblower himself - although a friend of mine says his self doubts become very annoying after a while.
I liked Wellesley's sister too, and her relationship with Hornblower.

What about Christian Rodska’s performance did you like?

He's a one man cast. He has a great set of easily recognisable voices, including a credible Spanish accent, and very clear diction.
Amusingly, given how effortless his reading of the text is, he appears to struggle with the chapter numbers.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

If you've never read/listened to a Hornblower story, they are pretty much what you'd expect, done very well.

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Masterful

Possibly the best in the series. Contains the dramatic action of the contest between the Lydia and the Natividad.

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  • Carol
  • 29-11-10

AKA "Beat to Quarters"

"The Happy Return," also known as "Beat to Quarters," is the first-published (1937) adventure of Captain Horatio Hornblower, RN. It was followed in 1938 by "Ship of the Line" and "Flying Colours." Later books, published after WWII, went backward to cover Hornblower's early career, and forward to his rise to admiral and the peerage. "Midshipman Hornblower," chronologically the first story, was published in 1950.

Having listened to all the Aubrey/Maturin books and feeling bummed that there were no more left to hear, I decided to try this book, since I knew it sailed similar seas (British navy during the Napoleonic Wars). This first Hornblower adventure does not disappoint. The distant, all-powerful captain with extraordinary navigational skills and an almost uncanny connection to his ship (there's a reason ships are thought of as female), sailing under sealed orders to a dangerous assignment in a faraway and exotic (in this case the Pacific coasts of Nicaragua and Panama) locale; encounters with the enemy won sometimes by guile, sometimes by superior seamanship, and always by sheer guts; unimaginable pain and privation, encounters with stunning cruelty--it's all here, guys and gals! There's even a shipboard romance.

What is not here, unfortunately for his fans, is any character even remotely resembling Stephen Maturin. As it is, Hornblower is limited largely to conversations with himself, we don"t get to see the Central American volcanoes through Stephen's naturalist eyes, or get his spy's-eye view of the intrigue. This "criticism" is unfair to Forester, however, and shouldn't deter anyone from enjoying these earlier books, which undoubtedly influenced O'Brian.

I have enjoyed both Simon Vance's and Patrick Tull's approaches to narration of the O'Brian books. Christian Rodska never gets as ponderous as Tull or as exuberant as Vance, but reads with clarity and energy. I particularly enjoyed his Spanish accents. All in all, this one's worth the listen.

30 people found this helpful

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  • Michael
  • 23-04-12

Horblower is Great!

Where does The Happy Return rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

As good as the best, maybe better.

What did you like best about this story?

Everything except that it ended. Fortunately, there is another in the series which takes up where this one leaves off.

Have you listened to any of Christian Rodska’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have listened to his other Hornblower narrations, and this is as good as the others, which are great.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

In the battle with the Natividad, when the crew cheered for "Hornie" as he berated and threatened them.

Any additional comments?

Lovers of historical adventure novels and just plain first class writing should start with Midshipman Horblower and get on board for one of the best reads in the English language. Churchill and Hemingway were big Hornblower fans. Find out why.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 08-11-11

Finally the naval novel I've been waiting for...

If you could sum up The Happy Return in three words, what would they be?

Fast Paced Fun

Who was your favorite character and why?

Hornblower is my favorite character. He is so self critical he doesn't know he is an awesome sea captain.

What does Christian Rodska bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I like Rodska's reading style. He has an easy to understand British accent and read the book at a pace which matched the story.

If you could take any character from The Happy Return out to dinner, who would it be and why?

Hornblower of course. I guess I would have to do all the talking though since all he would do is harumph!

Any additional comments?

A lot of people compare Hornblower to Aubrey/Maturin. Hornblower is much more to my liking. The Happy Return has lots of action and moves at a brisk pace as opposed to the 3 Aubrey/Maturin novels I have listened to which I found to be long and slow reads.

3 people found this helpful

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  • Jean
  • 04-02-12

The Happy Return

Christian Rodska did a wonderful job narrating the story. Hornblower sails to central America and a secret mission. Forester description of the land and people brought a picture to my mind as if I was watching a movie. Forester's battle scenes are almost as good as Patrick O'Brian. It is hard enought to fight another ship without having to worry about the wind in the sails and directions you can sail. This was the first book in the series and I am looking forward to reading more in this series. I understand Forester has written many book such as African Queen that became movies. I shall see what Audible has of Forester's books.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Marina
  • 06-06-16

First but not foremost

Don't start the Hornblower books with this one, the first that Forester wrote. Hornblower here is sketched in, self-absorbed, and slightly annoying; the Lady Barbara romance is off-kilter. Start with the great Midshipman Hornblower, a much more enjoyable book, and let this one come in its chronological sequence. Not bad, just not representative of the best of this series.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Walter
  • 24-05-13

Enjoyed it even more than the first time!

What did you love best about The Happy Return?

I haven't read any Hornblowers since the 1970s, but I like naval adventures in general and remembered liking them very much, so I wanted to read them again. I chose this one because it was the first written. I know most people prefer to read series in chronological order, but I always find a series more accessible in the order written.
The Happy Return did not disappoint me. I enjoyed it tremendously. The performance was all right - my only real beef with it is some very bizarre and distracting mispronunciations.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

I always appreciate a book like this one, since I get more exercise and housework done when I'm motivated to continue listening. I wouldn't want to listen to it all in one sitting - too long - but it was absolutely a pleasure.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • jesse
  • 13-01-11

Thank you Forester

Great writer, good story. Not as good as the later books when Hornblower is young.

Hornblower needs a buddy like Stephen Maturin.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 29-08-19

Different than the preceding books.

It is fairly obvious that this book was written long before the preceding books. In the other books Horacio’s character steadily develops from midshipman to captain but then regresses in this book and suddenly has new habits (such as the annoying “uh humming” and hesitation and self doubt during action). I found myself missing the Hornblower from the preceding books. But, as always, Christian Rodska’s performance could not be improved upon. A really wonderful performance.

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  • Richard
  • 06-08-19

Great book

Outstanding book and performance. Really makes it come alive. Looking forward to the next with great anticipation.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 20-03-19

Great reader!

the reader is perfect for the book!
It was a pleasure; if you want to know what it felt like to sail the high seas in the 1800s, this is it.