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I am interested in reading the Horatio Hornblower series by C.S. Forester. The first book in terms of publication order is Hornblower and the Crisis (story dates: August 1805-December 1805). However, the first book in terms of story dates is Mr. Midshipman Hornblower (story dates: January 1794-March 1798).

What is the recommended order for reading this series: publication order or story-date order?

Please forgive me if this question is off-topic. If it is, would you be able to suggest another site at which I can ask this question.

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closed as off topic by Steven Drennon Mar 10 '13 at 22:04

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Sorry, but your question does not really fit here. I am going to have to close it, but if you decide to modify it so that it fits our format better, I will consider reopening it. –  Steven Drennon Mar 10 '13 at 22:04

1 Answer 1

up vote 1 down vote accepted

This question may get closed, but I think it's interesting (and doubtless history fans love C. S. Forester more than people on any book site) and so I will sneak in an answer before that happens.

PUBLICATION :: The Happy Return; A Ship of the Line; Flying Colours; The Commodore; Lord Hornblower; Mr Midshipman Hornblower; Lieutenant Hornblower; Hornblower and the Atropos; Hornblower in the West Indies; Hornblower and the Hotspur; (Hornblower and the Crisis - incomplete)

CHRONOLOGICAL :: Mr Midshipman Hornblower; Lieutenant Hornblower; Hornblower and the Hotspur; (Hornblower and the Crisis - incomplete); Hornblower and the Atropos; The Happy Return; A Ship of the Line; Flying Colours; The Commodore; Lord Hornblower; Hornblower in the West Indies

Clearly since these differ it isn't important to the narrative to read them chronologically, but it may have advantages as far as seeing Hornblower's career evolve or seeing the general story of that time period (Napoleonic wars) take place.

But The "Happy Return" (Or "Beat to quarters" if you're in the US) is the one that was designed to hook new readers in and probably holds you by the hand a bit more exposition wise. By reading this first you avoid starting with perhaps weaker books (I don't know, I like all the ones I read but the first was strong enough to start a series) and end up having a mild form of the experience of someone who starts watching "Star Wars" at episode 1 and quits before the good ones.

If you watch the excellent Meridian Television TV series though you might want to read Chronologically as the series covers the three books: Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, Lieutenant Hornblower, and Hornblower and the Hotspur.

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I started with Mr Midshipman Hornblower and it did hook me all right. I wouldn't say it's weaker than Happy Return. –  kubanczyk Mar 11 '13 at 22:08

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