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Lord Hornblower

I have been reading Lord Hornblower on my lunch break at work. This was a mistake, because I just got to The Bad Part. Now I have to sip my coffee and face the wall so people won't see me crying.

And also...I am kind of mad at Horatio. Why didn't you ever actually tell him he was your dearest friend, you grumpy old lump? I know you're going to beat yourself up and down about this, but for once you deserve it.
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Moby Dick and Hornblower

Lately I've been endeavoring to fill in the yawning week-long voids between chapters of bbcphile's Harboured and Encompassed by reading through all the Hornblower novels when I'm home, and listening to the free Librivox audiobook of Moby Dick when I'm driving or doing something useful, like darning socks. And, oh my word, I haven't read Moby Dick since slogging wearily through the abridged version as a kid, let alone since developing slash goggles, and... have you read it?

I mean, Book!Bush looked at Hornblower and felt sweaty and thirsty, and in the movies Archie exchanged Meaningful Glances with Horatio, and that was pretty much enough for us to be firmly convinced they're in love. But Ishmael and Queequeg...

(Warning - some spoilers for Moby Dick and Hornblower and the Atropos, and sorry I didn't italicize any titles this time, because it is a pain.)
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Lieutenant Hornblower (and Horse)

I read it all in one evening. I'm wondering how I managed to get through it the first time without seeing any slash, even as an innocent fourteen-year-old virgin unclear on the concept. Bush watches Hornblower taking a deck shower, and suddenly gets hot and sweaty. He watches young Hornblower drinking from a well, water slopping over his chest, and suddenly feels thirsty. Right. Not to mention, he gets all annoyed when plain sturdy not-young Maria is sobbing unbecomingly because Hornblower is going off to war. Not that we can blame Bush. The author is pretty harsh on Book!Maria. I remember now why I disliked her. Movie!Maria is prettier, more wistful, more sympathetic. Book!Maria is merely plain, pathetic, and perhaps manipulative, at least as seen through Bush's eyes. He reminds me of Patrick Harper's exasperation when his beloved Sharpe loses his head over yet another petticoat - probably not an accidental resemblance.

Anyway...usually I approach Renown-era fic with a sense of dread because of the Bad Thing that is going to happen to Archie, but he was obviously posted off to another ship during this one and was therefore safe, so I wasn't as emotionally invested here and could enjoy the story. It wasn't as fun as the movies, with Archie, but it wasn't as tragic, either. Book!Captain Foster wasn't quite so scary as in the movies, since he stayed safely out of his senses after The Hold, and I had great hopes for Weller. They were rather gratuitously dashed, I must say. But the whole Court of Inquiry was conducted more rationally, like in many LKU fics, reinforcing again the utter unfairness of the Bad Thing in the movies.

So, a good book, and I did love Bush/Hornblower here. They were cute together, although Horatio has already mostly changed from adorably flaily midshipman to the Man in the Impassive Mask. Thankfully, Bush sees through it and loves him anyway. I just can't reconcile this with Kennedy/Hornblower, which is my OTP, since that seems a bit unfair to Book!Bush, so I guess I will need to view these as somewhat parallel alternate universes. In any universe, I know that in another book or two, although I will guiltily rejoice when Horatio is free of poor unsuitable Maria and can marry Lady Barbara, supposedly his soul mate, I am going to be annoyed with him for not stopping the infidelity there, but continuing on and on with his serial skirt-chasing. This is part of why I have to believe that his character and future would have been quite different if he had been able to stay wth Archie, because I wouldn't want Archie to have to fit in with all the serial wives and mistresses. esmerelda_t's stories explore that possibility really well, and although well-written, they utterly depress me. Even Bartholomew can't cheer me up after reading two or three unhappily-ever-after LKU in a row.

In other news, I had Horse Riding Lesson #5 today. It took me at least four tries to heave myself gracelessly up onto the poor beast, even with the trainer holding its head and lowering the stirrup from my chest height down to lower rib height so I could get my foot in. My leg just doesn't want to go up that high, let alone spring me lightly aloft. I am never laughing at Horatio's horsemanship again. And also, I have saddle sores. Ow.
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Mr Midshipman Hornblower

Just finished it. I liked it the first time I read it and I still like it now. I was surprised at how closely the movies followed the book. It doesn't have quite as much drama in some parts as the movies, nor are the supporting characters as well defined, but Mr Hornblower is earnest and geeky, and he does have some cute, slightly snarky, and happy-go-lucky friends on the Indy. The biggest difference was the prison chapter, of course. Horatio had more prison roommates in the book, but apparently little cameraderie, no oubliette, and absolutely no carrying beautifully tragic best friends in the rain. Also no breaking the rules of war, and no annoyingly smug comments from Horatio about how he's going to get them all out of there. (Midshipman Hunter is a lot nicer in the book too, but we don't hear from him again after they are captured. Too bad.) The cuddle reflex here is all for poor lonely honorable Horatio. He reminds me a lot of Book!Sharpe, actually, which is unsurprising considering that Richard Sharpe was meant to be a bit like Hornblower-on-land.

Also, the Duchess here is already wearing an empire waist dress, which surprised me. In the movies I didn't think they were in fashion yet. I wonder which is right? Horatio was born in 1776, plus he was nineteen (maybe and a half) when he was captured, so...1795? It seems he was captured while the Battle of St Vincent was going on within earshot. When did empire waists come in? I could look this up, but maybe someone will just tell me! :D

Anyway, a good read, and more fun and comprehensible after reading a steady diet of AoS over the last two years!
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Crossing the Line, or Seamen Dressed as Mermaids

So I was attempting to fill in the looooong week I will have to wait until bbcphile posts the next chapter of "Harboured and Encompassed," which I assume you are all reading too, and if you aren't, go read it RIGHT NOW!!! (It's on following_sea. You all knew that, right?)

Right. So to partially satisfy my longing, I looked up the Maritime Museum Caird Library, which of course you know is where Library!Horatio is interning. Then I rummaged around the website, and at I saw this:

And this:

And I thought you all would like them. They make me think of the mentions of "Crossing The Line" in the Aubrey-Maturin books and in Sharpe's Trafalgar.

(Speaking of which, have you read that last book? Sharpe, bless him, happens to be on his way home from India to England when he gets caught in the Battle of Trafalgar. He meets Nelson beforehand. It's adorable.)
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Mr Midshipman Hornblower

I'm reading it. I love it. I think the movies did a really good job with their adaptation. The best lines - like Captain Keene's epic Shaming of Simpson - are lifted straight from the book. (Except for Archie's lines, of course, which are much better than their non-Archie book versions.) Horatio is as geeky, gangly, and over-dramatic as the boy we all love from fan fiction.

The funny thing is that, by this point, I've read so much Hornblower fan fiction that reading the original feels like reading another fanfic. "Ooh, more Justinian fic! I love it!" It gives those extra fanfic-y details, like the fact that Horatio (and Archie of course, since they're only six months apart as we all know) really were the youngest midshipmen in the berth - Hether and Cleveland were much older. It's just that the author inexplicably got some of the names wrong, and forgot to mention Archie. I'm sure he was really there.

I do have to admit, though, that I don't think teenage Horatio would have been quite so wrapped in dramatic adolescent suicidal gloom if he'd had a certain smiling ball of sunshine by his side. If Archie were there, that kill-or-be-killed instinct would be better explained by the desire to protect Archie as well as himself. lemurling explored this really well.

Anyway, I haven't read the series in at least two decades, so it's nice to go back to it!
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Gen recs, free ebooks for Hornblower and more

So, this afternoon I was chatting with a friend in our church library. Husband was on the sofa nearby, holding our sleeping toddler, and the other two kids we had with us were off in the game room.
"Have you had any time to read lately?" she asked.
"Well, yes, actually I've been reading quite a lot of Napoleanic-era naval fiction..."
"Oh," she asked brightly,"You mean like Hornblower?"
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I have just discovered another nice thing about having children. My two sons saw me dumping black polish on the scuffed grey toes of my black-booted feet (and dripping it liberally on the balcony floor, but that is besides the point). 3-year-old son was fascinated by my decrepit battery-operated spinning polisher thing, so I handed it over, and found a buffing brush to work on the boot legs while he did the toes. 7-year-old son relieved me of the brush, and I luxuriously sat back and read LJ while they industriously set to work all over my boots (and occasionally jeans). "Look Mommy, all shiny now!"

My own personal shoeshine boys! (And my oddly foreshortened legs. Oh well.)

Happy almost-Winter Solstice! Tomorrow for the solstice my kindergarten kids will make traditional tang yuan - soft, round little balls of glutinous rice flour dough, cooked dumpling-style in sweet soup - basically sugar water. Perhaps they'll also have fillings of very sweet black sesame paste. They are not my favorite Chinese treat - too sweet and gummy for my taste - but rolling the little balls will be fun.

six bells

So I finally went ahead and got the "Ship's Time" app, which chimes out the bells every half hour. I really like it. It helps me keep track of time. And it enabled the following conversation in my home:

Son, age 7: "Mommy! Six bells!"

Me: "So what time is that?"

Son: "It's....eleven o'clock!"



You know you may be just slightly obsessed with all things AoS when you happen to look up "weevil" and realize they are very likely the same pointy-snouted little insects that have gotten into your dry pasta, and you feel kind of excited to see them. It may even cross your mind to taste one, just to see what sailors had to deal with, but you very firmly discard that notion. And resolve to rinse the pasta very well before you cook it. You certainly won't throw it away just because of a few weevils.
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