Edition: Penguin, 1965
Review number: 138
This Hornblower novel follows on immediately from The Happy Return, at the end of which he had been forced to run down his colours and surrender following the death of three-quarters of his crew in an attempt to bring victory for his admiral, the husband of his beloved Barbara. Thus, Flying Colours opens with Hornblower imprisoned by the French, along with the remainder of his crew. Finally, the order arrives for his transfer to Paris, where he and Liuetenant Bush will face trial for piracy followed by death before the firing squad. During a difficult journey (for Bush is still recovering from a wound received in the battle as a result of which he has lost the lower half of one leg), the two officers and the coxwain Brown brought as a servant to them manage to escape.
The remainder of the novel tells of their journey as fugitives across France while Hornblower torments himself with the knowledge that even should they get back to England, he will still face a court martial because of his surrender.
While not the greatest Hornblower novel, and lacking the interest brought through the detailed description of shipboard life and the excitement of the war at sea, Flying Colours still exhibits the qualities which mark out the series as a whole - the attention to the authentic background, the well drawn characters of Bush and particularly Hornblower himself.