The four fires in this story are passion, religion, warfare, and fire itself. While there are many more fires that drive the human spirit, love being perhaps the brightest flame of all, it is these four that have moulded us most as Australian people. The four fires give us our sense of place and, for better or for worse, shape our national character.
©2010 Bryce Courtenay (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Humphrey Bower, speaking as Mole, delivers every possible nuance and emotion of his character’s story, and shows a startling aptitude for other dialects as well. Close family friends and enemies include surviving Polish Jews, an East Indian healer, an Irish Catholic priest, Japanese prison camp soldiers, and many others. All of them, young and old, male and female, spring to vivid life in Bower’s versatile voice. Narrative passages and dialogue elicit tears and laughter by turns, without a minute of boredom in the 30-hour production." (AudioFile magazine)
Business Physicist and Astronomer
While I doubt Mr. Courtenay will ever top Power of One, this is a very good story superbly delivered. Well worth the credit. And like everything read by Humphrey Bower, you hate it end, digger!
This guy is amazing. I have never enjoyed so many books from one author than I have from Courtenay. His characters are so lifelike I find myself telling my wife about them as if they were real. I had never heard of him before and stumbled upon The Power of One and then Tandia. Now Four Fires and nexy the Potato factory. I have found a favorite author and the narration is perfect. You can trust the ratings, this is quality stuff. Enjoy!
I haven't read the print version.
I liked this the least of the several I have read, maybe because his writing style has become more predictable to me. This could have been a wonderful book had the usual war stories taken up less of the story. Sarah, Bozo and Mike were all great characters that I would have liked to follow. And Murray Templeton who is mentioned only in passing, deserved more words.
I always enjoy Humphrey Bower's performances and this was no exception.
I think I have to take a break from Bryce Courtenay for a while.
Say something about yourself!
I was distracted by the publisher's blurb. In fact I thought this might be four novellas or something like that. Australians are much like Californians or anybody else. They do indeed have great brush fires, but we have forest fires, too. Anyway, the book is a story about one small town in Australia and one family in that town. The family members struggle to look good in the community; they're really fine, hard-working smart people, but some in the town hold their noses even higher in the air. As it happens, the family are Irish Catholic with a dad who drinks too much and a large, outspoken mom. Most of the kids are not from that father, who has problems from the war. The mom and older kids (and dad if he's out of jail) have a garbage route to run before dawn every weekday. The kids scrub and bathe in cold water before dressing for school. The mom supplements that income with her fancy sewing -- what we call in the U.S. "heirloom" sewing. This huge woman comes in from the garbage run and sits down to an old Singer to turn out fancy christening gowns! One of the boys submits his embroidery in the local fair under his mom or sister's name and wins every time. The kid telling the story grows up as the story is happening. This injects unintended humor as he learns about people having to go to special camps to learn to concentrate. Soon, an old East Indian woman herbalist and a Jewish couple from Poland join the family circle of love.
As the kids grow up and head out for further education, our young story-teller is the last. The last part of the book is about military life. We have already seen the pretty sister fight her own battles and the clever brother with his transit company and the other brother -- the one who embroiders -- charm the sewing ladies. So it's time for Mole to tell about time in the bush with his dad and then fight fires with his dad, and then learning jungle combat. This hit me hard for some reason; I am a veteran and have strong ideas about how veterans are dealt with. But Mole is so successful that he just moves on up and up. I have only listened one time so far. I believe Courtenay has balanced the lives of the four kids. He even tied things up for the little sister who is engaged to the nephew of a family friend.
Through the 29 hours, whether it's walking in the bush or rushing a sewing order or trying to outrun a bush fire pedaling a little kid's bicycle -- there are absolutely no dull moments. Bryce Courtenay has written a masterpiece right up there beside Power of One or Brother Fish. And without Humphrey Bower, I can't imagine how it would be. Bower can talk like an old Indian lady, a wily Irish priest, a 300-pound Australian-Irish momma, a little Polish Jewish doctor and a big sweet African-American dude.
This is the best kind of fiction. It teaches things. We find out what happened and then we listen again to admire HOW it happened. I am sorry Mr. Courtenay is gone now. We will just have to keep listening again.
This is the second book I've listened to by this author and like the first I was surprised at how easily I was pulled into the lives of the characters. If I read a summary which gives barely a clue, or if I hear it's about 'one family's struggle' - I usually pass but this writer truly makes it worth the read. Also not usually a fan of war writing but this is done so well (as it was in Brother Fish) and its only a portion of the lives of the Maloney's. Mr. Courtenay turned a genre I avoided into something I enjoyed and learned from. The rest of their lives in a small town was very entertaining and inspiring. The only drawback for me was the ending which felt rushed. The narrator was just fantastic and great with different voices - just perfect.
Only read a few, but I liked it.
It is hard to compare this author to anyone else.. He seems to ramble from subject to subject within a single family context. It has something for the Capitalist mindset as well as for the environmentalist. I personally feel this kind of thinking only works in a frontier type society, however, one like America and Australia had in common. The book is jam packed with information that is presented in an entertaining format. There is a wealth of information on botany, the early fashion industry and the garbage and transit industries. On the other side of the spectrum, one can learn a lot of World War II facts, most especially concerning the concentration camps and the emigrants created from such upheavals. There are Japanese POW camp experiences along with his bush fire tricks to be shared by the main character's alcoholic father. Be prepared to be interested. It also touches on the Catholic and Protestant rivalry as well as small town conspiracies and aristocratic meddling.
The narrator does a great job, but the accent will help to soothe you to sleep if your habit is to listen at bedtime.. Of course, you will have to rewind though as you wont want to miss anything.
The most interesting characters may be some of the minor ones, most especially the Indian healer and the emigrants from the concentration camps.
If you are in the learning mood, then this is the book for you. In fact, the best way to learn is to do so while being so thoroughly entertained.
An unashamed Audiophile who has his own studio and business called iZENEARS which brings Australian travel and history to life for locals and visitor's alike.
You really do need to be inside the Australian mind for this tale because it is so rich in colloquialisms and no 'dictionary' to turn too, for the ear that is not in tune with our vernacular, this could be a challenge. If you do have the ear, well me ol' mate, she's just a beudy! (See what I mean?) For those on the fence, try it in any case, you may miss a few bits but it should still bring a tear or two.
I thoroughly enjoyed Four Fires from the beginning to the end. As is typical in many of this author's stories, there is an element of boxing, life in the lower classes, the church, and most of all, Australian history. The characters in Four Fires were as intriguing as those in some of my favorite Courtenay reads including The Power of One, The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk & Tandia. I was most enthralled in the last part of the book in which you hear a recollection of a character's stay in a Japanese prison camp during WWII. I also appreciated the attention the author gives to PTSD. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, especially set before and during WWII. Good reading!
One of the most absorbing books I have read for a long time. It has everything in it - stuff that life throws at this family and how they respond, love, war, work, desires... gripping.
The tale of one man and his journey through life.
He got each character perfectly. Made the characters real and believable (though the story does this very well - he made it better).
Mole. He would be a fun person to talk with - intelligent with a LOT of depth.
Do not miss this book.
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