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)
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
I try to rate a book not so much on how much I liked it but on how well I thought it was written. This becomes even more compounded/confounded by the fact that I mostly listen to audiobooks and there is the matter of this person called the narrator. I cannot say this too strongly, I believe a narrator can make or break a book. So, for my reviews, there is this other dimension to consider.
I believe that Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay is a phenomenal book all by itself. It is not, however, a book I probably would have gravitated to nor enjoyed as much in paper form. I picked this selection based on reviews and particularly the reference in these reviews to the narrator Humphrey Bower. I was not disappointed. To call Mr. Bower a narrator does not do him justice. An actor? Okay, that works. He flawlessly plays the roles of so many of the characters in this book. And that would make him an artist. That's good too. But, like the author himself, Bower is a Storyteller extraordinaire and for me, that was the magic of this selection.
I was blown away by every aspect of this book in a "good way" until Mole's dad takes him into the bush and tells him of his time in the war. For me, at that moment, the book became something completely different. It was like it was not even the same book written by the same person. And, while I concluded that the descriptions of all the brutality of war could be taken in context, it might not be for everyone. These events are not pure fiction, but, we are told, are descriptions based on historical facts and perhaps we should not avoid nor look away from such things if we are to diminish their chance of reoccurrence in the future.
So, for the record, I give the Four Fires:
5 stars for personal enjoyment
5 stars for general skill in writing
5 stars for storytelling, acting and narration.
There is no absolutely no better combination of author and narrator than Bryce Courteney & Humphrey Bower, yet you slipped this one into your library with no fanfare. I stumbled across it by accident and I cannot be the only fan of this combination. Of his earlier books, this one most reminds me of “The Power of One.” The characters are a delight and joining in on the lives of this ordinary/extraordinary family has had me walking around for days with headphones on with a goofy smile on my face.
Come on Audible! Give this author/narrator the promotion they more than deserve.
I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the intriguing characters, the humor, just everything about this book. Nothing else can be added about Humphrey Bower - he brings the pages to life. I could listen to Humphrey Bower read a telephone book.
I have read most of Bruce Courtenay and I agree with other reviewers, this is his best.I didn't want the story to end. Another feature I enjoy about Bruce Courtenay is that he teaches the reader - I learned a lot about forest fires. Fascinating.
This is a "must listen" book. Why Audible didn't give it front page headlines is mystifying.
Wow, what an enthralling story presented by a very talented narrator. Humphrey makes the characters come alive with superb personalisation of each voice. I came away with a new appreciation of the rough, yet tender life in rural Australia. I loved the aussie slang that is peppered throughout the book.
Bryce wrote this novel with such exquisite detail that it made me feel like I was a part of the Maloney family, experiencing the ups and downs of fire, war, religion and relationships.
I have been an audible member for 4 years and have listened to over 1000 books since my job keeps me traveling so much. This is the first review that I have written. I have listened to all of Courtenay's books and enjoyed all of them. However, Four Fires is in my opinion the BEST. As for the narration as always there are no words to express how wonderful Humphrey Bower is.
(Assuming you have read the publishers summary) This is a pretty good book. I've read or listened to most of his works and at times can get a little sick of the upbeat attitude and good luck of his downtrodden characters. Four Fires has this problem, but the story ultimately won me over. Courtney has a gift for descriptive writing and vivid characters, and he has put the gift to full use. Like the people, the places are also fully fleshed out and nuanced. I'm feeling a trilogy coming on... If you have never treated yourself to Bryce Courtney I suggest beginning with THE POWER OF ONE or BROTHER FISH. If you are a fan wondering if this is a gem or a dud, I recommend it. Also, as usual, great narration from the wonderfully gifted Humphrey Bower. There is a lot of dialogue in this book and I'm amazed at his ability to create unique voices for everyone and keep them all straight.
I loved this book - it was pure Courtney! The characters - especially all of the Maloneys were believable, larger than life, comic and sympathetic. I have been waiting for another Courtney family to follow. I kept checking his website to see what was coming and to make sure that I had not missed a book. I gobbled this one up so quickly that I find myself waiting again for the next one (sigh).
I can always determine who is speaking when Humphrey Bower creates his vocals. I recommend the book and Humphrey Bower is the bonus.
My favorite Bryce Courtenay book before reading FOUR FIRES was TANDIA (although I rated most of his books 5 stars or 4 stars), but FOUR FIRES is right up at the top of my favorites. Courtenay's books are so well-researched that you learn a lot whether it be about AIDS, apartheid, alcoholism and (in this book) personal history slowly revealed in a powerful and beautifully written final "going bush" trip with Tommy and Mole (the son). Humphrey Bower as always reads the book so well that I have trouble hearing anyone else read something by Bryce Courtenay (as I did with JESSICA although it was also the worst of Courtenay's books). It's a long saga of this family (the Malonie's) and people they interact with including an Indian herbalist, two concentration camp survivors, snobs, a pries tin the Catholic Church, bigots, fire fighters, the garment district, the Australian soldiers in World War in the struggle with Japan, and ends with Australia's role in Vietnam.
I'm debating, but I think that this is my favorite Courtenay so far, and is definitely one of my top "listens." I accidentally bought the book instead of using my credit and was aggravated with myself, but it was absolutely worth it. I'd buy it again!
This was a great read. I wasn't sure at first why so much of the WW2 experience was in it, but then it became clear. It was very moving and tragically only too true. The story has some wonderful and very believable Aussie characters in it, but perhaps they are not unique to Australia. Interesting relationships. I was sorry when it finished. Highly recommended.
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