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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2013 Christine Courtenay; 2010 Bryce Courtenay (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,073
  • 4 Stars
    464
  • 3 Stars
    99
  • 2 Stars
    21
  • 1 Stars
    24

Performance

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    1,083
  • 4 Stars
    174
  • 3 Stars
    30
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    6

Story

  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    861
  • 4 Stars
    327
  • 3 Stars
    86
  • 2 Stars
    14
  • 1 Stars
    8
Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dave
  • Stillwater Lake, NS, Canada
  • 08-26-10

His very best!

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.

30 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Robert
  • Yamhill, OR, United States
  • 01-07-11

Hit in the solar plexus

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.

100 of 103 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic!

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.

Highly recommended!

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Hey Audible - You Blew IT

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.

75 of 78 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • CBDC
  • Washington, DC USA
  • 09-04-10

Very moving and powerful

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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

a great read

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.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Karen
  • philadelphia, Panama
  • 07-27-10

The BEST of Courtenay

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.

43 of 47 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Linda
  • MATTAPAN, MA, United States
  • 10-15-10

Waiting Again

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.

16 of 17 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • G.
  • boulder creek, ca
  • 11-12-10

Four Fires, Three-and-a-Half Stars

(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.

23 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

SEVEN-STAR LISTEN!

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Elizabeth
  • 10-30-11

brothers and mothers

The narration of this book enhances it no end - and the characters within it are all believable. Its the story of a family who are desperately trying to keep everything together, about love and loyalty within it, and about achieving ambition when your immediate society doesn't really give you the chance. Its not the best book by this author, but there are characters like Nancy the mother and matriarch - who although not the epitome of motherhood, you still end up hoping and wishing for. There are some laborious bits, but for anyone who likes a family saga then its great.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Joykie Burger
  • 12-10-12

Another triumph

Once again Bryce Courtenay and Humphrey Bower enthralled me to such an extent that I just could not put this book down (so to speak). So much attention to detail. I went through the whole gamut of emotions for this unfortunate family. The Master storyteller does it again .......

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Khelger
  • 07-17-14

Brilliant story, brilliant narration

What did you like most about Four Fires?

The story of a family in a small rural town, living through war, prejudice, struggles, success - Courtenays ability to bring characters to life is outstanding. In the end, I felt like a part of the family! The story moves at perfect pace throughout, even though it spans decades. It also helps that Humphrey Bower's narrations is completely engaging.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Four Fires?

Difficult to say, but the first few chapters - where all the characters are introduced - stuck with me right to the end, and that doesn't happen very often.

Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favourite?

All of them - he makes them all individuals, and it is difficult to pick one. Mole as the storyteller is brilliant, but his performance as Mrs Rika Ray made me smile!

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Definitely - but I also wanted it to never end!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Pamela
  • 12-08-13

Superb characters

If you could sum up Four Fires in three words, what would they be?

Triumphant, heartbreaking and real

Who was your favorite character and why?

Mole, being so incisive but being totally unaware of it makes him an engaging character, I want to meet him!!

Which character – as performed by Humphrey Bower – was your favourite?

I really enjoyed Moray (and Sophie) Suckfizzle, so much more than words being read....

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

When Tommo was recounting his ordeal was harrowing, but also the hardship and endurance of the family when the kids were younger.

Any additional comments?

I'll definitely get more by Bryce, I love characters with multi dimensional personalities and the folks in this book tick all the boxes....

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Chris
  • 08-06-11

Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay

A brilliant listen. This book is gripping from start to finish. Informative, detailed, heartwarming, funny, sometimes horrifying, you get to know the principal characters so well that you could be part of the family. It covers so many events and experiences in gripping detail. This is not a book you are likely to nod off to

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Michael
  • 01-06-15

Wonderful book

I enjoyed everything about this book from start to finish. You can't help falling in love with the characters in the story.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Declan
  • 04-16-18

Bower brings this Courtenay epic to life.

Would you consider the audio edition of Four Fires to be better than the print version?

Not having read the print version, nevertheless I can only estimate that Humphrey Bower's performance brings an authentic realism that my imagination would be unable to create by itself.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Tommy, so broken, the poor sod.

Which scene did you most enjoy?

The penultimate chapter, where the book is reframed as a retrospective memoir of the protagonist, was a very nice touch.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes of course, although that's impossible, it's about 30 hours.

Any additional comments?

Following the life and coming of age of a poor Irish-Australian family... I never could have expected it to be so captivating.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • newgamer thoroughly enjoyable play for hours
  • 03-13-18

excellent

a book that takes you into the lives of a family that dragged itself up and all sibblings went their own way

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dib
  • 04-04-17

Exceptional!

As usual, Bruce Courtney has written a brilliant story but what makes it exceptional is Humphrey Bower 's narration. Courtney and Bower are unbeatable!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • chris richardson
  • 03-24-17

I am never disappointed with Bryce Coutenay books

Great listen did not want it to end caused many reared and much laughter just wonderful

Sort by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Lorna Furst
  • 08-27-18

i didn't want this book to end

loved everything about this book the Narrator was amazing loves his abilities to do the accents

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tracy
  • 05-30-18

Once again, a brilliant audio book

The wonderful team of Bryce Courtenay writing and Humphrey narrating creates an amazing experience of listening. A great book with so much information on Australia. Thoroughly recommend!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 02-09-18

10/10

best book l have ever read 10/10 amasing story line lt even made me cry

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • ReaderFromOz
  • 01-03-18

Loved it

If you could sum up Four Fires in three words, what would they be?

Family, warts and all

What did you like best about this story?

I love that the story was from the point of view of a 12 year old boy, wise yet innocent.

Have you listened to any of Humphrey Bower’s other performances? How does this one compare?

Humphrey Bower is superb, I would listen to anything he narrated. His range of voices is amazing

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

A wonderful feel good book.

Any additional comments?

Humphrey Bower and Bryce Courtenay are a match made in heaven!

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Anonymous User
  • 12-12-17

loved it

I love all Bryce Courtenay's books and this is one of the best! great story

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Sue T
  • 10-06-17

Captivating story

It took me a little while to understand what was going on in the beginning. It's one of those tales that flits between two storylines! However, once hooked, I didn't want put it down! The narrator was very good with the different 'voices'
An interesting insight of the life of an alcoholic would not usually be a storyline of choice, but I found myself being drawn into his world and wanting and willing him to 'come through' his battles. Recommended read *****

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • bds2
  • 07-03-17

Awakening

An awakening story of family challenges and achievements. By the side this has assisted me in understanding PTSD in my family

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Bert
  • 10-02-16

A book that stays with you.

Once again Humphrey Bower transforms the words Bryce Courtney into a living, breathing thing so very real. Thank you Humphrey, thank you Bryce but above all, thank you to the men and women who inspired this book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • The Reader
  • 08-31-16

best book I've ever read!

My favourite book ever. I think the audible listening experience was fantastic. Well done people.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • russell findlay
  • 06-22-16

Great reading

Very very good and it's a good story to know, as it's a Vic base
Cheers