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The Four Feathers by A. E. W. Mason

The Four Feathers (1902)

by A. E. W. Mason

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  1. 00
    The Tragedy of the Korosko by Arthur Conan Doyle (edwinbcn)
  2. 01
    The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy (AdonisGuilfoyle)
    AdonisGuilfoyle: Both novels are great examples of Victorian adventure/romance stories.

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Showing 1-5 of 15 (next | show all)
This story is rather convoluted, and therefore, difficult to summarize. It is, however, a good one, although it took me a while to get into it.

So, we have Harry Feversham, who is a young army officer and the son of a crusty old General. Feversham is affianced to Ethne Eustace, who is everything one could ever want in a woman, and also an amazing violinist. While having dinner with some military friends, Feversham gets a phone call. We learn later that the call tells him that his regiment is about to be sent off to Egypt/Sudan. He doesn't tell his friends about the content of the call. He then sends in his resignation because he doesn't want to put off his wedding...or something.

Well, later on, Feversham's military friends learn about the call, and decide his resignation was an act of cowardice. So the three of them send him a letter containing three white feathers. The feathers are a sign that they know of his cowardice. Unfortunately for Feversham, he is with Ethne when he opens the letter. Once she understands the import of the message, she breaks a feather off her fan, hands it to Feversham and then also breaks off their engagement.

Feversham goes through a few months of deep depression, but eventually decides he must atone for his mistake. So, off he goes to Egypt/Sudan to search out ways to contribute to the effort and also to help out his friends who are there. He hangs around the market places pretending to be a Greek merchant until he figures out what best to do.

So the rest of the book is about Feversham's attempts, the redemption of the feathers, how the redeemed feathers get sent back to Ethne so she'll know Feversham is noble after all, and such like.

Well, along the way, Feversham's best friend, Col. Jack Durrance, decides to try to win Ethne for himself. But he's not sure that she's not still carrying a torch for Feversham. He also goes blind in the Egyptian/Sudanese desert. But in his blindness he can tell many things by sounds and hesitations and the like. As I mentioned above, Ethne is an amazing violinist. One of the most beloved pieces she plays is called the Musoline Overture. Durrance decides his fate, so to speak, by the way Ethne plays this piece for him. You'll have to read the book to figure out his fate.

As nearly as I can tell, there is no such piece as the Musoline Overture. Some folks suggest that it might be a misspelling of the Melusine Overture. Frankly, I can't figure out how this orchestral piece can be rendered in any reasonable fashion for solo violin. There are piano arrangements available, which call for two pianos and eight hands. But no solo piano, let alone solo violin.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
I didn't realize (before stumbling upon this book) that The Four Feathers movie (the Heath Ledger version - swoon) was actually based off of a book. I stumbled upon this book at a used bookstore for a couple of bucks and grabbed it. This was the second book in a row that I read with a storyline whose setting takes place during a time when the British Empire began to wane, when "conflicts all ended in British victories, but the moral or material costs were high in each case ..." (and another book written by a white European man).

All of those historical things in consideration, I did enjoy the storyline itself and did enjoy the characters. This is a book that I think would've been harder for me to read had I not already seen the movie. I saw the movie when I was younger when it had first came out - head over heels for Heath Ledger and adored Kate Hudson - and I just loved it all and the story it told of friendship, love, and overcoming obstacles. I appreciated that the movie showed a stronger bond between Harry and Abou Fatma than what the book did - that they were entirely different people from different places, yet still the same in many other ways.

So I think ultimately because I felt I had so much extra 'background' in my head going into this book, images of characters, the setting, relationships, etc., it really actually added to my reading experience rather than 'spoil it' for me.

Ultimately, I enjoyed this read, in some ways because of the old world, Indiana Jones atmosphere of the book, and also in spite of that old world thinking (though something to definitely be mindful of in reading the book). ( )
1 vote justagirlwithabook | Jun 28, 2018 |
The mood of this story was quite different from anything else I have read. It deals with cowardice and courage, love and hate, hope and despair. It captures a lot of the hypocrisy of the times, the obsession with honour and class and the sense of superiority of the British just about everywhere. The love story binding the tale seemed rather remote. It is hard to imagine the characters living happily ever after. ( )
  rosiezbanks | Aug 27, 2017 |
I picked up this Kindle book back in 2012 when I first discovered the wonders of public domain ebooks & Project Gutenberg based on positive memories of the 1939 film adaptation (which can be seen here: https://archive.org/details/TheFourFeathers1939).

Thus I read this already knowing the basic plot but found that the book, slightly different in mood & details from the film, was a little less exciting adventure but much realistic. In particular, Ethne & Durrance were different and the relationships between Harry, Ethne & Durrance were more tragic. I am glad I finally got around to reading this classic! ( )
1 vote leslie.98 | Jan 16, 2017 |
I liked this in parts rather than on the whole. Found it too slow-paced and mundane. I'd hoped for more of an adventure yarn, or at least something more upbeat.

A couple of enaging chapters take place towards the end, which led me to rate this three stars instead of two, but for the most part it lacks excitement. ( )
  PhilSyphe | Jun 15, 2016 |
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Lieutenant Sutch was the first of General Feversham’s guests to reach Broad Place.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0142180017, Paperback)

Just before sailing off to war in the Sudan, British guardsman Harry Feversham quits his regiment. He immediately receives four white feathers-symbols of cowardice-one each from his three best friends and his fiancée. To disprove this grave dishonor, Harry dons an Arabian disguise and leaves for the Sudan, where he anonymously comes to the aid of his three friends, saving each of their lives. Having proved his bravery, Harry returns to England, hoping to regain the love and respect of his fiancée. This suspenseful tale movingly depicts a distinctive code of honor that was deeply valued and strongly promoted by the British during the height of their imperial power.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:44 -0400)

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"Just before his regiment sails off to war in the Sudan, British officer Harry Feversham quits the military. He is immediately given four white feathers - symbols of cowardice - one each by his three best friends and one by his fiancee. To disprove this grave dishonor, Harry dons an Arabian disguise and leaves for the Sudan, where he anonymously comes to the aid of his three friends, saving each of their lives. Having proved his bravery, Harry returns to England, hoping to regain the love and respect of his fiancee. This suspenseful tale movingly depicts a distinctive code of honor that - whether real or imagined - was deeply valued and strongly promoted by the British during the height of their imperial power."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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