Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****The Four Feathers

by A. E. W. Mason

Reviewed February 1, 2003.
Penguin Books, New York, 2001.  284 pages.  Originally published in 1902.
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #3, Mystery and Adventure

One of the great joys of life is having friends who share your taste in books.  When such a friend lives close enough to loan some of those books, you truly have a wonderful treasure.  Again, I want to thank my friend Leah for loaning me this outstanding classic!

I didn’t get to see the new movie made of The Four Feathers (yet), but I do remember as a junior higher seeing a TV movie from the story.  I didn’t remember many details of the story, but I did remember that its beauty and romance haunted me.

The Four Feathers tells of Harry Feversham.  The book gives you background, and shows you Harry as a young boy listening to his father’s friends trading war stories.  When they tell of cowards, he shrinks at the thought, wondering if he could face the call to battle.  Years later, he is engaged to be married and learns that his regiment is about to be called to the Sudan to fight.  Thinking no one else knows, he resigns his commission just before they are to leave.  Three officers of his regiment find out and send him white feathers.  When his fiancée, Ethne Eustace, finds out, she adds a white feather of her own to his collection.

Her feather spurs Harry on to begin a quest to redeem his honor.  He follows his regiment to Africa and spends years looking for a way to do a service for these men and redeem his honor.  If he can get them to take back their feathers, perhaps his fiancée would be willing to take back hers.

Meanwhile, his good friend, who knew nothing of the white feathers, is also in love with Ethne.  She is now free to give her love to him.  Or does her heart still belong to Harry?

This book is an amazing blend of introspection, romance, and dramatic action.  It’s an old-fashioned novel, so the pace is slow in spots as we learn the motivations of each of the characters.  However, that adds to the richness of the tale.

At first, it was hard for me to believe that a woman would treat a man she loved so harshly.  But A. E. W. Mason convinces me as he explores the characters of Harry and Ethne.  I can then understand the high ideals of honour that they held.  Even if I wouldn’t feel the same way, he draws me in to that world and makes me feel with the characters the nobility of their code of honour.

This classic story goes far beyond a simple romance or a war story or an action-adventure.  Uplifting and interesting reading.

Reader comment:  John McNichols comments:  I agree wholeheartedly with your description of The Four Feathers by Mason.  It affected me deeply and I felt a profound loss when I finally reached the end of the story.
He also recommends The Count of Monte Cristo.

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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