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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

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Elizabeth
  • Cornwall, United Kingdom
  • 30-10-11

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

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

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

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

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
  • Co. Donegal, Ireland
  • 06-01-15

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

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

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

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

I am never disappointed with Bryce Coutenay books

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

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Robert
  • 07-01-11

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.

85 of 87 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dave
  • 26-08-10

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.

25 of 25 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Johnnie Walker
  • 22-07-10

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.

70 of 73 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Kerry Myers
  • 14-09-10

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!

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Linda
  • 15-10-10

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.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • CBDC
  • 04-09-10

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
  • Paddington
  • 27-11-10

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
  • 27-07-10

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
    4 out of 5 stars
  • G.
  • 12-11-10

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.

22 of 24 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Chris Reich
  • 04-11-11

Another Hit!

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!

Chris Reich
TeachU

4 of 4 people found this review helpful