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The Four Feathers

3.88  ·  Rating Details ·  3,724 Ratings  ·  216 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 284 pages
Published October 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published 1902)
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Sargent Pepa It's about a young military man that comes from a long line of military man. One day he decides to leave the army, and soon enough his regiment is…moreIt's about a young military man that comes from a long line of military man. One day he decides to leave the army, and soon enough his regiment is called to war, so 3 of his friends and his fiancée give him a white feather (to call him a coward). That's just the beginning of the story, I can't say much more without spoilers. (less)

Community Reviews

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Mike (the Paladin)
I mentioned this book a while back in my review of Beau Geste as also being somewhat dated by the writing style. I have read it before and was never overly enthralled...but I love the story. It's been copied and made into at least 3 movies I know of (1939, 1978 TV Movie, and 2002). So I decided to give it another read with no distractions. I wanted to read it and not have another book going at the same time.

So, I downloaded an audio version from the library.

The book is one written for late 19th
Jun 08, 2014 Wanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Wanda by: Karen and Dagny
8 JUL 2014 -- Call me crazy, but why is this billed as an adventure tale? Seems more of a romance to me or a study of feelings. I love it!

Response to a comment by Dagny: Thanks Dagny. I am at Chap. XIV. So far, adventure has been spoken of and hinted at, but not yet fully experienced. I am positive adventure is yet to come and I am patiently awaiting its arrival. Just the same, I am finding the characters' developing personalities extremely interesting.

I will give away no spoilers; yet, I can s
Sep 03, 2011 Nick rated it it was amazing
A. E. W. Mason wrote this gem in 1902; it is still the most romantic adventure novel ever written. Made into a wonderful movie of the same name, this story reads even better than it plays on the screen. The prose is limpid, the insights into pre-WWI mores profound, and the settings unforgettable.

Mason makes me believe that we've lost more than we've gained in the century since he wrote. His descriptions of the pre-motorcar (Irish) countryside convince me that we will never see the country the s
Aug 28, 2012 Phil rated it liked it
Shelves: 2012
The Heath Ledger movie makes you think this book is an action thriller. That is false. Mason's work is a look into the emotions and decisions made by extraordinary people.

What war or fighting is described in this novel is described by characters who participated in it, and most of the story takes place in England, minus a couple chapters in Egypt and Sudan. This instead focuses on two characters trying to learn something about themselves- a confused young man who quits the military but must fig
Jul 05, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Dagny and Wanda
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Review is pending....
May 26, 2014 Sarah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think that I would like this book as much as I did.

Honestly, The Four Feathers was incredible. I was just beginning to think that British literature was becoming dull and then I read this. Just when I think I got out, they pull me back in!

I found that this book isn't well known, and general summaries and information about the book are lacking on the internet, so I'll shake things up. This review will be more of an informational review than my own opinion (of course, I'll pepper my thou
Nov 06, 2009 Laina rated it it was amazing
This has been one of my favorite movies ever since I first watched it on the big-screen, so I decided to read the book just this week when I found it on my shelves.

Wow. The movie is incredible, and so is the book. They're both very different; the movie focuses mainly on Harry and how he atones for his disgrace, but the book focuses more on Ethne and her suffering and poor, sweet Jack.

This is a tale of wonderful friendship and drive, but the character that touched me most was Jack. Jack who sacri
Nov 23, 2016 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful romance in the traditional sense where bravery and honor trump all. The hero commits an act of cowardliness through fear of not being brave enough and fights to redeem his name. Those around him act nobly. Good stuff. Fairly fast read, though slow to get into at first.
Part of this is my fault. I went into The Four Feathers expecting A.E.W. Mason to be the Sudan’s Joseph Conrad, but if I’d bothered to read some of the other Goodreads reviews I would have known that he is in fact it’s Jane Austen. But I’d already seen the Heath Ledger film version, so expected this to be a real adventure story about cowardice and bravery and redemption, with lots of battles and only a touch of romance - rather than reading more like an old-school British drawing room stage play ...more
Torn between two stars, and three.. there should be a three and a half out there! This story was told really well, and didn't have a boring minute! But-and I hope you know what I mean-even though I liked the book, the point of the book was silly. A quest to prove he was brave, and could face danger, just because his girl is silly? Good grief man, you can do better than her! I did like Ethne, and Harry did improve for all his adventures, but.. the point of the story seemed silly, even though I li ...more
Dec 15, 2015 Tony rated it really liked it
THE FOUR FEATHERS. (1902). A. E. W. Mason. ***1/2.
This edition was from the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics collection, and the cover depicts a painting a scene from the Sudan War. Not knowing much about the book, I expected a series of war episodes. There weren’t any. If anything, this novel was more of a novel about honor and had a strong vein of romance running through it. It starts at an annual party of General Feversham at his manor where he is surrounded by his former military colleague
Aug 03, 2011 Zan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Gorgeous. I remember loving the 2002 film when it came out so decided to read this. I'm glad that it has been years and years since I've seen the movie since I was able to come at this piece with only the premise in mind: the rest was an empty canvass waiting for Mason's images and emotions.

Harry Feversham, Ethne Eustace, and Jack Durrance are characters that live within a code and structure of honor that I think is a bit lost on a modern audience. Not that we can't understand its core principl
Jessie J
Apr 29, 2012 Jessie J rated it really liked it
Shelves: british-lit
Before I start, let me just say that the general review for the book is, I think, more a description of the Hollywood movies.

Written at the turn of the 20th century, this novel of British Empire is not exactly run of the mill. I enjoyed the adventure of the tale, but was surprised by the insights into human nature that were given. It was not all "fight for honor, queen, and country" (although that was definitely a subtext) but also focused on human relationships, their successes, and their failu
May 17, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
(This was one of Dad's favorites, along with classics Gunga Din and Beau Geste and has become a favorite of mine as well.)
It was written in 1902 and depicts the code of honor among gentlemen during the height of British Empire building -India, Africa-the Sudan and-among the officer military -gents of the finest familes -cowardice was the worst of all possible traits.A trait that dishonored the entire family name. A young fellow born into such a family and raised on stories of past heroics in Cri
Joshua Ray
Aug 03, 2013 Joshua Ray rated it liked it
Shelves: own
Nota Bene: I can only review the book as someone who had seen the movie first.

That said, the book and the 2002 adaptation are quite different. In setting, in theme, in the portrayal of the characters, and in many other areas they differ quite a bit.

Not that that makes either of them not good. (minor spoilers follow) The movie is a romance, primarily is an adventure story, and takes place primarily in Africa. Harry Feversham (Heath Ledger) is the main character and the focus is on his journey to
May 03, 2011 Beth rated it really liked it
Full disclosure: I was e stalking an actor who was in the movie version and found out there was a book. Also this is less of a review but more of a way to remind myself of what I thought of the book compared to the movie.

There are some big differences from the movie but the main plot is essentially the same. Jack got screwed in the movie, his role was so much less but I guess they tried to make up for it. In the book he got caught out in a sandstorm and went blind vs staring down an army riding
Jan 04, 2011 J rated it it was amazing
I just finished listening to this one (great reader, British accent) and I consider it a classic that should be compared to the likes of Dickens and Austen. Great epic story of Harry Feversham, newly engaged to beautiful Ethne Eustace and a soldier in the British army. But it's 1884 and when he receives a telegram that he's about to be shipped off to the Sudan, he makes a snap decision to give up his commission and pretend he never saw the telegram. This sets in motion the events that will shape ...more
I could not like the heroine of this story. Ethne rejects her fiancee because he is afraid to go on active service in the Sudan in case he should prove to be a coward and so bring dishonour to his family who have all been war heroes.
When he returns six years later having proved his bravery, she sends him away again, stupidly deciding to go through with marrying a man she does not love because he is blind and she feels sorry for him. (Fortunately the man realises the truth and breaks off the enga
Nov 22, 2015 Rocío rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Qué libro... QUÉ LIBRO!!! Me atrapó desde el principio. Y es que no me esperaba para nada una historia así. De las historias más bonitas de amor que he leído. Los temas del honor personal, la imagen que tenemos de nosotros mismos y la sensación del deber para con otros, está tan bien planteado (al menos desde mi punto de vista). Luego las descripciones del norte de África y de Gales son exquisitas. Y los personajes me han enamorado, al principio parecen planos pero, según vas avanzando en la his ...more
Jul 31, 2013 Sylvia rated it really liked it
I love the basic story behind this book. I think you need to read this book with a 19th century perspective, otherwise it might drive you crazy. I had to keep telling myself that Ethne was really worth all the trouble that these two men went through for her sake. She seemed rather shallow and selfish to me. The rules were different in those days, honor and courage actually meant something. To us in modern times it may seem some what ridiculous. I admit it was fun to lose myself in a far away tim ...more
Feb 08, 2015 Charles rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I was attracted to this book because of its publication date. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy was published in 1895. The Four Feathers in 1902. I was hoping, because of the underlying romantic theme of Feathers and the close proximity of publication dates some influence of Hardy would be evident. Hardy is the unequaled master. Mason, a minor writer.
Donald Owens II
Jan 24, 2016 Donald Owens II rated it liked it
I didn't dislike this book, but can hardly say more than that in its favor. It is a boy's adventure tale about on par with a G A Henry story, both in its contrived plot and mediocre style. I'm not sure it was worth the time.
Thayne Ence
Jun 12, 2013 Thayne Ence rated it really liked it
As my first book finished in quite a while, I feel quite honored to have read this thrilling, yuppish story of courage. If you like the yuppie 80s (1880s) and the exciting thrills from conversations of war stories and exploring of new lands you will love this story.
Jan 03, 2017 Amy rated it did not like it
Maybe the definition of "cowardice" has changed so much in the past 100ish years that the main character's motivation is no longer believable. It just seemed ridiculous to me. I stopped reading about 75 pages in.
Jan 03, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
The end makes the whole story so satisfying. A few truths are portrayed well too. I loved the blend of adventure, romance, and poignant expression of the inward turmoil of the heroes (and heroine). And yes...This was so much better than the movie (Heath Ledger version at least)!
John Yelverton
Jun 01, 2014 John Yelverton rated it it was amazing
A great and wonderful book about love and honor, and spending every ounce of human endeavor toward redemption and forgiveness. I highly recommend this book.
May 28, 2017 Pamela rated it it was amazing
This is the third time I have read this book. The first two times were several years apart. I enjoyed it immensely, but I did not understand all the nuances in the characters, nor was I able to fully grasp the hero's logic. This time I listened to the audiobook, and the full comprehension and understanding was overwhelming. I find I love this book even more. Although my family and I watch this movie every Memorial Day to honor our veterans in our hearts, listening to it again will be in my futur ...more
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:

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 (view spoi
Jason Harrison
Jan 09, 2017 Jason Harrison rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Such a good book. One of my all-time favorites.
Mar 05, 2010 Eileen rated it really liked it
Shelves: britlit, war, history
Although this was well written and interesting (for the most part), I had a hard time getting through the whole thing. I think, for one thing, that the concept of honor in pre-WWI Britain just does not mesh with my current definition. There's a lot of "I cannot tell X; X can never know!" drama. People don't tell each other information that I'd consider critical, but not only do they remain silent, they do so out of honor. Although these episodes are well-intentioned, they're still strikingly dif ...more
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Alfred Edward Woodley Mason (7 May 1865 Dulwich, London - 22 November 1948 London) was a British author and politician. He is best remembered for his 1902 novel The Four Feathers.

He studied at Dulwich College and graduated from Trinity College, Oxford in 1888. He was a contemporary of fellow Liberal Anthony Hope, who went on to write the adventure novel The Prisoner of Zenda.
His first novel, A Rom
More about A.E.W. Mason...

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“I think women gather up into themselves what they have been through much more than we (men) do. To them, what is past becomes a real part of them, as much a part of them as a limb; to us it's always something external, at the best the rung of a ladder, at the worst a weight on the heel.” 10 likes
“Ya sabes cómo suceden las cosas -prosiguió-. Va una por la vida de una manera insípida, aburrida, y entonces, de pronto, un rostro se destaca de la muchedumbre de conocidos, un rostro al que estás segura de reconocer, como si fuera el rostro de un amigo aunque nunca lo hayas visto. Casi parece como si te encontraras de pronto con alguien a quien anduviste buscando mucho tiempo, y a quien recuperas con gran alegría. Bueno, pues los amigos son así... Son muy pocos, sin duda, aunque después de todo son esos pocos los que de verdad importan. A los amigos así no los pierdes, por mucho que estén ausentes, o incluso... muertos.” 2 likes
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