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Four Fires

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  3,531 ratings  ·  201 reviews
In a small town like any other small town around Australia live the Maloneys. They are a fifth-generation Australian family of Irish Catholic descent who are struggling to reach the first run of the social ladder. The Maloneys are a family you won't forget: a strong mother, a father broken by war, three boys and two girls, one of whom has an illegitimate daughter. Each of ...more
Paperback, 986 pages
Published September 18th 2003 by McArthur & Company (first published 2001)
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4.22  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,531 ratings  ·  201 reviews


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Robert Delikat
Dec 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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 Audible 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 ...more
Malia
This is only my second book by Bryce Courtenay, but already he is establishing himself as one of my favourite writers. Though FOUR FIRES and THE POWER OF ONE (the books I have read thus far) are rather lengthy, they truly resonate and the characters Courtenay creates in both feel so real I miss them when I finish.
The story centers around the Maloney family in a small town in Australia. They don't have it easy, and are definitely a multi-faceted bunch, but they make the best of what they have and
...more
Sami D.
Jul 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Before reading this book, I consulted the reviews on Amazon.ca to get an idea of what it was about. Most said that this was just a story about an Irish Catholic family who began by being the social pariyah of a small australian town called Yankallie to prominence. However, I disagree. It is more than that.

Mole, the main protagonist of the story, recounts the Malony's rise from bottom of the social ladder to a prominent and respected family in Australia. Speaking from a first person's perspective
...more
Lynn
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bryce Courtenay has never disappointed me. His novels are the kind that you simply cannot put down. Thankfully, at the end of the first book in a series, you just know that he will follow it up with a sequel - he simply can't leave us hanging there! I am on a mission to read every single one of his book and I've made a pretty good dent in it. I started with The Potato Factory, which is a very good place to start. I was completely engrossed in it and when finished, I could not get my hands on eno ...more
Gil Bradshaw
Aug 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best way to do a Bryce Courtenay is via audiobook with Humphrey Bowers narrating. It turns the book into an unforgettable experience. Bowers is such a great actor that he makes the characters come alive. Courtenay is such a great storyteller that their combination is fantastic.

This book isn't as dark as The Power of One and Tandia. It has less swearing and isn't so violent. However, it's a great book that focuses on Australia by focusing on a large family in the bush. Courtenay develops char
...more
C.
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
When I first read this, I would have given it five stars. It's another of Bryce Courtenay's carbon-copy exercises in sentimentality. This particular story traces the life of one family (he does enjoy the family dynasty trope, doesn't he?) through the eyes of, I think, Mitch. One family member ends up a boxer, one a successful fashion designer, one founds a business empire based on garbage-collection trucks. The only one who comes to relatively nothing is Mitch, who does nothing but fight valiant ...more
Annie Oosterwyk
I can't help myself, I love everything by Courtenay. This story was as rich as The Potato Factory, but not at all redundant. The Maloney family saga details every member and each is worthy of their own TV show. Courtenay writes as if they are each his main character and they are all so different! I really can't say enough about this author. I have just downloaded another by him and can't wait to listen.
Alan  Main
Apr 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A truly outstanding book, and in my opinion Bryce Courtneys best, it opens your eyes to life in a small Australian community in the 1950s. and gives graphic descriptions of being held a prisoner of war by the Japanese in the 2nd W.W. Yes it is a long book,but one that never failed to hold my interest from first to last page. I have actually read this book 3 times,and each time got some new perspective from the story. In my opinion this is the mark of a great book.
Debby
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've downloaded the unabridged audible version of almost all of Bryce Courtenay's books. The primary reason is that Humphrey Bower is one of my favorite audible book narrators. He makes a story come alive with his uncanny ability to change accents, and even makes me believe I'm hearing a woman's voice. As for the story-- this one is very epic. I had just finished listening to "Jessica" which is one of the saddest stories I've heard in a long time. With this book, I found the Maloney family to be ...more
Tom
Jun 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A grand, sweeping novel about the Maloneys, an Irish Catholic family living in the bush in Southeastern Australia. It picks up in the mid-1950s and takes us through the 1990s, but its span of characters also includes "Mr. Baloney", who served in WW I and his son Tommy's horrific experience as a POW in the Pacific Theatre in WW II. The tale is skillfully narrated by "Mole" Maloney, one of the five children of iron-willed Nancy who in so many ways reminded me of my mother's family of three very di ...more
Janine
Jul 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this audiobook. Great characters, each with their own sub plot. Takes place in Australia. Incredible reader.
Kathleen Hagen
Four Fires, by Bryce Courtenay, Narrated by Humphrey Bowers, Produced by Bolinda Publishing, downloaded from audible.com.

This is a three-generation family narrative covering 100 years, in Australian history, the majority of the narrative taking place from 1956 to about 1964. Nancy Maloney is the mother of all five children in this narrative, but three of them are by different fathers. Her own husband fathered two, but only one in wedlock, so there’s only one legitimate Maloney. Tommy Maloney, th
...more
Steve
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book was a complete slog to get through -- but only due to the length and the level of detail of that everything is described in. The story is incredibly disjointed at times, moving back and forth until you don't know which way is up, and then the chapter ends and you have to start again. There weren't many plot twists, some that I saw coming, and others that I didn't. I did really enjoy this book, the "climax" of the book left me entirely speechless, and the resolution and ending left me c ...more
Sue
What a story! This was my first audiobook and Humphrey Bower's narration made it a real treat. Some of the war stuff was tough to get through, though. I generally avoid war stories, but this had a lot of family saga stuff mingled in. In fact, the war stuff doesn't really come in until the second half of the book. Overall, a worthwhile read that kept me entertained while I logged around 60 miles walking round and round my backyard.
Susan
Mar 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I *loved* this book! Admittedly, I listened to it, and the reader, Humphrey Bower, is more an actor than a reader. He made the book come alive as he adopted the tones and accents of men and women, boys and girls, all with their accented English (Yiddish, German, Japanese, Indian, Irish, Australian...). This is a story of a wildly unusual Australian family surviving by intelligence and drive and endless courage. A great read/listen! I was sorry to have it end.
Pam
Mar 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy the sagas Courtenay seems to write. This was no exception and I had a fondness for most of the characters and their individual storylines.
I was slightly disappointed that he chose to wrap it all up so quickly at the end. As if he felt he'd written enough and needed to close.
I will read more of his work for sure
Jana Ulrich
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of my alltime favorite books, this was a re-read for me in preparation for an upcoming book club discussion. Mole Maloney's narrative and perspective of his life in the Australian Bush is bittersweet. I laughed and cried and laughed some more. There are lots of layers here and Courtenay, as usual, weaves a colorful and bittersweet story from well-researched history.
Carol
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is long, at 770 pages, but is a real page-turner. This is a delightful story of a poor but respectable family in a small town in Australia. It is extremely humorous, poignant, demonstrates the value of sticking together as a family “no matter what” and showcases the gift of having good friends who care about you. The family’s struggle to maintain dignity in the face of ridicule from the town’s “elite” is inspiring. The 5 children work hard along with their strong, determined mother to ...more
Carinya Kappler
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is an enormous task to present in one package the fictional biographies of an entire family. This family the Maloneys lived hand to mouth in a small country town Yankalilee where the matriarch Nancy proudly reared her brood. They were a product of the nineteen fifties and suffered the prejudices of that era with resignation and stoicism.
Nancy’s children were not all fathered by her husband Tommy. Those who were the the prodigy of chance encounters were liberally gifted with exceptional trait
...more
Col
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was fine. Nothing amazing but an interesting and entertaining read.
The thing that I think it did very well was provide an accurate snapshot of post-War Australia - particularly in country Victoria. I grew up a generation after this book was set, but the echos of what was described in this book were still present: Attitudes to different cultures; the protestant/Catholic divide; the emerging population boom from Europe; and the depth of culture that brought to colonial Australia. I even think t
...more
Andrea
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The time I took to read this book is no reflection on the book - just on how busy I've been lately. I had never heard of the book until I found it in the cancer society second hand bookshelf - the source of many of my reads these days. It was a surprise as I thought I had read all of Bryce Courtenay.
Set in small town Australia between WW2 and the Vietnam war, it revolves around one family - mum Nancy who is a large lady who drives a garbage truck but does delicate embroidery, father Tommy broken
...more
Jean
Sep 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that I did not want to end. I truly enjoyed the characters, and felt uplifted by the "sense of family" in the book. That said, it was a bit slow to get started; it took me a while to get invested in the characters, which is the reason for 4*.

After listening to "The Power of One", also by Bryce Courtenay, and giving it 5*, I couldn't wait to get started on another of his books. "Four Fires" does have a war story within it that made me think of "Unbroken", which may be
...more
Douglas Cosby
Dec 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars because of the insanely good audio book reader, otherwise a 4.0. A truly epic story about the Maloney family who are the trash collectors for a small town in Australia. The story has a wide berth, from drunk PTSD fathers to catholic/protestant feuds to WWII POW stories. And throughout it all are the brush fires that shape so much of Australia's landscape. A little too much time spent on the boxing, although I have to admit it was exciting; and while the POW scenes were central to under ...more
Peter
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A great story giving insights into Australia in the past as well as war and the effects on the troops. At times was tough to keep churning through though as it recounted the lives of various different characters. Overall, I liked it. If I could give it 3.5 I would, loved the last 100 pages but I feel there were too many times I was disinterested and even considered skipping some pages to give it 4. It is split into 3 sections and perhaps I should have read it as 3 separate books with a spacer in ...more
Kathleen Wrigglesworth
What a beautiful story of family, triumph and love. Crafted in Bruce Courtney’s accessible style. I personally love books set in country/bush Australia (where I was raised) and this book, for the first part anyway, takes me there with the perfectly imperfect Maloney family. I became so invested in the characters that when the book turns to tales of war (my least favourite genre) I was so connected that I still couldn’t put it down. I’m a BC fan, and to date this is by far my favourite of his nov ...more
Teddy
Jan 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although this was a different family, this one sort of picks up in Australia's history where the Potato Factory left off. I was completely charmed by the down-to-earth Maloney family that do what they have to to survive and end up making good. I have always been a true believer that we are each in control of our own destiny and like stories where hard work and perseverance in the face of difficulty pays off.

I also learned a lot of new things about Australia, WWII, and the Vietnam Conflict.
Paula
Really loved this book, especially the first half. Second half was good, but not as tight and felt like he was trying too hard to tie up loose ends. Bryce Courtenay is becoming a favorite author. Amazing characters that you absolutely fall in love with--great metaphors about making the best of what life deals you that stick!
Peter Jochinger
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This epic should become a Netflix tv series. It would score huge in the ratings if it's produced as honestly as our author. It has everything and I cherish the days that it occupied my mind.
Thank you Bryce
Shane
Jan 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Those, especially Australians, who would like a greater understanding of the Vietnam war will want to read Four Fires.
Courtney has also given a brilliant depiction of life in a small outback community. Like all of Courtney’s books it is an entertaining and enjoyable read.
Paul Hock
Aug 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this book engrossing. Courtenay has woven a mesmerizing tale about an Australian family of Irish decent. It culminates in the father's war experience as finally divuldged to one son. I love his style of writing in this Historical Fiction novel.
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I was born illegitimately in 1933 in South Africa and spent my early childhood years in a small town deep in the heart of the Lebombo mountains.

It was a somewhat isolated community and I grew up among farm folk and the African people. At the age of five I was sent to a boarding school which might be better described as a combination orphanage and reform school, where I learned to box - though less
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“The thing about fires most people don’t realise is the noise. It’s deafening so even if you shout, you can’t be heard three feet away. You can never quite get used to the fury of it, it’s like a mighty roar of anger that just keeps going. I suppose flame is beautiful, the way it leaps into the air like it’s free to do what it wants. Other elements are also free and I guess the sea can be pretty awesome, wind too, and lightning, but fire has a mind and a determination. You don’t see it as a blind raging thing, which I suppose it is, but something that attacks and thinks and changes tactics. It has a malevolence that uses surprise, dirty tricks, cunning. You get to think of it as someone, not something, and it’s someone you have to beat, but right from the start you don’t like your chances because it’s so big and unpredictable and can do so much harm.” 3 likes
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