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Beau Geste (1924)

par Percival Christopher Wren

Séries: Beau Geste series (1)

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8352219,892 (3.93)49
A column of French Legionnaires finds one of their fortresses manned by dead men. It looks like the sergeant was killed by one of his own troops. Who could have done it? A flashback then unravels the mystery of the three English Geste brothers. The brothers, orphaned early in life, are raised by an aunt. Their raucous youths are filled with the literature of adventure and ritualized horseplay centered around these myths and legends. So when the family's prized Blue Water sapphire turns up missing, each of the young men confesses to being the thief in order to protect the others, and one by one they head off to join the French Foreign Legion. The three brothers meet up in the deserts of Africa, where they fall under the command of the malevolent Sergeant Lejaune. Not content to merely be a martinet, Lejaune sets his sights on stealing the jewel, which rumor holds to be in the brothers' possession. Meanwhile, the unruly troops he commands are planning a mutiny, and the marauding Tauregs pin this badly outnumbered and bitterly divided unit of Legionnaires at Fort Zinderneuf. The ensuing drama plays itself out as the French forces battle overwhelming odds. Ultimately, only a handful of men survive to discover the truth behind the Blue Water's disappearance. A classic, rip-roaring tale of adventure!… (plus d'informations)
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  Daniel464 | Aug 22, 2021 |
As I understand it, this is one of those archetypical books of an earlier era in which noble, privileged Englishmen ran off to the French Foreign Legion so as to confront adventure and romance. They're all so honest, upright and noble, never noticing for a moment that they're hideously racist and are actively supporting a system of empire in which they think it's the white man's God-given right to plunder the wogs, or something. They euphamize this all by calling it "peaceful penetration". It sounds like a so-called conservative's approach to shrugging off an act of rape. "I didn't rape the woman, your honor, I was merely honoring her by an act of peaceful penetration."

Anyway, this is one of those kinds of books, once considered part of the swash-buckling adventure books all young boys grew up reading (at least in my father's time). It's not bad, really, but the assumed superiority of these people who had everything handed to them on a silver spoon, does get wearying. Of course that attitude is still with us. And also, of course, for the most part, people don't understand that. It's what they grew up with and most of us don't question much. We seem wired to go with the con so long as there's a veneer or silver polish on it.

Whatever, the book is split into roughly three parts. It begins with an officer of the French Foreign Legion coming up to an outpost where all the soldiers are dead, but have been propped up at the parapets so as to seem like the fort is still fully manned. The bugler climbs over the walls to investigate, then disappears. The officer then climbs over the walls, and finds the fort's commander has been bayoneted through the chest. He is clutching a letter, which purports to be a confession to a jewelry theft by one Michael Geste. Michael Geste is the nephew and ward of a Lady Patricia something-or-other, whose estate the French officer has visited a few times. On the way home, he tells his story to a British Officer who has been pining for Lady Patricia for 25 years or so. Naturally, they want to do a full investigation.

Then we cut to a scene of six idle, well coddled young people larking around on Lady Patricia's estate, in between sessions away at school. There are the three Geste brothers, Lady Patricia's daughter, Claudia, the daughter's orphan companion, Isobel, and another hanger on, Augustus, whom everyone hates. At some point, they are admiring a special blue sapphire that Lady Patricia owns. The lights go out, and when they come back on, the sapphire is gone. They do various forms of investigation, but can find neither the sapphire nor the thief. One by one, the Geste brothers disappear, so as to be noble and cast suspicion on themselves and away from everyone else. First goes Michael, the ringleader of the merry band of dependents. Then his twin Digby bolts. Finally, younger brother John, who is also the narrator of much of the story, leaves. They have all run off to join the French Foreign Legion for romance and adventure.

So, the third part of the book is John's telling about the romance and adventure in the Foreign Legion, his finding his brothers, and so forth. There's not much romance and adventure, actually, mostly tedium, tedium in the so-called action and tedium in the telling. Eventually, we get some resolution regarding the jewel theft and realize how truly noble and high minded these young men are, despite their being lackeys of the imperialist system, or something.

As I understand it, Wren wrote a bunch of subsequent off shoots from this book. Perhaps they are indeed filled with swash buckling adventure. This book, while interesting for its significance in helping to understand one's cultural history, seemed to be to be overly filled with people's thinking through their options regarding one method of action or another, and not all that much actual action, romance and adventure.
( )
1 voter lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
The kind of book Kipling would have written if he had only been interested in telling of adventures. The British boys are very British, and they kill a lot of Arabs with their superior technology. The framing narrative, a long conversation between two officers, is very like Kipling, and quite entertaining as the mannerisms of the British and the French officers are contrasted. The anti-semitism is especially baroque. That the British boys choose to learn Arabic is typical.

The main part of the book is a first person narrative, an exciting story, rich with detail, and with an ironic twist at the end.

The book fits the era well, Sabatini's "Scaramouche" had been published just a few years earlier. ( )
  themulhern | Apr 9, 2016 |
This story had me hooked right from the beginning. I was very intrigued by the boyhood dream becoming reality. Though it is not the happiest of endings, it is a reminder that life is not a game. We need to be ready for whatever it may bring. ( )
  mgeorge2755 | Aug 7, 2015 |
When I was a girl, boys would talk about running away to join the Foreign Legion. I have a feeling this book, or maybe the movies made based on it are where they got this idea. The dramatic story of the French Foreign Legion, where men hid from the law or a woman - but never from death!
Call me naive, but I had my doubts about if there really was a French Foreign Legion. Not only was I wrong about it existing, it still exists, they even have a website: Whatever your origins, nationality or religion might be, whatever qualifications you may or may not have, whatever your social or professional status might be, whether you are married or single, the French Foreign Legion offers you a chance to start a new life...
http://www.legion-recrute.com/en/
This book is much more than an adventure story, it has two mysteries, that end up being related. The first is "STRANGE EVENTS AT ZINDERNEUG" where, after receiving a distress call the French Legionnaires arrive find it manned by dead men. One of the men has a note on him saying he stole the "Blue Water", the note is signed "Beau Geste".

That is the second mystery and for that we go back in time and learn about the Geste brothers, Beau, Digby and John. All were present when the sapphire was stolen and all confessed and ran away to join the French Foreign Legion. Adventures ensue.

This is a very entertaining read, more than just an adventure/mystery tale it is also about loyalty and doing the right thing, or perhaps the wrong thing but for a very good reasons.

After I read the book I saw the movie Beau Geste (1939) with Gary Cooper and Ray Milland and others. I'm not a Gary Cooper fan, but the movie was pretty good. It stayed faithful, more or less to the book.

P.S.: P.C. stands for Percival Christopher. There is some speculation that Percival Christopher was actually in the Foreign Legion, based in part by how accurate his descriptions of Legion life were but there is no proof of this. There are two sequels to this book "Beau Sabreur" and "Beau Ideal". Both have good reviews but I haven't read them. ( )
  BellaFoxx | Feb 14, 2015 |
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Mr. George Lawrence, C.M.G., First Class District Officer of His Majesty's Civil Service, sat at the door of his tent and viewed the African desert scene with the eye of extreme disfavour.
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A column of French Legionnaires finds one of their fortresses manned by dead men. It looks like the sergeant was killed by one of his own troops. Who could have done it? A flashback then unravels the mystery of the three English Geste brothers. The brothers, orphaned early in life, are raised by an aunt. Their raucous youths are filled with the literature of adventure and ritualized horseplay centered around these myths and legends. So when the family's prized Blue Water sapphire turns up missing, each of the young men confesses to being the thief in order to protect the others, and one by one they head off to join the French Foreign Legion. The three brothers meet up in the deserts of Africa, where they fall under the command of the malevolent Sergeant Lejaune. Not content to merely be a martinet, Lejaune sets his sights on stealing the jewel, which rumor holds to be in the brothers' possession. Meanwhile, the unruly troops he commands are planning a mutiny, and the marauding Tauregs pin this badly outnumbered and bitterly divided unit of Legionnaires at Fort Zinderneuf. The ensuing drama plays itself out as the French forces battle overwhelming odds. Ultimately, only a handful of men survive to discover the truth behind the Blue Water's disappearance. A classic, rip-roaring tale of adventure!

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823.912 — Literature English English fiction Modern Period 20th Century 1901-1945

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Tantor Media

2 éditions de ce livre ont été publiées par Tantor Media.

Éditions: 1400102138, 1400111331

 

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