Review: Beau Geste, P.C. Wren

I am so glad right now that I invented my Sparkly Snuggle Hearts category. Because I have a weakness a mile wide for early twentieth century adventure novels, and I know that they are not objectively books of value. My parents gave me Beau Geste and its two sequels for Christmas a couple of years ago, and you know I brought them all with me to New York. I love these books so damn much. If you read them, you will probably think that I am a terrible person for managing to like books so blatantly classist, racist, and sexist. You will read the bits where John is all, When one has been at Eton one doesn’t wish to associate with Italians and lying thieves from the East End of London, or whatever, and you will probably never trust anything I say about any book ever again because you will think I am an imperialist asshole with bad taste in books.

But Beau Geste is just so exciting and thrilling! It starts with a French officer telling the story of coming upon an abandoned fort in the middle of the desert of French North Africa. The ramparts are manned by dead soldiers, the fort completely empty except for a dead British soldier and a bayoneted adjutant. In the British soldier’s hand is a signed confession stating that he, Michael Geste, stole the legendary Blue Water sapphire from his aunt, Lady Brandon. It is all very mysterious, particularly as there had been no indication that the legendary sapphire in question had been taken at all.

We then jump backwards in time. John Geste, our narrator, is the youngest of three orphaned brothers who live with their aunt, Lady Brandon. The eldest brother, Michael, is known as Beau Geste because he’s such a radiant example of British honour and manhood; twin Digby, while hardly less upright and honourable, is a bit of jokester. Also living at Brandon Abbas are cousins Claudia and Isobel, as well as priggish Augustus. One day as they are all viewing Aunt Patricia’s priceless sapphire, the lights go out. When they come back on, the jewel is gone. Cue dramatic music.

Next thing you know, Michael has taken off for parts unknown, leaving behind a note in which he claims that he was the one who stole the Blue Water. Digby and John don’t believe this, of course, knowing as they do his sterling character; they are sure that he has made the confession in order to shield the true thief. So off goes Digby the next day, claiming that in fact he was the thief; and John, feeling honour-bound to do no less than his brothers, follow suit, even though he has just recently discovered in himself a mad passion for Isobel, who reciprocates just as madly. But honour dictates that he must go. The Geste boys all join the French Foreign Legion, where they meet American cowboys Hank and Buddy who, like–

There are tears in my eyes right now because this book generally, and Hank and Buddy in particular, fill my heart with such sparkly joy. Hank and Buddy say things like “We’re sure for it, pard. Our name’s mud. That section-boss makes me feel like when I butted into a grizzly-b’ar. On’y I liked the b’ar better.” Oh my God, I simply couldn’t possibly love this book any more than I do. Some of the men in the Legion determine that they will rebel against their wicked, vicious adjutant, and Michael and John call them fatheads and strive to remind them of their duty as men and soldiers. IT IS SO GREAT. (Great in the sense that it is complete imperialist trash. I know it is, I know, I know.) Look, they all leave home and they join the French Foreign Legion to shield the rest of their family members from suspicion of theft. It is so self-righteous-mazing I don’t even know what to say about it.

This is my guilty pleasure: early twentieth century imperialist adventure novels. Please don’t be my enemy now.

Edit to add: I just have to say, since I’m already gushing, y’all are the BEST. The BEST. I mean it. Every time I think the book blogging community has maxed out on being amazing, y’all do something else that just resets the scale. I mentioned on Alita’s blog the other day that her epistolary chick lit book sounded like just the thing I’d like to read with a cup ofΒ  hot chocolate under a nice thick blanket in my cold New York apartment. So she sent me the book, with a packet of hot chocolate mix. It came in the mail yesterday evening. How nice is that? Thank you, Alita, you made my day. And — I just can’t say this enough — thank you, book blogosphere, for being so relentlessly amazing.

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38 thoughts on “Review: Beau Geste, P.C. Wren

  1. I know that secretly you want more blogging Enem1ez so that last line seems a bit disengenuous (aha my five penny word for the day) πŸ˜‰

    I love the Sparkly Snuggle Hearts category, because there are lots of books which produce reactions like ‘Why are you saying these things?’ but at the same time *this other thing over here is very cool*. Reminds me of someone’s post recapping a book Anthony Powell and how they were going along swimmingly enjoying the family saga and detail, only to come across Powell saying the equivalent of ‘girls are icky and not smart’ – their recation was very much along the ‘Why, why – can’t we just be friends Anthony?’ line, mixed with ‘ooo balls and social occassions with intrigue, fun’.

    • Yes, but I only want Enem1ez where I am in the right, like about dual timeline novels and their awesomeness. I don’t want Enem1ez who hate me for being a racist bastard.

      Exactly true about the Sparkly Snuggle Hearts category. That is exactly what I invented it for.

  2. You like this kind of sparkly snuggle hearts stuff but tell me unicorns are TOO sparkly? No accounting for taste. I think the appeal of Beau Geste must be much like the appeal of Rafael Sabatini novels for my husband. I watched the Captain Blood movie with him, and it was fun. I believe The Black Swan is next.

    • Unicorns are too sparkly. And the virgin thing is weird (though I know that one story dealt with it in a funny way).

      OMG YES to Rafael Sabatini. I love him. Captain Blood and The Seahawk and Scaramouche are all amazing.

  3. I have actually never read an Imperialist adventure novel, but your love for this book makes me want to give it try. I love the cowboys and their slang, and I think I would probably really enjoy this one. Once again you have picked up a book out of the depths of obscurity and made me want to read it right now. Wonderful review, Jenny!

    • It’s all down to my mother. I’d never have heard of this book, or developed a taste of imperialist trash, if not for my lovely mother and, before that, her grandfather. A family of readers is a wonderful thing. πŸ™‚

  4. I’ve become MOST fond of Beau Sabreur, although Beau Ideal does have that Scandalous Secret. And hidden somewhere under the mountains of newspapers and hoarded garbage at Nutty Uncle’s house is a sequel to these three. I forget the name of it, and it is impossible to find (I’ve searched) but it has the saga of Owen returning to fulfill his promise to the Death Angel. (except, y’know – not the WHOLE promise).

  5. Lovely review! So fun to find a fellow addict of imperialist adventures (I’ve had The Four Feathers on my TBR list for awhile). I hadn’t read this book in many years and had forgotten about the Americans and just how very much I loved the whole French Foreigh Legion thing.

    • Thank you! It’s great to hear from someone else who’s read this — I sometimes feel like my mother and I are the only people in the world who know about Beau Geste and its sequels. :p

  6. I’m so glad the package arrived safe and sound. It was sent to me by another blogger after I mentioned I’d like to read it. Just sharing the book blogger love πŸ™‚

    So, Beau Geste. This sounds fun! I’m quite sure I’ve never ever read any early twentieth century imperialist adventure novels. Perhaps I should try one?

    • You are so great! I’m reading it and drinking my hot chocolate tomorrow evening. πŸ™‚

      You should try one, and it should be Beau Geste. Failing that, try H. Rider Haggard’s She. Absolutely classic.

  7. Okay, and now I really want to read Beau Geste! Haha. I’m okay with imperialist trash so long as the person reading it knows its imperialist trash.

    Another book to add to my “need to secure a copy of this book” list!

  8. I love the Sparkly Snuggle Hearts category…I love it when bloggers gush! I think it’s important to remember when a novel was written, which excuses a lot of potentially annoying elements. I, for one, shan’t be your enemy. In fact, I’m rather intrigued to read Beau Geste!

  9. I love, love, LOVE this book! Hooray! You are so right. I love the uprightness and honourableness and John being a Stout Fella and all. Ah, I have to read them again.

      • I think we may have discussed it; in fact it might even have contributed to my love of your blog πŸ˜‰

        Our parents have 1920s hardback copies and I eventually persuaded all my sisters into reading them, and they were converted, and now we are all desperate to each have our own copies. I have the first two, in mismatched paperback.

        Maybe Beau Geste will be my book-to-read-at-the-airport-during-Christmas-journeys. Mmm, good plan!

        (P.S. I love your falling snow on this page πŸ™‚ )

  10. Ohmigosh, that slang is FABULOUS. I love it! It is just as colorful as Georgette Heyer, I feel πŸ™‚ Though I do not like Imperialists myself, I think it might be ok to try these out!

    Funny you were told to join the French Foreign Legion- I think there is a book out there describing how that group was made up of former criminals and the like πŸ˜‰

  11. My favorite imperialist trash writer is H Rider Haggard. Have you read him? Aside from having a great name, the stuff he comes up with is just amazing. King Solomon’s Mines, if you haven’t read it already!

  12. This is totally hypocritical of me, since I JUST TODAY wrote a review slamming a book for being classist and racist and ethnocentric, but this sounds like tons and tons of fun and I rather want to read it.

  13. I found Beau Geste at a yard sale when I was twelve, the ideal age for a girl to get her first taste of sparkle hearts and death and comradeship and thrilling platonic man-love . . . or er, for some girls. I did not know there were sequels!

    Have you read The Sheik?

    • OMG, the sequels are so great. Hank and Buddy — I can’t wait until you see what happens to Hank and Buddy. You have to get the sequels, like, yesterday, and read them straightaway.

      And HELL YES I have read The Sheik. And it was amazing. And I am super excited to see you around again. πŸ˜€

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