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 of  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.