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Four Fires - Bryce Courtenay


Published: August 2006
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Published: 28th August 2006
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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 rung 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 their lives is changed forever by the four fires – passion, religion, warfare and fire itself.

Four Fires is a story of the power of love and the triumph of the human spirit against the odds.

'Not since writing The Power of One have I felt this close to a book.' Bryce Courtenay

'It's a thumping saga of small-town rural Australian family (with) a cracking pace … but be warned: construct yourself a holiday reading platform or that deckchair will collapse.' Weekend Australian

About the Author

Bryce Courtenay was born in South Africa and has lived in Sydney for the major part of his life. He is the bestselling author of The Power of One, April Fool's Day, The Potato Factory, Tommo & Hawk, Jessica, Smoky Joe's Cafe, Four Fires, Whitethorn and Brother Fish.


hubby loved it


Bought it for my husband he said he enjoyed it



Love your work Bryce


A great Aussie read

Portland VIC


Four Fires

5.0 2


. . . I'm coming in behind the fire. The ground temperature is blistering and the smoke-filled air makes breathing hard. At one stage I take off my overalls and bunch them up and, using a bit of string I find in one of the pockets, I tie the bundle to the frame of the bike. I take a drink of water and eat an apple. My clothes cling to my body and, while I don't realise it at the time, my eyebrows and my hair are already singed. There's still sparks flying around and every now and again one lands on my bare arms and burns like hell.

I can see the fire way ahead and observe as the grassfire reaches the eucalyptus forest that starts about two miles back from Boundary Road. One moment the fire is racing close to the ground, feeding on grass and shrub, a brilliant orange and magenta line stretched across to the immediate horizon, and then it disappears into the dark line of the forest.

For a moment it seems as though it's just been snuffed out, then, even where I am half a mile back, I hear the roar as the flames leap into the air. Within moments the crown canopy is alight, flames licking skywards, then a blast of heat hits me in the face and damn nearly knocks me off the little bike. The combination of eucalyptus oil and 4000-degree heat driven forward and upwards by a Force 6 wind makes it crown with a demonic ferocity. The volatile gas causes the fire to burn in the air above the canopy. It hovers, or appears to do so, petrifying the leaves in the upper canopy, sucking all the oxygen out and, in moments, large trees are reduced to blackened candlesticks.

If there was a house or anything in the way it wouldn't be like Woolshed Park, where the grassfire roared over the building and raced on. I reckon a forest fire would take everything with it, explode the windows and be inside the house in moments, the fire roaring through the rooms and out the other side like Red Box roaring in the furnace of a Lux stove. Despite the intense heat I shudder at the thought. A fire going through a eucalypt forest must be the land equivalent of a tidal wave, there's nothing going to stop it and nothing in its path it can't destroy.

Then I see something I've only heard about in stories. It's called the Red Steer and is a phenomenon that old-timers sometimes talk about, tall stories you think of as old men's dreaming. One of those things they talk about in pubs when they've had a few and they all claim they've seen, but you know they haven't. You know it's just bullshit, legends passed on, spooky stuff, because men have to have stories larger than their lives.

As I watch, the fire in the forest gains even more intensity. Its roar, even half a mile away, is now deafening. Then a huge fireball rises above the canopy, it's maybe fifty yards across and, in a split second, the hair on my arms and legs disappears and the heat on my face and uncovered skin feels as if boiling water has been poured over them. Later my face, arms and legs will blister.

The fireball rises above the burning canopy and, as if gathering momentum, swirls in the air like a catherine wheel sucking up oxygen into its furious belly. It moves higher still and seems to hesitate a moment. Then, with a roar that cracks open the surrounding air, the huge, balled inferno shoots forward in a flaming arc to land in the forest a mile ahead of the fire itself.

It is exactly as if a monstrous bomb has hit the forest. Huge uprooted trees fly high into the air as the eucalyptus explodes with flames leaping higher above the forest canopy than I've ever seen. A mushroom cloud of smoke, like the picture of the atom bomb on the Bikini Atoll, rises into the towering clouds above. It is as if the entire bushfire has consolidated into one huge ball to hurl itself forward. I shall forever think of it as being alive, a creature beyond all human reckoning. I have seen the Red Steer. I shall never forget the sight for the remainder of my days upon this earth. I have stared into the eyes of hell.
Bryce Courtenay

Bryce: in his own words...

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 as a sport and more as a means to stay alive.

But I survived to return to a small mountain town named Barberton in the North Eastern part of the country.

Here I met Doc, a drunken German music teacher who spent the next few years filling my young mind with the wonders of nature as we roamed the high mountains. His was the best education I was ever to receive, despite the scholarship I won to a prestigious boy's school and thereafter to a university in England where I studied Journalism.

I came to Australia because I was banned from returning to my own country.

This was due to the fact that I had started a weekend school for Africans in the school hall of the prestigious boy's school I attended.

One day the school hall was raided by the police who then branded me a Communist as they considered educating Africans a subversive act.

While studying journalism, I met a wonderful Australian girl.

"Come to my country!" Benita invited.

I did, and soon after arriving in Australia, married her. Benita gave me three splendid sons, Brett, Adam and Damon. Brett, who married Ann has given me three lovely grandsons, Ben now 14, Jake is about to turn 12 and Marcus is almost 6 years old.

I have lived all my Australian life in Sydney (the nicest place on earth) and, until I started writing fiction, made my career in advertising working as a copywriter and creative director.

At the age of 55 I decided to take the plunge. I had been telling stories since the age of five and had always known I would be a writer some day, though life kept getting in the way until I realised that it was either now or never.

Bryce Courtenay died at his home in Canberra, Australia. He was 79. Courtenay is survived by his second wife Christine Gee and his children Adam and Brett.

Visit Bryce Courtenay's Booktopia Author Page

ISBN: 9780143004622
ISBN-10: 014300462X
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 1068
Published: August 2006
Publisher: Penguin Books Australia
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.9  x 6.3
Weight (kg): 0.69
Edition Number: 1