The Four Feathers

The Four Feathers - A.E.W. Mason This book and the recent movie should be held up as an example of why you should read the book before seeing the film. While I very much enjoyed the movie (starring Heath Ledger and Wes Bentley), as well as the book, I was disappointed to find that some of my favourite scenes were written not by Mason, but by the screenplay adaptors. For example, my two favourite scenes in the film were when Jack Durrance loses his sight (excellent performance by Bentley) and the scene, late in the film, when he confirms that the man who saved him was Harry Feversham. Mason's sleight of hand with the chronology of the story had me hoping the scene would come, right up to the last pages. Because of that, I finished the book with a sense of diappointment. This wouldn't have happened if I'd read the book first. The film would have added to the experience, rather than the book taking away. Much as I enjoyed his book, Mason did have his habits that annoyed me. He has a habit of taking a straightforward, active sentence, and introducing a static desciption in the middle of the main clause. His use of an omniscient narrator was also very obvious and not very deft. In one scene, Willoughby is describing an encounter with Harry to Ethne, yet the reader manages to know things that Harry does not tell Willoughby. Granted, Mason makes it clear that the narrator is telling us these facts, not Willoughby, but I've seen information delivered with a much defter touch. The sleight of hand in regards to chronology, which I mentioned above, was one of the strengths of the book, which, along with an enthralling story, made me finish The Four Feathers, despite the annoyances I've mentioned. Six years pass in the course of the novel, but we are not told of those six years one after another. We jump about a little in time. Rather than witnessing Harry's triumphs, we hear of them along with Ethne, the author no doubt hoping that we will experience the same joy that she did, knowing he has redeemed his honour. This is a difficult technique to use (I have learned from experience) but Mason does it better than most. I noticed on the publisher's information page that Harry Feversham was developed from a short story that appeared in the Illustrated London News. No title is listed, nor could I find any information with my limited Internet skills. I'm always curious to see early versions of characters and novels. If anyone happens across this story, I would love to hear about it.