“When the local train loafed in, I got into it, with a stiff upper lip and a bleeding heart, and set out on as eventful and strange a journey as ever a man took.” – Beau Geste
Beau Geste by P.C. Wren is one of the most exciting strories I have ever read. Set in the English countryside, France and North Africa, it was published in 1924 and adapted for the screen on several occasions. I first came across it when quizzing my father about his favourite books. Beau Geste was mentioned and swiftly procured. I couldn’t put it down.
On the surface it is an intricately crafted adventure story that follows the lives of the three Geste brothers and their involvement in the mysterious disappearance of a precious jewel known as the “Blue Water”. Michael “Beau” Geste joins the French foreign legion, followed by his brothers, Digby and John. The crux of the intrigue is centred around events that unfold at Fort Zinderneuf in the North African desert.
Beau Geste is about the English upper classes and questions of honourable behaviour. The title itself is Michael’s name, but also the French for “noble gesture”. Gentlemanly ways were increasingly becoming an emblem of the past at the time Wren was writing. In weaving together the complex threads of mystery, he creates a fabric that reestablishes honourable action at the centre of the human psyche.
I enjoyed Beau Geste most over a bowl of yoghurt, blueberries, raspberry jam, honey and granola. Sweetness is essential when reading something riveting and nothing beats the sharp fuchsia kick of seedy raspberry jam as the sun rises. I love eating breakfast out because of the thrill of sampling something new, though often the greatest concoctions materialise on one’s morning fridge raid.