Cinematic Beau Geste buried in novel’s details

1926-07_beaugesteThe French phrase beau geste refers to a gracious gesture that has unwelcome consequences.

It’s an apt title for P. C. Wren’s novel about British orphan lads with the surname Geste.


Beau Geste by P[ercival] C[hristopher] Wren

J. B. Lippincott. 412 p. 1926 bestseller #7. My grade: C+


Michael “Beau” Geste, a natural leader; his twin brother, Digby; and their younger brother John are reared by their aunt, Lady Patricia,  in upper class comfort at Brandon Abbas.

When a precious jewel known as the “Blue Water” disappears, suspicion falls on the boys.

Beau takes off to join the French Foreign Legion, followed separately by Digby and John.

Having pledged themselves to serve France, they refuse to join a mutiny against the despicable Sergeant Lejaune that is prevented only by an Arab attack.

Only John survives the desert ordeal, returning to England where the mystery of the jewel theft is revealed.

Wren makes clear that Geste boys represent an entire class of British who do “the right thing” regardless of consequences: In the world war just ended and the one coming soon, such boys are the heroes of the Empire.

You might want to view the film version of this novel. Beau Geste is a rip-snorter of a mystery-adventure tale, but pages of detail bury the excitement.

The plot, however, is admirably suited to film presentation where an image can reveal 40 pages of detail.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni

In 1926 Beau Sabreur foresaw Islamic State

Some novels deserve to be read despite all the author’s efforts to render them unreadable.  Beau Sabreur falls into that category.

Half of P. C. Wren’s Beau Sabreur is the fictional memoir of Major Henri de Beaujolais; the other half tells basically the same events from the perspective of two French Foreign Legion deserters.

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Beau Sabreur by Percival Christopher Wren

Grosset & Dunlap, 1925, 1926. 1926 bestseller #5. My grade: C+.


Henri’s uncle, who heads France’s war ministry, plans to build a French African empire.

He wants his nephew to be his tool.

Henri agrees.

He volunteers for military service, enters cavalry training, and in due course Henri is posted to Africa where he becomes a secret agent.

Henri receives orders from his uncle to negotiate a federation of tribal leaders that will align with France against a Islamic caliphate.

As jihadists strike Zaguig, Henri and his men smuggled two white women out with them.

Henri’s men are killed.

He and the women are captured by Arabs who want the women for their wives.

Henri wants Mary Vanbrugh for his wife, but does he love her more than he loves his county?

The romance is predictable and silly, but the split perspective actually ruins the novel.

Beau Sabreur is worth reading today only for its anticipation of 21st century jihaddists and the emergence of Africa as a economic force.

©2016 Linda Gorton Aragoni