First off, thanks to the terrific book ideas shared after my post "What Books Do You Love to Read Again and Again?" (click HERE for that post). We have thoroughly enjoyed reading the titles that were shared.
In this brief post I'm going to share a few excerpts from two of my all-time favorite books. Kind of like movie trailers, but for books.
From "The Terrible Hours: The Man Behind the Greatest Submarine Rescue in History" by Peter Maas:
"Driven by battery power, the Squalus slid down into the ocean. Outside, had anyone been watching, he would have seen the cold North Atlantic boil over her elongated hull, reach for her three-inch deck gun, and surge up around the base of her superstructure.
"Then, suddenly, she was gone." (p.29, softcover edition)
"For Isaacs, time was fast running out. But, his face pressed against the eyeport, he seemed unable to tear himself away from the frightful sight in the forward engine room. He could not see any crewmen in there, just the thundering ocean. Then he became aware of the icy water lapping around his waist. Before he could move, it had almost reached his armpits. He frantically propelled himself away from the door, actually swimming, and barged right into one of the mess tables hidden by the rising surge. Isaacs went under, but he had a hand around a leg of the table bolted to the deck and he came up spewing salt water from his mouth. He kept going and Maness, holding the door open an instant longer, saw him. Isaacs floundered into the control room and dropped to his knees, gasping for breath." (pp. 48-49, softcover edition)
If you want to find out how these men escaped from their crippled sub on the Atlantic floor, you'll need to read the book :)
From "The Four Feathers" by A.E.W. Mason:
"And this is what he saw: Harry Feversham holding in the centre of the hall a lighted candle high above his head, and looking up towards the portraits of the Fevershams as they mounted the walls and were lost in the darkness of the roof. A muffled sound of voices came from the other side of the door-panels. But the hall itself was silent. Harry stood remarkably still, and the only thing which moved at all was the yellow flame of the candle as it flickered apparently in some faint draught. The light wavered across the portraits, glowing here upon a red coat, glittering there upon a corselet of steel. For there was not one man's portrait upon the walls which did not glisten with the colours of a uniform, and there were the portraits of many men. Father and son, the Fevershams had been soldiers from the very birth of the family. Father and son, in Ramillies wigs and steel breastplates, in velvet coats with powder on their hair, in shakos and swallow-tails, in high stocks and frogged coats, they looked down upon this last Feversham, summoning him to the like service. They were men of one stamp; no distinction of uniform could obscure their relationship - lean-faced men, hard as iron, rugged in feature, thin-lipped, with firm chins and straight level mouths, narrow foreheads, and the steel-blue inexpressive eyes; men of courage and resolution, no doubt, but without subtleties, or nerves, or that burdensome gift of imagination; sturdy men, a little wanting in delicacy, hardly conspicuous for intellect; to put it frankly, men rather stupid - all of them, in a word, first-class fighting men, but not one of them a first-class soldier.
"But Harry Feversham plainly saw none of their defects. To him they were one and all portentous and terrible. He stood before them in the attitude of a criminal before his judges, reading his condemnation in their cold unchanging eyes. Lieutenant Sutch understood more clearly why the flame of the candle flickered. There was no draught in the hall, but the boy's hand shook. And finally, as though he heard the mute voices of his judges delivering some sentence and admitted its justice, he actually bowed to the portraits on the wall. As he raised his head, he saw Lieutenant Sutch in the embrasure of the doorway." (pp.11-12, softcover edition)
"The post is in," she said. "There are letters, one, two, three for you, and a little box."
She held the box out to him as she spoke, a little white jeweller's cardboard box, and was at once struck by its absence of weight.
"It must be empty," she said.
Yet it was most carefully sealed and tied. Feversham broke the seals and unfastened the string. He looked at the address. The box had been forwarded from his lodgings, and he was not familiar with the handwriting.
"There is some mistake," he said as he shook the lid open; and then he stopped abruptly. Three white feathers fluttered out of the box, swayed and rocked for a moment in the air, and then, one after another, settled gently down upon the floor. The lay like flakes of snow upon the dark polished boards. But they were not whiter than Harry Feversham's cheeks. He stood and stared at the feathers until he felt a light touch upon his arm. He looked and saw Ethne's gloved hand upon his sleeve.
"What does it mean?" she asked. (p. 41, softcover edition)
"Three little white feathers," she said slowly, and then, with a sob in her throat, "This afternoon we were under the elms down by the Lennon river - do you remember, Harry? - just you and I. And then come three little white feathers; and the world's at an end." (p.43, softcover edition)
"Praying and cursing with the sound of the pitiless whips falling perpetually upon the backs of the hindmost, the prisoners jostled and struggled at the narrow entrance to the prison house. Already it was occupied by some thirty captives, lying upon the swamped mud floor or supported against the wall in the last extremities of weakness and disease. Two hundred more were driven in that night and penned there till morning. The room was perhaps thirty feet square, of which four feet were occupied by a solid pillar supporting the roof. There was no window in the building; a few small apertures near the roof made a pretence of giving air, and into this foul and pestilent hovel the prisoners were packed, screaming and fighting. The door was closed upon them, utter darkness replaced the twilight, so that a man could not distinguish even the outlines of the heads of the neighbours who wedged him in." (p.298, softcover edition)
"He heard the bolts dragged back at the last; he saw the door open, and the good daylight. He stood up, and with Ibrahim's help, protected this new comrade until the eager rush was past. Then he supported him out into the sareeba. Worn, wasted in body and face, with a rough beard straggled upon his chin, and his eyes all sunk and very bright, it was still Harry Feversham. Trench laid him down in a corner of the sareeba where there would be shade, and in a few hours shade would be needed. Then with the rest he scrambled to the Nile for water, and brought it back. As he poured it down Feversham's throat Feversham seemed for a moment to recognise him. But it was only for a moment; and the incoherent tale of his adventures began again. Thus, after five years, and for the first time since Trench had dined as Feversham's guest in the high rooms overlooking St. James's Park, the two men met in the House of Stone." (p.312, softcover edition)
Can you imagine Harry in the hall, a young man of perhaps fifteen, looking into the faces of his fathers dressed in uniform, pondering his future as a soldier - fearing he will be the first coward in the Feversham family tree?
Maybe you're curious as to why the book title is "The Four Feathers" when only three feathers fell out of the tiny box? And what on earth ever becomes of Ethne?
What about Feversham's arrival in the Stone House (a prison in Omduram), where he meets his old friend Trench? Who is Trench, you ask? One of Feversham's military friends - one who sent him a little white feather (the symbol of cowardice). Here is Harry Feversham, half dead in the worst prison of the day, for the sole purpose of asking Trench to take the feather back if Harry has indeed proven himself to no longer be a coward.
Good books change the way you view the world; they inspire and encourage you (provided they are the right books). And the greatest Book of is all God's love letter to us, and reading it is the highlight of my day.
Day 159 done :)
Jan L. Burt