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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
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The Good Soldier (1915)

by Ford Madox Ford

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,792892,001 (3.79)302
  1. 31
    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (chrisharpe)
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    Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley (John_Vaughan)
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    Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi (LynnB, susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Note the first lines of each -- Kureishi does such a cool job playing w/Ford
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» See also 302 mentions

English (84)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (89)
Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
A book that I did not particularly like. Its 'all over the place' telling of the story was the thing that confused me most and that eventually very much afflicted my opinion on the novel. It didn't make a huge impression, as a matter of fact, I had a hard time keeping my attention to it and, if I left it to do necessary things, pick it back up.

The upside is, that it wasn't a very big novel and that I've crossed one off the list, although I don't think this will last long. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Jan 10, 2019 |
The first few sentences were deceptively simple. I thought this must be easier to read than Parade's End. I was wrong. Ford didn't follow a chronological order in the storyline, so you have to piece it together from bits revealed throughout the story. You hardly know the narrator's name. Nothing much happens to him but the other characters tell him things. And you wonder how reliable a narrator he is. Like the beginning of the story, the ending sentence speaks of deceptive normality too. ( )
  siok | Dec 19, 2018 |
I've read that this is often called the "perfect" novel in terms of execution but I thought it was boring. ( )
  AaronJacobs | Oct 23, 2018 |
Brilliantly written.

The narrator rambles, the story -- a terrible tragedy -- is told disjointedly, out of order, and completely coloured by the narrator's emotions and narrow point of view. But I was never lost, and it is wonderfully true to the reality of imperfect human beings, down to the way the narrator contradicts himself, justifies his mistakes, hates different people at different times during the grieving process. And he is grieving, over the 18 months or so he tells his tale. I think you can probably identify the five stages of grief just from the tone at different points in the book. (Don't expect a happy ending...)

The characters, the places, the time, the events are all vividly described. For such a short book, it's a very rich portrayal. I loved it, even when I wanted to knock heads together and shake some sense into the characters for behaving so badly to each other. ( )
  Jackdoor | Apr 16, 2018 |
What a sick, rotten, depraved society we're treated to, populated by liars and knaves, and yet I found myself heartbroken by the end, wondering what kind of magic spell Ford had cast on me. Ford is an absolute master of technique--in this case the use of flashbacks and an unreliable narrator--and I found myself riveted throughout. The novel begins with one of the most famous opening lines in literature: "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." That may well be true. ( )
  MichaelBarsa | Dec 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 84 (next | show all)
Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier seems to me to possess precisely those virtues to which the novel narrated in the first-person is best suited...A useful comparison: The Good Soldier very much brings to mind the novels of Kazuo Ishiguro.
 

» Add other authors (27 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ford Madox Fordprimary authorall editionscalculated
Henze, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kenner, HughIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lorch, FritzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saunders, MaxIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Beati Immaculati - Psalm 119:1
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This is the saddest story I have ever heard.
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I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find his path through what may be a sort of maze. I cannot help it. I have stuck to my idea of being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between the gusts of the wind and amidst the noises of the distant sea the story as it comes. And, when one discusses an affair--a long, sad affair--one goes back, one goes forward. One remembers points that one has forgotten and one explains them all the more minutely since one recognizes that one has forgotten to mention them in their proper places and that one may have given, by omitting them, a false impression. I console myself with thinking that this is a real story and that, after all, real stories are probably told best in the way a person telling a story would tell them. They will then seem most real.
In all matrimonial associations there is, I believe, one constant factor - a desire to deceive the person with whom one lives as to some weak spot in one's character or in one's career. For it is intolerable to live constantly with one human being who perceives one's small meannesses.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679722181, Paperback)

First published in 1915, Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier begins, famously and ominously, "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." The book then proceeds to confute this pronouncement at every turn, exposing a world less sad than pathetic, and more shot through with hypocrisy and deceit than its incredulous narrator, John Dowell, cares to imagine. Somewhat forgotten as a classic, The Good Soldier has been called everything from the consummate novelist's novel to one of the greatest English works of the century. And although its narrative hook--the philandering of an otherwise noble man--no longer shocks, its unerring cadences and doleful inevitabilities proclaim an enduring appeal.

Ford's novel revolves around two couples: Edward Ashburnham--the title's soldier--and his capable if off-putting wife, Leonora; and long-transplanted Americans John and Florence Dowell. The foursome's ostensible amiability, on display as they pass parts of a dozen pre-World War I summers together in Germany, conceals the fissures in each marriage. John is miserably mismatched with the garrulous, cuckolding Florence; and Edward, dashing and sentimental, can't refrain from falling in love with women whose charms exceed Leonora's. Predictably, Edward and Florence conduct their affair, an indiscretion only John seems not to notice. After the deaths of the two lovers, and after Leonora explains much of the truth to John, he recounts the events of their four lives with an extended inflection of outrage. From his retrospective perch, his recollections simmer with a bitter skepticism even as he expresses amazement at how much he overlooked.

Dowell's resigned narration is flawlessly conversational--haphazard, sprawling, lusting for sympathy. He exudes self-preservation even as he alternately condemns and lionizes Edward: "If I had had the courage and the virility and possibly also the physique of Edward Ashburnham I should, I fancy, have done much what he did." Stunningly, Edward's adultery comes to seem not merely excusable, but almost sublime. "Perhaps he could not bear to see a woman and not give her the comfort of his physical attractions," John surmises. Ford's novel deserves its reputation if for no other reason than the elegance with which it divulges hidden lives. --Ben Guterson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:00 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriateAll editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.

    Handsome, wealthy, and a veteran of service in India, Captain Edward Ashburnham appears to be the ideal “good soldier and the embodiment of English upper-class virtues. But for his creator, Ford Madox Ford, he also represents the corruption at society's core. Beneath Ashburnham's charming, polished exterior lurks a soul well-versed in the arts of deception, hypocrisy, and betrayal. Throughout the nine years of his friendship with an equally privileged American, John Dowell, Ashburnham has been having an affair with Dowell's wife, Florence. Unlike Dowell, Ashburnham's own wife, Leonora, is well aware of it. When The Good Soldier was first published in 1915, its pitiless portrait of an amoral society dedicated to its own pleasure and convinced of its own superiority outraged many readers. Stylistically daring, The Good Soldier is narrated, unreliably, by the nave Dowell, through whom Ford provides a level of bitter irony. Dowell's disjointed, stumbling storytelling not only subverts linear temporality to satisfying effect, it also reflects his struggle to accept a world without honor, order, or permanence. Called the best French novel in the English language, The Good Soldier is both tragic and darkly comic, and it established Ford as an important contributor to the development of literary modernism.

    Frank Kermode has taught at Manchester, London, and Cambridge Universities as well as at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. Among his many books the most recent are Shakespeare's Language, Pieces of My Mind, and The Age of Shakespeare.… (more)

    » see all 24 descriptions

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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