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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

The Good Soldier (1915)

by Ford Madox Ford

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4,046922,018 (3.79)313
Ford Madox Ford's 1915 novel The Good Soldier has established itself as a masterpiece of literary modernism, taking its place alongside Ulysses and The Waste Land as a groundbreaking experimental work.
  1. 31
    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (chrisharpe)
  2. 10
    Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi (LynnB, susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Note the first lines of each -- Kureishi does such a cool job playing w/Ford
  3. 00
    Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels have self-deluded narrators using strategies of deferral and digression.
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» See also 313 mentions

English (87)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  Hebrew (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (92)
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)
Written in 1914, with the title The Good Soldier you'd be forgiven for expecting this classic to be a war novel. However, the nearest we come to notions of war in this novel are those of the domestic strife kind concerning two couples who Ford refers to as "good people".

Ford Maddox Ford was an interesting character. Rubbing shoulders with the literary greats of the time, he co-wrote several novels with Joseph Conrad (touchy subject - Conrad got all of the credit from the publishers), published works in The English Review (which he founded) by the likes of Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, Conrad, Ezra Pound and Yeats, and in Paris published work by Hemingway, Joyce, Jean Rhys and Gertrude Stein in The Transatlantic Review. Despite prolifically writing his own memoirs, poetry, novels and critical essays, Ford was ultimately left disappointed and disillusioned that so many of his writing contemporaries, whose work he had championed as a publisher, left him in their wake with their much greater literary successes.

That being said, so much about this book fascinated me, despite at times befuddling me. In the introduction (written post it's original publication), Ford claims it was his best book, and I think it deserves to be remembered alongside the much better known publications of the era from his contemporaries. He insists that the book was in his head for 10 years, but as it was about personal friends he had to wait until they'd passed before being able to tell their story. Knowing as we do his own backstory of extra-marital affairs, one suspects that you might not have too look too far to find where his "friend" inspiration came from.

Originally Ford wished the novel to be called The Saddest Story before his publishers put their foot down, given the already sad enough reality of being a country at war. This theme plays out throughout the novel as the narrator reflects on the wasteful tragedy of the spiralling events that take place, and the sadness of a story where none of the characters ultimately find happiness.

The Good Soldier has been both criticised and revered for the manner in which it is narrated, a chronological hotch-potch that skips back and forth and round and round rather than being a linear retelling. Although I had to check back every now and then to make sure I hadn't missed something important, I'm definitely in the 'it works' camp. The narration style creates complex layers which definitely make you work as a reader, piecing together disjointed narrative which segues and digresses between what was known at the time and what was discovered later by the narrator to be true. However, in making sense of the story as you read it takes you on what feels like quite a literary journey, and when I reached the end and the last piece of the puzzle slipped into place it felt like I'd just experienced a pretty fine novel.

4 stars - I doubt that this will be my favourite novel of the year, but it was a good read nonetheless. ( )
  AlisonY | Feb 29, 2020 |
I found this book to be amazing. The psychotherapist part of me loved it the most. I may be wrong in this but I think those who do not do my job may not be aware that such toxic, incredible, unbelievable...people and relationships actually exist undercover among seemingly “normal”people. This novel is fiction but, truly, as Dowell says, “It’s a queer and fantastic world...with broken,tumultuous lives” ( )
  joyfulmimi | Nov 9, 2019 |
A classic novel dealing with the dissection of three marriages. But the narrator himself is revealed as unreliable, so where is the reader left by the tales? In addition Ford writes this novel in a series of flashbacks, which aids the general air of revelation, and dissonance. It is good to read, though finally not so much entertaining as engrossing. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 12, 2019 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 87 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ford, Ford Madoxprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bradshaw, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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.
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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Average: (3.79)
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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