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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
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The Good Soldier (original 1915; edition 1989)

by Ford Madox Ford

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3,100None1,815 (3.8)215
Member:Cariola
Title:The Good Soldier
Authors:Ford Madox Ford
Info:Vintage (1989), Edition: Reissue, Paperback
Collections:Your library, Classic Fiction, Favorites
Rating:*****
Tags:Fiction, British, classic, 20th century

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The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)

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» See also 215 mentions

English (59)  Dutch (2)  Piratical (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 59 (next | show all)
I found this book depressingly claustrophobic. I wanted to gather up all the characters (including the narrator) and just bang their heads together. Or throw them off a cliff. Happily (OK, unhappily) they all pretty much went off a cliff anyway. Artful and stylish prose and construction, but it reminds me why I'm a Victorianist. More thoughtful commentary will follow eventually on my blog--after my book club discussion.
  rmaitzen | Feb 7, 2014 |
I would like to write a book as deeply investigated and hotly debated as this one. Written during the outbreak of the first World War, this is a novel about two enmeshed couples, marital affairs, passion and the forbidden object of passion. One of the marriages is between a tart and an asexual man (the narrator). The other marriage is between an uptight woman and a man who is generous of spirit and body (courtly knight or lech, depending on your view). But the beauty of this book, for me, isn't as much in what it's about as in how the story is told. Continued here
( )
  liliannattel | Feb 6, 2014 |
Dreadful. A long, boring non-story with muddled, plodding writing. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
"This is the saddest story I have ever heard." - nice first line. A wealthy American spends time in Europe with his ill wife, and they befriend the Ashburnhams, a couple of similar age who appear to be more or less perfect. They aren't of course, nothing and nobody in the book is. What they actually are is never quite clear - the book is full of uncertainty and the reader is never quite sure how the book's events come about, or how accurate the picture being given of the various characters is (is the narrator really wealthy or even American? Is his wife really ill?).

This is really good, it reminded of Conrad in its approach and psychological intricacy, and it turns out that Ford and Conrad were friends, so that's doubtless no coincidence. ( )
  roblong | Jan 11, 2014 |
Kind of like watching acid eat into a nice painting- slow, sometimes pleasurably excruciating (look! it's spreading to her eyes!), sometimes just dull. I admit I read this because I felt that I ought to, which isn't usually the best basis for reading a book. Sometimes it works out well, of course, but not so much with this. The third quarter was amazing, and made it worth while, but the first third in particular was a bit of a drag. Like Conrad writing a James novel, except instead of slightly unreliable, anachronistic narrative, it's completely unreliable and there's zero 'progression' of any kind. It reminded me a bit of Catch 22 in that way, except not funny. I suspect this would be great fun to study, too... but for night-time edification I'll stick to Conrad writing Conrad novels and James writing James. ( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 59 (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 (41 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ford Madox Fordprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Henze, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kenner, HughIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lorch, FritzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Beati Immaculati - Psalm 119:1
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This is the saddest story I have ever heard.
Quotations
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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:39 -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)

    (summary from another edition)

    » see all 7 descriptions

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