HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
Loading...

The Good Soldier (original 1915; edition 1989)

by Ford Madox Ford

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,325761,636 (3.77)256
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

Work details

The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford (1915)

  1. 31
    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (chrisharpe)
  2. 00
    Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley (John_Vaughan)
  3. 00
    Intimacy by Hanif Kureishi (LynnB, susanbooks)
    susanbooks: Note the first lines of each -- Kureishi does such a cool job playing w/Ford
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 256 mentions

English (73)  Dutch (2)  Hebrew (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (77)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
I waffled a bit between 3.5 and 4 stars for this classic. While there were things about it that didn't appeal to me (some Catholic bashing for example), it made an impression on me & made me think. Two different but equally dysfunctional marriages are laid bare throughout the course of the book.

It is written in an unusual style that I am not sure that I liked but worked well here -- the narrator
writes as if the reader knew some fact or event that had not been revealed yet and then later explains it. For example, in the beginning of Part II, he is relating his own history talking about how he and Florence became married. He remarks "she might have bolted with the fellow, before or after she married me." What fellow? who is this person never before even alluded to? The reader begins to have suspicions of who it is and then several pages later it is revealed.

As the story progresses, it becomes more and more clear that this is a highly unreliable narrator. And his shifting perspective may be not so much of a shift as a revealing of underlying views formerly hidden (from the reader and perhaps from the narrator's own conscious mind). ( )
  leslie.98 | May 14, 2016 |
The Good Soldier is narrated by the character John Dowell, half of one of the couples whose dissolving relationships form the subject of the novel. Dowell tells the stories of those dissolutions as well as the deaths of three characters and the madness of a fourth, in a rambling, non-chronological fashion that leaves gaps for the reader to fill.

The novel opens with the famous line, “This is the saddest story I have ever heard.” Dowell explains that for nine years he, his wife Florence and their friends Captain Edward Ashburnham (the “good soldier” of the book’s title) and his wife Leonora had an ostensibly normal friendship while Edward and Florence sought treatment for their heart ailments at a spa in Nauheim, Germany.

As it turns out, nothing in the relationships or in the characters is as it first seems. Florence’s heart ailment is a fiction she perpetrated on John to force them to stay in Europe so that she could continue her affair with an American thug named Jimmy. Edward and Leonora have a loveless, imbalanced marriage broken by his constant infidelities (both of body and heart) and Leonora’s attempts to control Edward’s affairs (both financial and romantic). Dowell is a fool and is coming to realize how much of a fool he is, as Florence and Edward had an affair under his nose for nine years without John knowing until Florence was dead.

Florence’s affair with Edward leads her to commit suicide when she realizes that Edward is falling in love with his and Leonora’s young ward, Nancy Rufford, the daughter of Leonora's closest friend. Florence sees the two in an intimate conversation and rushes back into the resort, where she sees John talking to a man she knows (and who knows of her affair with Jimmy) but whom John doesn’t know. Assuming that her relationship with Edward and her marriage to John are over, Florence takes prussic acid – which she has carried for years in a vial that John thought held her heart medicine – and dies.

With that story told, Dowell moves on to tell the story of Edward and Leonora’s relationship, which appears normal but which is a power struggle that Leonora wins. Dowell runs through several of Edward’s affairs and peccadilloes, including his possibly innocent attempt to comfort a crying servant on a train; his affair with the married Maisie Maidan, the one character in the book whose heart problem was unquestionably real, and his bizarre tryst in Monte Carlo and Antibes with a kept woman known as La Dolciquita. Edward’s philandering ends up costing them a fortune in bribes, blackmail and gifts for his lovers, leading Leonora to take control of Edward’s financial affairs. She gradually gets him out of debt.

Edward’s last affair is his most scandalous, as he becomes infatuated with their young ward, Nancy. Nancy came to live with them after leaving a convent where her parents had sent her; her mother was a violent alcoholic, and her father (it is later suggested that this man may not be Nancy’s biological father) may have abused her. Edward, tearing himself apart because he does not want to spoil Nancy's innocence, arranges to have her sent to India to live with her father, even though this frightens her terribly. Once Leonora knows that Edward intends to keep his passion for Nancy chaste, but only wants Nancy to continue to love him from afar, Leonora torments him by making this wish impossible -- she pretends to offer to divorce him so he can marry Nancy, but informs Nancy of his sordid sexual history, destroying Nancy’s innocent love for him. After Nancy's departure, Edward commits suicide, and when she reaches Aden and sees the obituary in the paper, she becomes catatonic.

The novel’s last section has Dowell writing from Edward’s old estate in England, where he takes care of Nancy, whom he had at one point offered to marry. Nancy is only capable of repeating two things – a Latin phrase meaning “I believe in an omnipotent God” and the word “shuttlecocks.” Dowell states that the story is sad because no one got what he wanted: Leonora wanted Edward but lost him and marries the normal (but dull) Rodney Bayham; Edward wanted Nancy but lost her; Dowell wanted a wife but has twice ended up a nurse to a sick woman, one a fake.

As if in an afterthought, Dowell closes the novel by telling the story of Edward’s suicide. Edward receives a telegram from Nancy that reads, “Safe Brindisi. Having a rattling good time. Nancy.” He asks Dowell to take the telegram to his wife, pulls out his pen knife, says that it’s time he had some rest and slits his own throat.

Dowell ends up expressing sympathy for Edward, even though he casts both Edward and Nancy as the villains.

  bostonwendym | Mar 3, 2016 |
I can't believe this novel is 100 years old. It feels more contemporary than novels we now call "modern" or "post-modern;" it's more like a midlist literary novel that could have been written yesterday. I especially enjoyed the way I was led into the story thinking this man was suffocating his wife with over-care, then learned she was a more than equal foil to him.

The only thing that marred my enjoyment somewhat is having read "The End of the Affair" before this novel. Greene's style in The End of the Affair so clearly owes a debt to Ford. But Greene failed to mimic the cunning and un-pindownable nature of Ford's narrator, replacing Ford's possible sociopath/double murderer with a humorless and petty narrator that I had to banish from my head before I could fully engage with The Good Soldier. ( )
  poingu | Jan 23, 2016 |
This book was so hard for me to get into at first. But the characters and the events were so ironic and interesting once I figured out who was who and their relationships with each other. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
This book was so hard for me to get into at first. But the characters and the events were so ironic and interesting once I figured out who was who and their relationships with each other. ( )
  Jen.ODriscoll.Lemon | Jan 23, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
The Good Soldier is an odd and maybe even unique book. That it is a masterpiece, almost a perfect novel, comes as a repeated surprise even to readers who have read it before. In a dedicatory letter to the second edition written some 10 years after the publication of the novel, Ford depicts himself "taking down one of [his] ten-year-old books [and exclaiming] 'Great Heavens, did I write as well as that then?' .
added by PGCM | editThe Guardian, Jane Smiley (Mar 18, 2010)
 
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
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Beati Immaculati - Psalm 119:1
Dedication
First words
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.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
Haiku summary

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)

    (summary from another edition)

    » see all 13 descriptions

Quick Links

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.77)
0.5 1
1 13
1.5 1
2 45
2.5 20
3 143
3.5 47
4 204
4.5 48
5 150

Audible.com

9 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

See editions

Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

» Publisher information page

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Store | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 105,904,232 books! | Top bar: Always visible