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Parade's End (1925)

by Ford Madox Ford

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Parade's End (1-4)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,617269,408 (3.8)162
Tietjens is the last of a breed, the Tory gentleman, which the Great War, marriage and qualities inherent in his nature define and unravel. Opposite him is Macmaster, a Scot, different in class and culture, at once friend and foil.
  1. 00
    The Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh (thorold)
    thorold: Two rather different writers each identifying his particular war as the end of everything that was good and decent and Toryish about the England of his youth.

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» See also 162 mentions

English (25)  Spanish (1)  All languages (26)
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I was looking forward to reading this book, but I never got into it properly: it felt like I was witnessing these people living completely useless lives and failing to make anything out of themselves. ( )
  mari_reads | Nov 5, 2019 |
I found this book quite dense and hard work. I think it was probably worth it in the end. Tietjens and Sylvia are both quite maddening characters in their way, and it's hard to imagine what Valentine sees in Tietjens really. A lot of the nuance is probably lost to me as a modern reader lacking knowledge of the social mores of the time etc. But still, it's a wide ranging, emotional and intense book. The fourth part is very odd, I didn't know what to make of it at all - mainly from the point of view of Tietjens brother who seems to have stopped speaking and be living in a field? ( )
  AlisonSakai | Aug 25, 2019 |
"Parade’s End" is a tetralogy focused around World War I. The first book in the collection of four, titled "Some Do Not" explores the cultural and social climate in England prior to the onset of war. The protagonist- wealthy gentleman Christopher Tietjens- finds himself in an awkward situation when a one-night encounter with a beautiful and promiscuous woman (Sylvia) leads to accusations that he is responsible for her pregnancy. Chris does the honorable thing and marries her, but Sylvia despises his stoic integrity and uncompromising principles. Mostly she despises the fact that he is only marrying her only to do the right thing, and has no physical or emotional feelings for her. Thus, she becomes an “evil bitch” determined to bring him down to her own level and she is obsessed throughout the series with ruining his life. For Chris, the inner conflict is that he isn’t even sure the child is his.

"Some Do Not" illustrates a vivid picture of social mores and customs in England in the early 1900s. For instance- educated well-connected gentlemen get cushy office jobs or deferments from serving on the war front. And respectable men often live off their inheritance and rarely perform real work. For those who are not wealthy landowners but seeking wealth through a career (like Chris’s best friend Scot)- no matter how much money they accumulate they will always be in a lower social-strata. But the general idea is to make good connections and avoid disasters and they are warned, “disasters come to men through drink, bankruptcy, and women.”

Regarding divorce - it’s ok if religion permits - but of course Catholics are not allowed to divorce. So, for many people marriage really is “till death do us part”.

The number one rule regarding social life is never ever create a scene in public.

Regarding the war - many people in England are German sympathizers. Others are merely pacifists and see no reason for England to fight. And the gentleman that does end up on the war front will inevitably be taking orders from someone from the lower classes which causes dissension and mistrust.

As "Some Do Not" ends, Chris is just beginning to fall in love with another woman- Valentine Wannop- and he is leaving England to serve his country in the war.

Books 2 and 3 - "No More Parades" and "A Man Could Stand Up" take place during the war, shifting back and forth from the war front to Sylvia’s ongoing narcissistic sociopathic destructive behavior. And when the war ends- Chris reconnects with both Sylvia and Valentine. Both books are narrated in a state of mental anguish describing the horrors and chaos of trench warfare, the guilt and pain of losing comrades, the fear of death, and the irrationality of life.

It becomes clear, even before the war ends, that life has been altered forever… for everyone. The age of innocence and “parades” of glorious pompous shows are over. Reality has set in. The word “Parade” is used many times with-in the first 3 books. Needless to say, there are no more references to the word in the final book.

Book 4 is titled "The Last Post". 'The Last Post' is the name of the military bugle song that is equivalent to America’s ‘Taps’. Everyone that survived in battle is returning home from war to resume a normal domestic life, only to find out normal life no longer exists. Everything has changed. Book 4 recaps some of the previous events, revealing missing details, and bringing the series to a satisfactory conclusion.

"Parade’s End" is No. 57 on the Modern Library list of best fictional books of all time. Granted, Ford Madox Ford was a good storyteller. He creates an aura of mystery to his characters and loads of suspense to the story line, but his vocabulary is outdated and the entire series is riddled with bloated highbrow side stories and descriptions that are irrelevant to the plot, thus creating a slow tedious reading experience. Perhaps back in 1920s when the series was written it received higher praise. ( )
  LadyLo | Jul 26, 2019 |
Besser als erwartet und mit Luft nach oben in der Besternung, wenn ich den Wälzer erst ein zweites mal durchacker. Dürfte nicht allzu lange dauern, bis es mich dazu juckt... ( )
  Horrortorte | May 17, 2019 |
Five months...a little misleading since with the exception of the 'No More Parades', which took me ages to get into, and then afterwards took a big fat pause for three to four months (all of that waiting, waiting waiting), 'Parade's End' was a smooth read for such a dense novel.

Through the pompously upright Christopher Tietjens, his, uh, complicated wife Sylvia, suffragette Valentine Wannop and many other characters, 'Parade's End' covers the Great War. The causes, the battles and the rest of what one would expect from a war novel take a backseat to the preoccupations of the characters. It's not unusual to find Tietjens debating whether or not to send a letter to a woman he almost asked to sleep with while bombs whistle in.

Madox's prose is a marvel. Full of dry humor and cringey scenes on top of the drama of Society Crumbling. He also illustrates how people got on, which is harder to do. Sure, I haven't read any since senior English in high school, but I can't remember even Joyce getting stream-of-conciousness so exact. Especially with Sylvia. You find yourself counting the minutes with her in a hotel parlor. The problem is that I found myself picking apart the writing to see how he pulled off an effect rather than enjoying it. A second go-around might fix that problem, but for now its a glad-I-read-it, nothing else.

The BBC series is an unexpected bonus which I'll have to catch when it re-airs.

A quip on the individual novels:

'Some Do Not....'

'No More Parades'

'A Man Could Stand Up'

'The Last Post' ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
I think it could be argued that Last Post was more than a mistake – it was a disaster, a disaster which has delayed a full critical appreciation of Parade’s End. The sentimentality which sometimes lurks in the shadow of Christopher Tietjens, the last Tory (Ford sometimes seems to be writing about ‘the last English gentleman’), emerged there unashamed... This is a better book, a thousand times, when it ends in the confusion of Armistice Night 1918 – the two lovers united, it is true, but with no absolute certainties about the past so deformed by Sylvia’s lies (if they are lies) or about the future with that witch-wife still awaiting them there...

Parade’s End is not a war-book in the ordinary sense of the term; true, it was produced from the experiences of 1914-18, but while a novel like All Quiet on the Western Front confined its horror to the physical, to the terrors of the trenches, so that it is even possible to think of such physical terrors as an escape for some from the burden of thought and mental pain, Ford turned the screw. Here there was no escape from the private life.
added by SnootyBaronet | editObserver, Graham Greene
Many critics down the years have pointed out that almost all anti-war novels and movies are in fact pro-war. Blood and mud and terror and rape and an all-pervading anxiety are precisely what is attractive about war — in the safety of fiction — to those who, in our overprotected lives, are suffering from tedium vitae and human self-alienation. In Parade’s End Ford makes war nasty, even to the most perverse and idle...

Graham Greene once said of Parade’s End that it was the only adult novel dealing with the sexual life that has been written in English. This is a startling superlative, but it may well be true. Certainly the book has a scope and depth, a power and complexity quite unlike anything in modern fiction, and still more unusual, it is about mature people in grown-up situations, written by a thoroughly adult man.
added by SnootyBaronet | editSaturday Review, Kenneth Rexroth
Parades End has been called the last Victorian novel. And I suppose it is. So much that is Victorian is in this book, and yet… there is something of the lost generation in here also. It is in my mind a transitional novel, the last hurrah of the Victorian and a first tentative peek at the modern. Or more properly perhaps, the first description of the Modern by a Victorian: “No more hope, no more glory, not for the nation, not for the world I dare say, no more parades.”

Those who have read The Good Soldier will recognize some familiar themes, but in Parade’ End will enjoy Ford at his most expansive. Why Ford has fallen so out of favor, and this novel in particular has been all but forgotten, is one of those peculiarities of taste and time.

Ford himself once said, “Only two classes of books are of universal appeal; the very best and the very worst.” It is certain that Parade’s End belongs in the former class. Certainly it will again be “rediscovered” by some generation of writers. It’s quality and execution demand it.

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ford, Ford MadoxAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Barnes, JulianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Macauley, RobieIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The two young men - they were of the English public official class - sat in the perfectly appointed railway carriage.
There will be no more parades.
'That's women!' he said with the apparently imbecile enigmaticality of the old and hardened. 'Some do!' He spat into the grass; said: 'Ah!' then added: 'Some do not!'
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Tietjens is the last of a breed, the Tory gentleman, which the Great War, marriage and qualities inherent in his nature define and unravel. Opposite him is Macmaster, a Scot, different in class and culture, at once friend and foil.

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