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The Good Soldier (1915)

by Ford Madox Ford

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,7771132,335 (3.78)346
At the fashionable German spa town Bad Nauheim, two wealthy, fin de siecle couples - one British, the other American - meet for their yearly assignation. As their story moves back and forth in time between 1902 and 1914, the fragile surface propriety of the pre - World War I society in which these four characters live is ruptured - revealing deceit, hatred, infidelity, and betrayal. "The Good Soldier" is Edward Ashburnham, who, as an adherent to the moral code of the English upper class, is nonetheless consumed by a passion for women younger than his wife - a stoic but fallible figure in what his American friend, John Dowell, calls "the saddest story I ever heard."… (more)
  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
    Crome Yellow by Aldous Huxley (John_Vaughan)
  4. 00
    Flaubert's Parrot by Julian Barnes (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: Both novels have self-deluded narrators using strategies of deferral and digression.
  5. 00
    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Cecrow)
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» See also 346 mentions

English (106)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  Piratical (1)  All languages (111)
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
Victorian literature might often hint at extramarital affairs and hijinx, but always under the guise of pursuing or seeking true love. Ford Madox Ford bravely struck a new chord in this 1915 novel with his statement that sometimes - if not often - it's just a fling, based on loneliness or the sexual desire. This stripping away of the curtains around the issue didn't land him in censorship waters like James Joyce a few years later, but his novel was branded as "unpleasant" and "dangerous". This for addressing an everyday occurrence in plainer language so that it might be explored on the page.

This novel is also an early example of literary impressionism, a style that we take for granted today. Ford takes a roundabout path to telling his story, providing us with an after-the-fact narrator John Dowell who tends to ramble and gets things out of order. Immediately we know who dies, so that's the hook to exploring why. John contradicts himself on occasion, or says something offhand that startles but then he doesn't address it immediately, and some of his adjectives take on a fresh meeting later. Rather than frustrating, however, it creates a layer of mystery and need-to-know that keeps the pages turning.

John is a significant example of an unreliable narrator, his judgements and feelings about what transpired shifting in several directions. Only the concluding pages provide confirmation where his true sympathy lies, when his actions speak louder than his words. Ford is suggesting through John that sometimes our passions are too much for the artificial constructs of society to contain - our religious moralities, our marriage contracts, our collective sense of decency. That someone who is destroyed when they run counter to these may be too well understood to be considered a villain, given the base desires most of us share; except that this characterization too must to be done, so the rest of us can go on with our orderliness and stability to win whatever happiness remains. ( )
  Cecrow | Mar 31, 2024 |
This was one of the best novels I have ever read. The prose was crystal clear and images as fresh as the day Ford wrote them. Its picture of marriage and infidelity so painful that I wonder if our great contemporary psycho-therapist Esther Perel had not coached Ford in the details. The picture of landed gentry in England is both accurate and piteously satiric. I sit this book next to Elena Ferrante and Evan Connell’s “Mrs. Bridge.” ( )
  MylesKesten | Jan 23, 2024 |
I'd never heard of this book until I read a review last year. Apparently it's a classic written in 1915 set in a pre-WWI German spa town (for the most part). English author ... about an English gentleman who has affairs left and right and how these events affect the lives of the people around him. I had high expectations after reading the reviews which might account for some of why I was disappointed in the book. I didn't care much for this book although I did have enough interest to keep reading to see how it ended. ( )
  ellink | Jan 22, 2024 |
The characters were interesting, but not even Frank Muller's beautiful audio performance could hold my interest with the meandering monologue that apparently makes up the entirety of this story. I gave up trying about 50 minutes in. ( )
  Doodlebug34 | Jan 1, 2024 |
The author gives fair warning at the start of the novel that the story will be told from his view and in a rambling conversational style. As a result, this unusual approach takes some getting used to, but perseverance pays off as the last two thirds of the book prove a good read. This book deals with characters that are less than appealing but possibly reflect the weaknesses of the everyman and due to unfortunate luck circumstances seem to place them all where their weaknesses of character are brought to the fore.
This scenario however proves to be the ideal vehicle for the story to be a way of philosophising on relationships and in particular marriage. The book while not a page turner by any means, would be well worth a re-read to better consider the themes covered. ( )
  Daniel_M_Oz | Sep 20, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (22 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ford, Ford Madoxprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bannister, PhilipIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Barnes, JulianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bradshaw, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henze, HeleneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Judd, AlanIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kenner, HughIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lorch, FritzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saunders, MaxIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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.
Florence was a personality of paper - she represented a real human being with a heart, with feelings, with sympathies and with emotions only as a bank note represents a certain quantity of gold.
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At the fashionable German spa town Bad Nauheim, two wealthy, fin de siecle couples - one British, the other American - meet for their yearly assignation. As their story moves back and forth in time between 1902 and 1914, the fragile surface propriety of the pre - World War I society in which these four characters live is ruptured - revealing deceit, hatred, infidelity, and betrayal. "The Good Soldier" is Edward Ashburnham, who, as an adherent to the moral code of the English upper class, is nonetheless consumed by a passion for women younger than his wife - a stoic but fallible figure in what his American friend, John Dowell, calls "the saddest story I ever heard."

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