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The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 4 Apr 2002

77 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (4 April 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141181192
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141181196
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (77 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,555,065 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


This is the most intriguing, shocking and original book I have ever read. . . . The Good Soldier is the only book I have ever read and wanted to read again immediately . . . (The Times 21/04/01)

beautifully written, a wonderful novel but old-fashioned (Norah Naish, Western Daily Press (Bristol)) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

A brilliant and heart-rending evocation of destructive passion. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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This is the saddest story I have ever heard. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Brownbear101 on 13 Nov. 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a real page-turner with great storytelling and wonderful writing. It's an apparently simple story of a cuckolded husband but Maddox Ford tells and retells the same events from the point of view of each participant so that the reader's understandings and sympathies are constantly shifting as he begins to comprehend the complexities and motivations of those involved. Characters we thought we liked at the start become obnoxious and those we loathed are redeemed. It's clever not only because the ground constantly shifts under the reader's feet but also by the way the story is told - getting one of the characters to explain all the others. This has two effects, first, by avoiding the God narrator it legitimizes the fact that the reader doesn't understand everything at once, and secondly it makes the whole affair much more intimate and personal because these events are happening to the narrator who is our friend.

The story concerns two upper middle class couples who meet at a German spa at the turn of the 19th century and become good friends over many years. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that beneath their simple outings and picnics, sexual and emotional plate tectonics are at work. More and more is slowly revealed of what has been going on and the final pages are tragic and grim.

Much is made in literary circles of the fact that the narrator is unreliable and frequently contradicts himself or is plain wrong. This is a very neat device that covers up the fact that somehow the narrator has gotten to understand what everyone else in the story was thinking or feeling. His unreliability is really chaff to cover up this unlikely situation. Nonetheless it is well done and makes the tone and structure of the book enjoyable and unusual.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M Samuel on 5 July 2011
Format: Paperback
I re-discovered this book recently and thoroughly enjoyed disappearing into it. A nice antidote to all the normal distractions of modern life (unless of course you're having multiple affairs with people, then it might serve as a 'how not to' guide!). Once you allow yourself to embrace the distant world of wealthy Edwardians, there's much to enjoy in this book of betrayal, naivete, misunderstanding, and unexceptional people thrown together and apart by stifling social mores. My favourite character is the 'Dolciquita' (the Spanish dancer and Grand Duke's mistress who is the protagonists first sexual affair) - a sort of human preying mantis who rather than biting the head off her mates, fleeces them for all their money. The story re-told from multiple angles shows how different perspectives can change perception. Absorbing, for those who can make the mental space for it.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Oct. 1999
Format: Paperback
Ford Madox Ford, although a literary figure often undervalued, must stand alongside the lofty literary statures of giants such as James Joyce and Henry James. Much maligned in life, Ford reflects this in the novel "The Good Soldier" and creates, perhaps, the first modern narrator. Inconsistently and often unreliably, Ford's narrative tells a tale that, although not particularly epic, brings in the reader a sense of sadness and fatalism. "The Good Soldier" often verges towards the Greek Tragedy in that it is a tale of a man destined to pollute all those around him through his infidelity. Written in a time of repressive sexual attitudes, Ford manages to convey a story that, although self-censored, reflects the hidden lives of the real social world; sex, betrayal and adultery. The novel is of great value to anyone currently studying an English Literature course as the narrative style is a groundbreaking one which has influenced the world of literature since. It isn't a great bedside table book yet for anyone interested in the development of the narrative style in English literature it is surely a must.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By P. Martin on 30 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I won't review Ford's work - I'll let its literary reputation speak for itself. I very much enjoy the Norton Critical Editions; this one has very handy footnotes explaining historical/geographical references and arcane turns of phrase. Those are more tuned to the American reader, so the British reader will find a few everyday expressions glossed. There's a fine set of critical works at the back, both temporary and from the time of original publication, that readers can dip into if they wish.

I do find fault with two issues with this edition. First, both my wife and I found the font to be tiresomely small. 'The Good Soldier' can be tough slogging at times, and having to deal with the tiny type makes it seem even more daunting. (Once I got into the novel, however, the font size didn't seem as big an issue. I am rather nearsighted, myself, so probably many if not most readers will have an issue with font size. My wife was tempted to get out a magnifying glass).

Second, the text is liberally peppered throughout with asterisks, referring the reader to textual revisions made by Ford, and discussed in a separate section at the end of the text. I had no interest in studying the development of Ford's working of his text, so I found the asterisks - sometimes several in one sentence - to be extremely distracting. I had a Pavlovian response to seek enlightenment at the bottom of the page, and it took me a while to get over this. (The footnotes are indicated with numbers).

Those two quibbles aside, however, my 'bottom line' is that this is a typically excellent Norton Critical Edition. The critical aids will enhance most readers' enjoyment and appreciation of the book.
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