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The Good Soldier (Vintage Classics) [Paperback]

Ford Madox Ford , Zoe Heller
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
RRP: 8.99
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Book Description

4 Mar 2010 Vintage Classics


When John Dowell and his wife befriend Edward and Leonora Ashburnham they appear to be the perfect couple. He is a distinguished soldier and she is beautiful and intelligent. However, what lies beneath the surface of their marriage is far more sinister and their influence leads John into a tragic drama that threatens to destroy everything he cares about.

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The Good Soldier (Vintage Classics) + Parade's End (Wordsworth Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Classics (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099540673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099540670
  • Product Dimensions: 2.3 x 12.5 x 19.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 556,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"The narrative casts a mesmeric spell... intelligent, beautifully written, heartfelt and true, and a great book" (Sunday Times)

"I would rather have written Ford Madox Ford's novel than all the books I have written. After reading it a dozen times, I still find a mystery at its heart... an exercise in elegance and a triumph of structure. I am always imitating it and always failing. The prose makes my heart ache with envy" (Ruth Rendell Guardian)

"An astounding novel" (The Times)

"Sometimes the best presents come in small packages...masterful" (Daily Telegraph)

"A central figure, artistically and influentially, in the modern movement...a masterpiece of Impressionism, as well as of intricate plotting, technical manipulation and powerful irony" (Guardian)

Book Description

A brilliant and heart-rending evocation of destructive passion.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing and stylish book 5 July 2011
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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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The First Modern Narrator? 29 Oct 1999
By A Customer
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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36 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simple greatness 8 Nov 2002
By Lovborg
This deceptively simple, heart-breaking story will change the way you think about novels, writing and the canon of English literature. It is a masterpiece of the first order: simply told by a narrator who frequently doubts his ability to tell his own story it is a study of sadness and loss that is as near to "The Great Gatsby" as anything written in this country. It should not be missed under any circumstances: the reward of reading it is enormous.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ford Madox Ford: so good they named him twice 15 Jun 2012
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Julian Barnes relates that when a guest at one of his dinner parties dared to criticise The Good Soldier he ejected him from the premises ('I four lettered him out of the house'.) Ford Madox Ford's greatest novel, subtitled 'a tale of passion', itself has passionate advocates. And while I'm not sure I would go to such extremes as Barnes in the book's defence, it is an extraordinarily interesting work.

Published in 1915, The Good Soldier tells the tale of two married couples in their thirties who meet by chance at a spa town in Germany. To outward appearance the couples are eminently respectable but it soon becomes clear that there is more than meets the eye. Each marriage conceals a complex web of infidelities, lies and rival loyalities.

There are some similarities with the world of E.M. Forster. Both writers deal with middle class England in the Edwardian era, and both are concerned with the desperate struggle to maintain respectability. They share a sense of the absurdity and comedy that often results from this constant effort, and well as its withering effects and the limits it places on human potential.

But Ford is much sharper, more acidic, than Forster and perhaps more interesting. There is no sense with Ford that a more rational and enlightened social code would on its own result in harmonious relations between men and women. The reasons for the unhappiness and failure of so many marriages lie deeper.

Technically, the book is a tour de force, with an apparently artless and bumbling narrator delivering a complex plot through a patchwork of episodes. He is sometimes said by commentators to be 'unreliable' although paradoxically his frequent professions of uncertainty and doubt add to his credibility.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a book for me.........
This was the most boring book I ever had the misfortune to encounter. It is quite a short book and I thought it would never end. Read more
Published 6 days ago by Bellebookandcandle
3.0 out of 5 stars Story itself was fine - not mind blowing
Interesting narrative style (unreliable narrator) so it was interesting from this perspective. Story itself was fine - not mind blowing.
Published 12 days ago by jim
4.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece though not a great pleasure to read
I had a peculiar reaction on completing this novel. Its construction, observation, and turns of phrase were so perfectI felt like reading it again to savour its nuances and... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Hfffoman
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreadable!
The book itself may be excellent and probably is, but don't waste your money on this version. It is unreadable in kindle format. Read more
Published 2 months ago by P Tracy
5.0 out of 5 stars "The Saddest Story Ever Told"
The Good Soldier is the story of John Dowell, a gullible, gentlemanly and slightly autistic American. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Calypso
5.0 out of 5 stars Old- fashioned writing..... and yet very modern.
This is an enthralling story, difficult to put down. I was immediately reminded of Scott Fitzgerald- the effortless prose and the essential unhappiness. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Donald Hughes
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful!
It's a beautiful little volume, slim enough to carry in a pocket or bag …. has a nice look and feel about it, while still being large enough print to read easy. Charming!
Published 4 months ago by Rosemary Vine
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast delivery
Great value for money, fast delivery and has been a fantastic read, I reading this for my Uni studies but would recommend this to anyone
Published 5 months ago by samantha wither
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD BUT INTENSE READ
I have wanted to read Ford Maddox Ford for years and hadn't, so this seemed to be a good start. It is really strange to read this old style of writing after reading so many modern... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Mavis Broomfield
5.0 out of 5 stars The Good Soldier - a sarcastic title, or maybe not.
The writing is superb, the insights into the female psyche are utterly convincing (to this man, anyway), and the device of the unreliable narrator is effective. Read more
Published 10 months ago by mr blue
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