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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever-clever plotting, smooth writing, emotional wrench - a compulsive read.
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...
Published on 13 Nov 2010 by Brownbear101

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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The First Modern Narrator?
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,...
Published on 29 Oct 1999


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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever-clever plotting, smooth writing, emotional wrench - a compulsive read., 13 Nov 2010
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. In particular the narrator constantly time shifts the story backwards and forwards and fails to tell the reader some facts about events until later so that they appear mysterious and only later can be pieced together. If you enjoy detective fiction you should enjoy this.

At heart this is a desperate story of a group of people who set off in life and make a mess of it. Some are nave, some manipulative, some loving, some hard-nosed, some living a full life and some just passing through. Which is which and who is whom the reader cannot understand until the end and the slow reveal is delightful, sad and horrific.
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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
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
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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. One sometimes feels that he may be deluded but rarely that he is deliberately misleading the reader.

The book is read splendidly in the Naxos audio version by the American Kerry Shale. Detecting irony is not a skill thought to be widely dispersed among the population of the United States, but Shale is fully alive to the novel's tonal shifts.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad Story, Amusingly Told, 30 April 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: The Good Soldier (Twentieth Century Classics) (Paperback)
Terrific book, extremely advanced for its time, though it does show Jamesian influences. It starts out:"This is the saddest story I've ever heard." Quite loosely written, with an ingenuously lazy wit, and it's a very complex story about two couples, ironically narrated by an American man, who is a splendid combination of naive and penetrating psychological insights, who is trying to document and piece together the steps leading to the suicide of Edward, his English friend, who in spite of the fact that he was an excellent fellow he was unable to keep his hands off whatever women came his way, and fall madly in love with the least appropriate damsels. I suspect the English fellow is a self-portrait, for the narrator is very gauche, and innocent, and not at all like Ford.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Parade's Beginning? - The Good Soldier, 10 Feb 2013
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A better introduction to potential readers of Ford Madox Ford who may have seen Parade's End on television than Parade's End itself. Not as long but just as intense. A bit as the Hobbit is to Lord of the Rings I suppose.
The introduction and notes are a real help for a work which exercises the reader somewhat, but is highly rewarding.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Good Soldier - a sarcastic title, or maybe not., 23 Sep 2013
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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. The theme is sex and infidelity and its punches are not pulled - one or two of the characters are sentimental but the novel most definitely is not.
The problem for the reader is that the book must be read slowly but to stop one getting disorientated a certain pace is required. The answer may be to read it in not less than hourly sessions on at least a daily basis, or to retread it soon after finishing it the first time.
A masterpiece!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunning, 18 Sep 2013
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Ford chose a curious way to tell the story, with Dowell, the infuriating and meandering narrator--but it is the right way to tell the story. One gets the distinct impression that when the events were going on, Dowell remained in blissful ignorance. In modern parlance, he didn't have a clue. Now, in retrospect, when it's too late, he does. As you progress through this short novel, more and more is revealed, the fog clears, and the full tragedy of it becomes apparent. This has been described well as an Edwardian Tragedy--but told in a very 20th century way. "The Good Soldier" is staggeringly good, the work of a master.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent edition, but tiny print - Norton Critical Edition, 30 Aug 2013
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P. Martin "Paulo" (Navan, Ireland) - See all my reviews
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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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The Good Soldier (Twentieth Century Classics)
The Good Soldier (Twentieth Century Classics) by Ford Madox Ford (Paperback - 26 April 1990)
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