8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Ford Madox Ford: so good they named him twice,
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Good Soldier (Classic Fiction) (Audio CD)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.