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VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 18 October 2016
This book is considered rightly a 'problem novel', not because it is hard to read, in fact it is deceptively easy, but because we can never be sure of the veracity of the narrator. The basics of the plot are two couples, one English and one American; these four people seem to meet up for about a month each year. We come to see though that two of the persons are having an affair. This is supposedly written after the events but we can never be sure of what the narrator really knew beforehand, what he was told, and what he conjectured. At turns you feel sorry for this narrator and want to pat him on the back and offer your sympathies, at other times you want to wring his neck and tell him what a complete fool he is. As the story unfolds you are never really sure whether he is extremely naive or just doesn't care about his wife.

By also continually altering the time he is talking about you are also left to wonder what he really knew beforehand. It is this style that ultimately gives this book its power, taking us on a trip that is tragic, but at the same time quite comic. Ultimately though this raises the question, what do we really know about anyone else? A truly great read this would be ideal for reading groups as there is so much here to discuss. If you love a good captivating read that you can lose yourself in and makes you question what you are reading, then you can't really go wrong with this.
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on 2 September 2015
'The Good Soldier' is an absolute masterpiece, one of the finest books ever written. There's a profound understanding of human nature conveyed through the first person unreliable narrative of someone whose view of the world is remarkably narrow and lacking in insight, That's a remarkable achievement in itself. The novel really is immensely forward looking for its time. Published precisely 100 years ago in 1915, in many ways it could pass as a later 20th century novel. Only recently has the unreliable narrator become a standard point of view for novelists. The plot also moves backwards and forwards in time (mostly between 1904 and 1913) without ever being confusing, but creating an accurate portrayal of how we all experience the world in a non-linear way.

The key characters are remarkably well created in some depth, and we also get a gradual awareness of the part the narrator in his ignorance has actually played in the unfolding tragedy too. For anyone seriously interested in the development of the novel as a way of understanding human existence this is a must read. For anyone who likes a good, gripping story with energy and a sense of movement making you want to read on, this is also hugely worth reading. The language is very accessible and the book very well structured.Don't miss this masterpiece written by an under-rated novelist.
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on 18 September 2013
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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on 10 August 2017
Very well written indeed but very slow. The only reason that I kept reading was the good prose, nothing seems to happen until the last chapters in the book. And the last chapters of the book make the dullness of the beginning very worthwhile. It's only 177 pages long but vvery worthwhile if you stay with it. Recommende.
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on 30 August 2013
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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on 23 September 2013
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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on 28 March 2013
The person on the radio programme said the Good Soldier was one of the great works of fiction so I bought a copy. The back cover shows a comment by Julian Barnes about the book being a masterpiece and another note says the book was regularly referred to by Graham Greene. I realised after I had progressed a fair way through the book that it was more a romance than a war story. The first nine words of the book hinted otherwise. I like John Dowell as narrator, the flow of the writing, the vivid descriptions of the places and people so score the book four for these alone. Overall the ingredients were in the end a little limited but a good job had been made of mixing and cooking. I did persevere and read to the end although a friend I lent the book to gave up quite early on.
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on 2 November 2012
This is one of the better books I have read. I am new to Ford Madox Ford so was not sure what to expect. I read this before going for the much longer `Parade`s End` to which I was drawn by the recent BBC dramatisation. I found the way Ford writes in non-chronological order quite interesting (to my surprise), and realised toward the end that I was getting excited about the end of the story to which had already been alluded! Bravo! There is some really good observation in this book as to the nature of human relationships and love. It`s quite short so you know you are not going to be in it for the long haul should it not be to your taste! I will definately take a look at Parade`s End now.
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on 29 November 2015
This is one of the best books I've ever read. The narrator is wonderfully unreliable: he tells the story as it comes to him, suddenly throwing in vital bits of information he forgot to mention, reassessing events as he relates them, and innocently misconstruing tho motives and intentions of others.... which makes for a narrative that unfolds like a detective story, deliciously surprising.

'Parade's End' is good too.
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on 16 August 2012
I listen to book review programmes on Radio 4 and The Good Soldier was featured in one of them. It's a slim book but don't let that fool you - the thought that has gone into this is highly compressed. It starts off as the narrator's account of his and his wife's relationship with some very good friends, including the Good Soldier in the title. It's a rambling, realistic form of narration and, like any account of endless praise of someone I've never met, tended to wash over me.

As the pages and time go by, the account of the other three characters becomes darker - although the author himself is uncritical, your own critical faculties come into play and you start questioning the narrator's understanding and interpretation of events and his assessment of the characters. He is unreliable, but at least he tells you everything you need to know to come to your own conclusions.

It was initially hard to believe that such a carefully crafted, surgical analysis of the characters could have been written some 100 years ago, but I recognise that that's just my unjustified bias towards today's authors and a modern outlook. This book chimed with other books/authors, e.g.: Tim Krabbe for the condensed writing, George Eliot for human insight, Julian Barnes and The Sense of an Ending for the unreliable narration. If you like these, you may like The Good Soldier.

In the Wordsworth Classic edition there is a learned introduction which you can safely skip, and copious notes to explain the many cultural references in the text - suggest that you leave reading these to the end rather than interrup the flow of the narrative.
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