Monday, 12 October 2015

"The Good Soldier" by Ford Madox Ford

  During the summer, I attended a lecture on Canadian literature.  I have heard this speaker many times and he really does know literature.  So I decided to read a book that he recommended.  It is not by a Canadian and I am struggling to understand how it can be called 'literature'.  It seems like ramblings.
   But it is often included among the great literature of the 20th century, including the Modern Library 100 Best Novels.  It can be found on many list such as: 100 greatest novels of all time and 1000 novels everyone must read.
Ford Madox Ford
Ford Madox Ford is a British author, who wrote "The Good Soldier" in 1914.
Actually, he titled the novel "The Saddest Story". His editor changed it.
The first line is: "This is the saddest story I have ever heard".

It was perceived to be about society's changing morals and loss of strict social rules.
The author is challenging the norms- in morality, in social structure, and in literary forms.

Two couples meet at a German spa where they visit yearly for a 'cure'.  One couple is British- Captain Edward Ashburnham and his wife Leonora.  The other couple is American- John and Florence Dowell.  John is the narrator of the story and he tells about Captain Ashburnham's affairs.  Simple plot.

Quote from the book:
"I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze....When one discusses an affair- a long sad affair- one goes back, one goes forward.  One remembers points that one has forgotten and one explains them all the more minutely since one recognizes that one has forgotten to mention them in their proper places and that one may have given, by omitting them, a false impression."

Wikipedia says this about the form:
 "The novel is told using a series of flashbacks in non-chronological order, a literary technique that formed part of Ford's pioneering view of literary impressionism.  Ford employs the device of the unreliable narrator to great effect as the main character gradually reveals a version of events that is quite different from what the introduction leads the reader to believe.  The novel was loosely based on two incidents of adultery and on Ford's messy personal life."

My problems:
1.) The subtitle is "A Tale of Passion".  I saw no passion - just moral confusion and sexual tension and frustration.
2.) Not one of the characters is likeable enough to care about the novel.
3.) The same thoughts are analyzed and reanalyzed with complete confusion.


  1. "You're a better man than I am," Betty King. I couldn't do it. I couldn't give up precious reading time trying to navigate through Ford Maddox Ford's labyrinthine prose. When I read the first couple of pages I found the writing style interesting and intriguing but it wasn't long before I began to struggle. I read somewhere recently that older people (who are no doubt aware of the limited time they have on earth!) are more likely to give up on books they are not enjoying. Count me in! Thank goodness I didn't attempt this one before Professor Draper's other recommendation, else I may not have even given John Williams' Stoner a try. Thanks for affirming my decision.

    P.S. I am trying to curtail my exclamation mark usage but see I have used two in the preceding short paragraph!

  2. Wow. I couldn't get past "a series of flashbacks in non-chronological order" and am surprised you did - linear-story lover that we both are.