Find your next favorite audiobook

Become a member today and listen free for 30 days
The Good Soldier

The Good Soldier

Written by Ford Madox Ford

Narrated by Gildart Jackson


The Good Soldier

Written by Ford Madox Ford

Narrated by Gildart Jackson

ratings:
4/5 (39 ratings)
Length:
7 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 30, 2010
ISBN:
9781400189472
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

Description

Handsome, wealthy, and a veteran of service in India, Captain Edward Ashburnham appears to be the ideal "good soldier" and the embodiment of English upper-class virtues. But for his creator, Ford Madox Ford, he also represents the corruption at society's core. Beneath Ashburnham's charming, polished exterior lurks a soul well-versed in the arts of deception, hypocrisy, and betrayal. Throughout the nine years of his friendship with an equally privileged American, John Dowell, Ashburnham has been having an affair with Dowell's wife, Florence. Unlike Dowell, Ashburnham's own wife, Leonora, is well aware of it.



When The Good Soldier was first published in 1915, its pitiless portrait of an amoral society dedicated to its own pleasure and convinced of its own superiority outraged many readers. Stylistically daring, The Good Soldier is narrated, unreliably, by Dowell, through whom Ford provides a level of bitter irony. Dowell's disjointed, stumbling storytelling not only subverts linear temporality to satisfying effect, it also reflects his struggle to accept a world without honor, order, or permanence. Called the best French novel in the English language, The Good Soldier is both tragic and darkly comic, and it established Ford as an important contributor to the development of literary modernism.
Publisher:
Released:
Sep 30, 2010
ISBN:
9781400189472
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook


About the author

Ford Madox Ford was an English novelist, poet, critic, and editor whose journals The English Review and The Transatlantic Review were instrumental in the development of early twentieth-century English literature. Today, Ford is best known for The Good Soldier, the Parade’s End Tetralogy, and the Fifth Queen Trilogy.

Related to The Good Soldier

Related Audiobooks
Related Articles

Reviews

What people think about The Good Soldier

3.8
39 ratings / 47 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (4/5)
    Published in 1915. It details the interactions of (basically) two couples. I found it often "how on earth could anyone behave in this way" but it was engrossing and gave a picture of life in a time that I have not read about very much before. I can see how the author came to the end provided (a surprise one given the preceding text) but I am pretty sure the way I felt about it and the way he felt about it (given the title) are quite different. I thought it was well worth reading.
  • (3/5)
    A classic novel dealing with the dissection of three marriages. But the narrator himself is revealed as unreliable, so where is the reader left by the tales? In addition Ford writes this novel in a series of flashbacks, which aids the general air of revelation, and dissonance. It is good to read, though finally not so much entertaining as engrossing.
  • (4/5)
    This is a tale of infidelity, frustration and disappointment with a famous opening sentence: 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard'. There are many ways to read The Good Soldier. I read it for the first time cold, with very little idea about what I was in for. There are annotated editions with a plot synopsis, cast of characters and summaries of recurring themes or motifs but my electronic version was bare of any explanatory Introduction or annotation. Reading it this way was an exploratory process for the narrator, whose first and second names are only revealed incidentally, well into the novel, is unreliable, ignorant much of the time about what's going on and strangely artless. The chronology is fractured. On first reading the novel resembles a random patchwork quilt or William Burroughs cut up. My Kindle copy of the first version I read is heavily annotated with baffled or occasionally derisory comments. It would have been quite possible, of course, to begin with one of the annotated versions and commence reading with knowledge of what to expect. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't. The Good Soldier is a book to be read several or more times and something significant in my appreciation of the book would have been lost if I had been better prepared for that first encounter. The narrator may be strangely artless in the way he frames his narrative, but Ford Madox Ford is very far from artless. The Good Soldier is ranked by some critics among the most important 20th century novels, in company with Ulysses, The Sound and the Fury, &c. It is certainly possible to disagree with that ranking. One difference is immediately apparent: the prose of The Good Soldier - the surface of the novel - is generally undistinguished. This is a tale told by a blandly imperceptive man whose mind mostly moves in cliches. He is, of course, Ford's creature and the art of the novel lies in the author's deployment of his unreliable narrator, with all his inadequacies of perception and expressiveness, over the shifting terrain of his 'saddest story'.
  • (4/5)
    Reading classic literature is always full of surprises. I did not know that Ford Madox Ford was considered an impressionist. He seems to have moved beyond the more formal yet (then) modern prose of Henry James to capture the nature of English manners while obviously displaying Edwardian characteristics. Yet his prose was exactly like a conversation - I found the so-called illogical flow of the plot to be exactly like listening to someone tell their story as one would over a cup of tea or coffee. This novel is not too taxing and is definitely worth reflecting upon.
  • (1/5)
    2nd attempt to take this on, and got to the end by force of will. Still not sure if I hate it or just bored by it. Broken time-line and few major "events" make it hard to get to grips with. More importantly, the characters are all well-lined upper-class types who do nothing. Money is readily available (millions) but referred to with sublime indifference. Much jealousy and rivalry and breaking of relationships, an occasional reference to 'emerging from the bedroom' but no sensuality, no sex, no passion - in fact very little physical or visual detail. Seems to be about feelings but much of that is about having no feelings. Much about what is 'correct' or 'normal', with a curled lip, raised eyebrow sort of way, and quite a few reference to the differences between Catholic and Protestant views of the relations between the sexes. So, who the heck cares? And how come this is seen as a classic?
  • (3/5)
    Forgettable. Absolutely and woefully forgettable.
  • (5/5)
    The Good Soldier has one of the most famous opening sentences, and the rest of the book lives up to it."This is the saddest story I have ever heard." A tale of passion, miscommunication, good intentions, desperation. Two couples' lives become inextricably entwined in the late 1890s. The writing is restrained, narrated as it is by the deceived husband. He has an utterly believable voice as he drifts back and forth in time, trying to make sense of what has happened. Highly recommended if you're a fan of British literature.
  • (3/5)
    Very Edwardian Eng Lit
  • (3/5)
    I'm so conflicted on what I really think of this book. It was a struggle to get through and at times I wanted to throw it against the wall, but in the end I powered through and felt satisfied with its conclusion. This to me balances out to "average"!
  • (4/5)
    Ford Madox Ford reportedly told someone in a letter that someone else had called this "the finest French novel ever written in English". I could see that - it is a little like Flaubert, or Zola. I think it also has a touch of the gothic about it - madness and suicide feature prominently and everything is told as though no one had acted of their own volition so much as played out their parts, long since set for them by the heavy hand of fate. See, the fact that I want to write sentences like that after I've read it shows you what a touch of the gothic it has.It is also told in parts, from the end-ish, to the beginning, to somewhere in the middle, to the end again, but hopping around between them as the spirit moves - the premise being that the narrator is writing as though he's telling you this late in the evening, as you sit by the fireside. And he's figuring out what happened to him as he goes along, himself. Honestly, while I liked the plot, and it gave me a lot of food for thought, I'm not sure I agreed with the narrator, or thought his objectives were worthy. He thinks it's too bad that he never did marry a pretty girl who loved him, and settled down to a nice, quiet life, yet he persisted in sticking with this crowd of people who obviously didn't love him, and never did try to seek what he would deem real happiness elsewhere. He admitted that silent manipulation, particularly by Florence (his wife) and Leonora (his friend's wife), had doomed many of the other characters, yet allowed himself and the others to be blindly manipulated, though in all fairness, he may not have known he was being manipulated at the time. But by the end of the book, he is STILL being manipulated, and still accepting it as its lot. Then again, one of the book's premises seems to be that he is only a person, and sometimes people do allow that. He had nothing but contempt for his wife, partially because she messed around on him (very understandable), but also because she would've told 'everyone' about it. While of course that is 'gauche', and would've hurt people, particularly him, you could certainly argue that, had she done that, it would've been the more honorable choice, compared to what ensued. Or, to put the plot another way - the protagonist from the Jeeves novels marries Emma Bovary, who falls in love with a fairly nice, if inconstant lord of the manor (generous to his tenants, and all too generous with his affections, mostly because he gets so little affection at home). Their lives are all quietly ruined by his scheming wife, who has the personality of a minor character in a Jane Austen plot (think Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice, who marries the clergyman - only a Charlotte with utter control over the lives of everyone around her).Ford originally wanted to call this book "The Saddest Story". It would've fit.
  • (4/5)
    Written in 1914, with the title The Good Soldier you'd be forgiven for expecting this classic to be a war novel. However, the nearest we come to notions of war in this novel are those of the domestic strife kind concerning two couples who Ford refers to as "good people".Ford Maddox Ford was an interesting character. Rubbing shoulders with the literary greats of the time, he co-wrote several novels with Joseph Conrad (touchy subject - Conrad got all of the credit from the publishers), published works in The English Review (which he founded) by the likes of Thomas Hardy, H.G. Wells, Conrad, Ezra Pound and Yeats, and in Paris published work by Hemingway, Joyce, Jean Rhys and Gertrude Stein in The Transatlantic Review. Despite prolifically writing his own memoirs, poetry, novels and critical essays, Ford was ultimately left disappointed and disillusioned that so many of his writing contemporaries, whose work he had championed as a publisher, left him in their wake with their much greater literary successes.That being said, so much about this book fascinated me, despite at times befuddling me. In the introduction (written post it's original publication), Ford claims it was his best book, and I think it deserves to be remembered alongside the much better known publications of the era from his contemporaries. He insists that the book was in his head for 10 years, but as it was about personal friends he had to wait until they'd passed before being able to tell their story. Knowing as we do his own backstory of extra-marital affairs, one suspects that you might not have too look too far to find where his "friend" inspiration came from.Originally Ford wished the novel to be called The Saddest Story before his publishers put their foot down, given the already sad enough reality of being a country at war. This theme plays out throughout the novel as the narrator reflects on the wasteful tragedy of the spiralling events that take place, and the sadness of a story where none of the characters ultimately find happiness.The Good Soldier has been both criticised and revered for the manner in which it is narrated, a chronological hotch-potch that skips back and forth and round and round rather than being a linear retelling. Although I had to check back every now and then to make sure I hadn't missed something important, I'm definitely in the 'it works' camp. The narration style creates complex layers which definitely make you work as a reader, piecing together disjointed narrative which segues and digresses between what was known at the time and what was discovered later by the narrator to be true. However, in making sense of the story as you read it takes you on what feels like quite a literary journey, and when I reached the end and the last piece of the puzzle slipped into place it felt like I'd just experienced a pretty fine novel.4 stars - I doubt that this will be my favourite novel of the year, but it was a good read nonetheless.
  • (5/5)
    I can't remember an experience like this where I began by detesting a writer who then in the course of the book began to admire then finally to love. It was maddening because the first person character "narrating" the book was unequal - to use Julian Barnes quote - to his tale. And yet that was finally exactly what Ford intended. But it made for a slippery slope because it meant that two completely opposite opinions could exist, if not side by side, at least unreconciled. And when you think of it, wasn't that the best choice Ford could have made? The core of the book is that it allows one to see two unreconcilable aspects of a relationship where both love and hate co-exist. To have told a tale that allowed for that from the perspective of a detached narrator would have had us requiring that voice to be certain, straight and true. So by choosing instead to have the tale told by a character who can say one moment that he loves and admires his wife and then not twenty pages on say how he never hated anyone so much, two polar feelings can be shown. There are some like Stanley Fish who admire Ford for his sentences and yet that was the least impressive aspect of the book. Ford is known as a pioneer of an approach that allows the continual looping back to the past. The book's chronology is completely non-linear. We go forward, we go back, we go back further, then inch forward again. Imagine Rashoman but instead of multiple characters there is only one source - the speaker Mr. Dowell. What took time to acclimate oneself to was the speaker's unreliability, if we take unreliability as meaning having a fixed opinion. Now, all that is to the good, however, I would advise you to avoid this edition. Whoever Lits are out of Vegas they produce a cheap and sloppy product. They are involved in ebooks and it looks it. The original copyright isn't even listed and the whole thing looks and feels as if it was run off using a Xerox machine. Nor does the cover photo have any bearing.
  • (4/5)
    Ford Madox Ford reportedly told someone in a letter that someone else had called this "the finest French novel ever written in English". I could see that - it is a little like Flaubert, or Zola. I think it also has a touch of the gothic about it - madness and suicide feature prominently and everything is told as though no one had acted of their own volition so much as played out their parts, long since set for them by the heavy hand of fate. See, the fact that I want to write sentences like that after I've read it shows you what a touch of the gothic it has.It is also told in parts, from the end-ish, to the beginning, to somewhere in the middle, to the end again, but hopping around between them as the spirit moves - the premise being that the narrator is writing as though he's telling you this late in the evening, as you sit by the fireside. And he's figuring out what happened to him as he goes along, himself. Honestly, while I liked the plot, and it gave me a lot of food for thought, I'm not sure I agreed with the narrator, or thought his objectives were worthy. He thinks it's too bad that he never did marry a pretty girl who loved him, and settled down to a nice, quiet life, yet he persisted in sticking with this crowd of people who obviously didn't love him, and never did try to seek what he would deem real happiness elsewhere. He admitted that silent manipulation, particularly by Florence (his wife) and Leonora (his friend's wife), had doomed many of the other characters, yet allowed himself and the others to be blindly manipulated, though in all fairness, he may not have known he was being manipulated at the time. But by the end of the book, he is STILL being manipulated, and still accepting it as its lot. Then again, one of the book's premises seems to be that he is only a person, and sometimes people do allow that. He had nothing but contempt for his wife, partially because she messed around on him (very understandable), but also because she would've told 'everyone' about it. While of course that is 'gauche', and would've hurt people, particularly him, you could certainly argue that, had she done that, it would've been the more honorable choice, compared to what ensued. Or, to put the plot another way - the protagonist from the Jeeves novels marries Emma Bovary, who falls in love with a fairly nice, if inconstant lord of the manor (generous to his tenants, and all too generous with his affections, mostly because he gets so little affection at home). Their lives are all quietly ruined by his scheming wife, who has the personality of a minor character in a Jane Austen plot (think Charlotte in Pride and Prejudice, who marries the clergyman - only a Charlotte with utter control over the lives of everyone around her).Ford originally wanted to call this book "The Saddest Story". It would've fit.
  • (2/5)
    The characters were interesting, but not even Frank Muller's beautiful audio performance could hold my interest with the meandering monologue that apparently makes up the entirety of this story. I gave up trying about 50 minutes in.
  • (3/5)
    Kind of like watching acid eat into a nice painting- slow, sometimes pleasurably excruciating (look! it's spreading to her eyes!), sometimes just dull. I admit I read this because I felt that I ought to, which isn't usually the best basis for reading a book. Sometimes it works out well, of course, but not so much with this. The third quarter was amazing, and made it worth while, but the first third in particular was a bit of a drag. Like Conrad writing a James novel, except instead of slightly unreliable, anachronistic narrative, it's completely unreliable and there's zero 'progression' of any kind. It reminded me a bit of Catch 22 in that way, except not funny. I suspect this would be great fun to study, too... but for night-time edification I'll stick to Conrad writing Conrad novels and James writing James.
  • (4/5)
    "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." - nice first line. A wealthy American spends time in Europe with his ill wife, and they befriend the Ashburnhams, a couple of similar age who appear to be more or less perfect. They aren't of course, nothing and nobody in the book is. What they actually are is never quite clear - the book is full of uncertainty and the reader is never quite sure how the book's events come about, or how accurate the picture being given of the various characters is (is the narrator really wealthy or even American? Is his wife really ill?). This is really good, it reminded of Conrad in its approach and psychological intricacy, and it turns out that Ford and Conrad were friends, so that's doubtless no coincidence.
  • (1/5)
    Dreadful. A long, boring non-story with muddled, plodding writing.
  • (4/5)
    I waffled a bit between 3.5 and 4 stars for this classic. While there were things about it that didn't appeal to me (some Catholic bashing for example), it made an impression on me & made me think. Two different but equally dysfunctional marriages are laid bare throughout the course of the book. It is written in an unusual style that I am not sure that I liked but worked well here -- the narrator writes as if the reader knew some fact or event that had not been revealed yet and then later explains it. For example, in the beginning of Part II, he is relating his own history talking about how he and Florence became married. He remarks "she might have bolted with the fellow, before or after she married me." What fellow? who is this person never before even alluded to? The reader begins to have suspicions of who it is and then several pages later it is revealed.As the story progresses, it becomes more and more clear that this is a highly unreliable narrator. And his shifting perspective may be not so much of a shift as a revealing of underlying views formerly hidden (from the reader and perhaps from the narrator's own conscious mind).
  • (4/5)
    Chronic, angst, chronic cardiopulmonary disease, chronic longings, chronic nastiness. Give me Dostoyevsky any day. . Crazy (poor) people are much more interesting than eccentric (rich) people.
  • (4/5)
    Reread this for a book group, which had a very lively discussion about the unlikability of the characters and the confusing character of the narrator and style of narration. The narrator is so passive he almost defines the term. And he is recalling events in an almost stream of consciousness manner, with constant time shifts as more and more is revealed. Or is it? His lack of insight is what drives the narrative as the reader is forced to construct what really happens from inferences and surmises, mostly revealed through other characters' comments as the narrator recalls and reports them. A fascinating look at early experimentation in narratorial technique by one of the outstanding authors of the time, a man who knew all the major writers and encouraged them in their (better known) work. He was especially close to Joseph Conrad, and the similarities in style are fascinating.
  • (4/5)
    An impressionistic work of English life right before the outbreak of WWI. Told in a series of flash-backs, it skips around and is nonchronological. Somewhat difficult to read, but worthwhile. You get different views of the "good" soldier and two Americans, each of whom are married. It has twists. What you believe of a character may turn out not to be true.
  • (5/5)
    Let the author and you trust each other, each to his job. Don't worry if at the start you ask, "Who is speaking here?" By the end, after all hope is gone and your heart is broken, you'll know.
  • (4/5)
    In the beginning this book impresses you with its prose as it lulls you into "the saddest story I have ever heard." The prose at the end of the book is equally good. But what comes in between, well...it speaks of a time and place and perhaps way of life that doesn't exist any more, at least not for those of us who don't immerse ourselves in novels set in the same milieu. Ford's tale of infidelity, jealousy, control, heart disease, insanity, etc. etc. is told out of sequence by its unlikable, untrustworthy narrator, who is know to contradict himself. About 2/3 of the way through, it occurred to me that this was really a very black comedy about a bunch of people who pretty much deserve what they get, and after finishing the book, I'll stick to that point of view. Apparently it is at least somewhat valid based on the Introduction in this Everyman edition. This is a book that will stick with me in some ways, and reading it was mostly a pleasure. But it isn't a great novel.
  • (5/5)
    This is certainly one of the saddest stories I have ever heard. It's as if a slow-motion train wreck were described in exquisitely controlled prose. If you insist on having a conventional plot, a good "read", then this isn't for you. The narrator is sometimes described as 'unreliable' but it's more like he's wearing blinders that occasionally flip open and smack him in the face, stunning him. Imagine a Beethoven sonata composed entirely of slow movements in minor keys -- you listen entranced, but every so often the music gives way to a heart-rending shriek, an outburst of insane laughter, or a series of bitter choking aphorisms before subsiding again into music. It's not fun, but it's a fine work of art.
  • (4/5)
    December's bookclub selection - a story about two couples and the disaster that arises when one one of the men has an affair with the other man's wife. What made this book such a great read was that it was told by the cuckholded husband as a flashback - the perfect unreliable narrator. His moods and emotions change over the course of the story and my emotions followed. It was an interesting book to discuss - different people felt that different characters were at fault and everyone was pretty flawed. I read this at the same time as listening to Edith Wharton's Age of Innocence. Both books are set in that same time period - turn of the century. Interesting to see how society's rules (divorce was scandalous - affairs were ok) dictacted people's lives.
  • (4/5)
    A very deep well written novel. A book that sentences have to be read a couple of times to get the full meaning.
  • (5/5)
    Ford Madox Ford begins the tale with the words “This is the saddest story I have ever heard,” which is a little nervy, I think – kind of like Babe Ruth stepping up to the plate and calling his shot. As if that weren’t enough, FMF “doubles down” in the preface to the version I read, explaining that when offered a chance to make revisions to the text, he decided not to change a word, as he realized the story was perfect the way it was. But d*** if the man doesn’t hit the ball exactly where he pointed. The art of this novel isn’t in the story, which is almost tauntingly simple: an upstanding, well-meaning British officer with a romantic nature that makes him a little bit too susceptible to falling in love ends up inadvertently ruining the lives of his wife (a Catholic who feels unable to divorce him), a good friend (whose wife he succumbs to), and at least two sweetly innocent but emotionally fragile ladies. The art of the novel is a little bit in the characterizations, which are authentic and intricate in a way I associate with Graham Greene, the highest compliment I am capable of giving. With few exceptions, no one in this terribly sad tale is actually evil: indeed, you could make the case that most of them demonstrate the capacity for extreme nobility – Edward, the tale’s tragic swain, is a generous and compassionate landowner; Leonora, his wife, willingly sacrifices her own happiness to secure his; Dowell, the tale’s narrator, similarly sacrifices his needs to accommodate the requirements of his wife’s (supposedly) ill health; Nancy, Edward’s final, fatal femme fatale, is sweet and patient and good. Each, however, additionally possesses a flaw – one tragic, inevitable, Aristotelean little flaw – that ends up perverting their nobility into something corrupt and awful and … yes … terribly sad. As summarized by Dowell (our first person narrator), part-ways through the tale: “I call this the Saddest Story, rather than “The Ashburnham Tragedy,” just because … there is about it none of the elevation that accompanies tragedy; there is about it no nemesis, no destiny. Here were two noble people … drifting down life … causing miseries, hart-aches, agony of the mind and death. And they themselves steadily deteriorated. And why? For what purpose? To point what lesson? It is all a darkness.” Mostly, however, the art of this novel is in FMF’s masterly and novel storytelling. The tale is effectively inverted - told from end to beginning - by a narrator who assumes the reader is already familiar with the ending. In this way, FMF crafts a tale that, instead of building towards tragedy, starts with the tragedy already established and then unfolds the details in a way so maddeningly careless that the effect can only have been achieved through the most deliberate and careful writing imaginable. Instead of waiting and watching for tragedy to unfurl – as happens in most novels – tragedy meets us on the first page and accompanies us all the way through our subsequent journey. Which isn’t to suggest this is a miserable or unpleasant read: on the contrary, I would argue that FMF’s wonderfully ingenious storytelling is what makes this “saddest story ever told” not only bearable, but hauntingly human. No short review could ever hope to capture all the worthy intricacies of this work. The title alone deserves its own paragraph: FMF’s introduction raises more questions than it answers about whether “The Good Soldier” is a literal reference to Edward, or meant in a figurative sense as a reference to all folks in this tale of act the role of “good soldier,” selflessly (or selfishly?) sacrificing themselves for the perceived good of others. Another paragraph might be devoted to FMF’s perception of Catholicism, which takes a beating in this tale. Another might be devoted to an analysis of the actual reliability of FMF’s supposed “reliable narrator”; yet another to debating whether, in this novel, FMF has indeed “laid [his] one egg and might as well die.” All of which would make this the ideal novel for a Lit 301 college course, without in any way undermining its merits as captivating and accessible tale, quickly read but not quickly forgotten.
  • (4/5)
    ”This is the saddest story I have ever heard.”So begins the 1915 novel by Ford Maddox Ford, a book that even he, ten years after its publication, was surprised by the combined intricacies of voice and non-linear construction that make this narrative confusing and just a bit odd. But dang, it seems to have left me considering a reread in the not too distant future.The story itself is fairly straightforward: two wealthy couples, one English (Edward and Leonora Ashburnham), one American (John and Florence Dowell), spend many seemingly happy years together after meeting in a German spa town. At some point, it is revealed that Edward and Florence have carried on a long affair which Lenora knows about but Dowell does not. This affair appears to be the vehicle for a bleak string of deaths, suicides, and one woman’s spiral into mental illness.To say that Dowell is an unreliable narrator would be true but it is not the whole story. He has been duped so he doesn’t really know the whole story but as he pieces it together it goes through several revisions as he tells the story from several different points of view through time, shifting back and forth through many years. This was all very daring and cutting edge in 1915 but also very jumbled and had me scratching my head wondering where the clarity would come from. The clarity does come eventually, and then you think the narrative is finished but wait, Ford throws in the explanation for one last suicide. Dowell’s narration has always been a matter of controversy and for good reason. It’s random, chaotic, sprawling and for the most part, he is looking for sympathy. He actually admires Edward, who carried on with Dowell’s wife for years, right under his nose. ”I can’t conceal from myself the fact that I loved Edward Ashburnham---and that I love him because he was just myself. If I had had the courage and virility and possibly also the physique of Edward Ashburnham I should, I fancy, have done much what he did. He seems to me like a large elder brother who took me out on several excursions and did many dashing things whilst I just watched him robbing the orchards, from a distance.” (Page 257)Huh. That is brilliant. The fact that a reader can be taken in by such a narrator, well, you just have to give a lot of credit to the author. But wait---does he just think I’m incredibly stupid? Whatever the answer is, I am going to have to read this book again in the not too distant future. And that must mean Ford’s a genius.
  • (4/5)
    This is a tale of infidelity, frustration and disappointment with a famous opening sentence: 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard'. There are many ways to read The Good Soldier. I read it for the first time cold, with very little idea about what I was in for. There are annotated editions with a plot synopsis, cast of characters and summaries of recurring themes or motifs but my electronic version was bare of any explanatory Introduction or annotation. Reading it this way was an exploratory process for the narrator, whose first and second names are only revealed incidentally, well into the novel, is unreliable, ignorant much of the time about what's going on and strangely artless. The chronology is fractured. On first reading the novel resembles a random patchwork quilt or William Burroughs cut up. My Kindle copy of the first version I read is heavily annotated with baffled or occasionally derisory comments. It would have been quite possible, of course, to begin with one of the annotated versions and commence reading with knowledge of what to expect. In retrospect, I'm glad I didn't. The Good Soldier is a book to be read several or more times and something significant in my appreciation of the book would have been lost if I had been better prepared for that first encounter. The narrator may be strangely artless in the way he frames his narrative, but Ford Madox Ford is very far from artless. The Good Soldier is ranked by some critics among the most important 20th century novels, in company with Ulysses, The Sound and the Fury, &c. It is certainly possible to disagree with that ranking. One difference is immediately apparent: the prose of The Good Soldier - the surface of the novel - is generally undistinguished. This is a tale told by a blandly imperceptive man whose mind mostly moves in cliches. He is, of course, Ford's creature and the art of the novel lies in the author's deployment of his unreliable narrator, with all his inadequacies of perception and expressiveness, over the shifting terrain of his 'saddest story'.
  • (5/5)
    Rated: A-Ford masterfully weaves a sordid narrative tale of intrigue of passion in the empty lives of the rich. This book was one that kept calling me back to fill in more of the blanks in the sad story. Great handling of the various points of view from the leading characters.