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The Good Soldier [Norton Critical Edition]

de Ford Madox Ford, Martin Stannard (Editor)

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1996119,584 (3.92)Cap
Originally titled "The Saddest Story" and heralded by Graham Greene as "one of the finest novels of our century," Ford's 1915 tale of passion and deceit in the lives of two married couples is a modernist masterpiece. The Norton Critical Edition of The Good Soldier allows the reader to thoroughly study Ford's great work and unravel its mysteries and meanings. This Second Edition is again based on the meticulously edited first text of the novel and offers detailed annotation, a note on the text, and sections on textual variants and manuscript development along with pertinent illustrations."Backgrounds and Contexts" brings together important appraisals of the work directly following its publication. Reactions from Rebecca West and Theodore Dreiser are included among the reviews. The section also collects critiques on literary impressionism, including one by Ford, and related writings by Henry James and by frequent Ford collaborator Joseph Conrad, among others."Biographical and Critical Commentary" collects differing assessments of The Good Soldier. Contributions from Richard Aldington, Samuel Hynes, John A. Meixner, Frank Kermode, Carol Jacobs, Thomas C. Moser, Ann Barr Snitow, and Vincent J. Cheng are joined by new selections from Colm Toibin, John G. Peters, Max Saunders, Karen A. Hoffman, and Julian Barnes.A Selected Bibliography is also included.… (més)
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This is a novel that you need to read at least twice.

It's the story of a women, born and raised in the Catholic faith who finds herself married to a Protestant because her family is in desperate need for one of the girls to marry well. She cannot stop her husband from having affairs with other women, so she tries to control him and the women he has the affairs with. Her faith is misplaced in a society that is so contradictory to said faith, and her rigid notion of it. ( )
  Isabel22 | Jul 18, 2022 |
It was a case of literary name-dropping that led me to search out Ford Madox Ford's The Good Solider. Having aged out of copyright restrictions (published in 1915) and having drawn sufficient attention over the years to be able to boast of its own CliffsNotes, The Good Soldier is available on the internet as a free pdf download, which is how I read it.

The story is told in the first person by a self-described “leisure American,” a wealthy man who marries an attractive woman of such delicate nature and precipitous health that the marriage is never consummated. Yet the marriage survives, and the narrator and his wife, whom he takes to calling “poor Florence,” live abroad, attaching themselves in couple-fashion to a former British military officer and his wife. Our narrator describes them as a “model couple”: “He was as devoted as was possible to be without appearing fatuous. So well set up, with such honest blue eyes, such a touch of stupidity, such a warm goodheartedness! And she—so tall, so splendid in the saddle, so fair! Yes, Leonora was extraordinarily fair and so extraordinarily the real thing that she seemed too good to be true.” Yet from the beginning, our narrator has forewarned us that things might not be as they appear: “Some one has said that the death of a mouse from cancer is the whole sack of Rome by the Goths, and I swear to you that the breaking up of our little four-square coterie was such another unthinkable event.”

And that’s the subject matter of Ford’s Good Solider—the events leading up to and immediately following the demise of the relationship between two married couples, all of them in their thirties, whose lives take a number of odd and unanticipated turns that culminate in the “breaking up” of this pair of couple-friends.

Despite a series of tragedies, the action is something of a comedy of errors, kept light by the narrator’s candid humor, typically illustrated by his description of the seeming lack of communication between husband and wife, the couple to whom he and Florence have become so attached: “You cannot be absolutely dumb when you live with a person unless you are an inhabitant of the North of England or the State of Maine.” His is a snobbish, self-indulgent humor.

As I sat down to write this review, I was curious about what else may have been written about it since 1915, what with the CliffsNotes and all. One female reviewer commented about the two primary male protagonists, “They have fully colluded in their emasculation by not knowing how to be men.” Having been myself married a time and a fraction and having reached a certain age, I saw these characters quite differently. I rather think they were baffled by the difference between being men (according to the culture of the times) and being husbands; how different and more complicated the world of marriage from the world of making one’s mark as a man—something that continues to mystify many men to this day.

As I began to wonder how The Good Soldier became a classic, I ran across a review that labels it “one of the few stylistically perfect novels in any language.” And now I puzzle through that. It hasn’t been an enjoyable read, yet I found it difficult to put down. In retrospect, I can see that an ambitious, intricate plot comes quite perfectly together at the end. There are no characters that cause the reader to ask, “Whatever happened to her?” There are no loose ends that cause you to ask, “But how did the dog get from the backyard to the library?” Everything is quite expertly and tidily brought to a conclusion with no missing pieces. I suspect I would enjoy reading this one again, this time at a more leisurely pace, to enjoy the masterful technique of bringing everything so perfectly together. ( )
  bookcrazed | Sep 6, 2019 |
Hmmm... Well, I expected to love this well-written novel of unrequited love, I guess one would say, written in the early 1900's by the American Maddox Ford. One really could not tell this was American though really- a very British restraint and setting. Two young married couples meet each summer at a German spa and their lives become intertwined.

It is really about how people who ostensibly should love each other come to loathe one another and almost unwittingly suck the soul out of one another. God forbid one does not keep up appearances and simply separate. The prose was crystalline and lovely and the storytelling, jumping around in time as it did, was both enchanting and maddening. I guess my issue is I could not stand our deluded narrator; what a milk sop! It was hard for me to feel sympathy really for any of the characters except Leonora, who I guess I was actually supposed to blame for the whole debacle. While I enjoyed the novel and the dramatic tension -- in the end I was frustrated by Florence and Edward's grand finales. I mean really; man up already. Leonora, despite her Catholicim which was just mercilessly criticized in the novel -- she is the good soldier IMO.

I guess for all the lovely restraint in the writing I wanted more depth to justify the tragedies. Because certainly the story is a tragedy of Greek proportions. Considered a modern classic -- I can't completely agree, but I am glad I read it and enjoyed it for the most part. ( )
1 vota jhowell | Oct 20, 2013 |
"This is the saddest story I have ever heard." Thus, the famous opening line of The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion by Ford Madox Ford. Ford gives us a story set during la Belle Époque filled with passion to be sure, but also with irony and the suffering of two married couples, one English and the other American. Told by one of the protagonists, it presents as sympathetically as might humanly be expected the sad tale of the gradual disintegration of what appeared at the outset to be exemplars of the beautiful people of the age, "good people," as Ford repeatedly reminds us. Both couples were of the rentier class, i.e., bourgeois, upper middle class, wealthy and with far too much time on their hands for their own good. In calling his novel The Good Soldier, the reader will come to find out the depth of Ford's irony.

Ford's construction of this great tale is masterful in the sense that he keeps the reader on tenterhooks, not in a suspenseful way, but in the way one's impressions of each character rise and fall with each new revelation. And "impression" is the word, because Ford has produced a classic of literary impressionism in the way his narrator Dowell unravels events in his own mind and reveals the character of each protagonist.

What we have here is a kind of circular tale. It is not a narrative in the usual sense where one thing happens after another. Dowell has sat down to tell his story in an effort to understand what has transpired himself, and so as Dowell reminisces and goes back and forth to fill in the blanks as he recalls them, the reader shares his self-revelations and gradual grasping of the enormity of it all.

It is a haunting story. One may come away feeling entirely exasperated with the stupidity and self-destructiveness on display, but The Good Soldier is one of those classics that deserves to be read and reread. ( )
16 vota Poquette | Dec 29, 2011 |
Another of my Top Ten Favourite Novels. First published in 1914, this book was the first work of fiction to use the device of the "unreliable narrator." And what an unreliable observer John Dowell is! A tragicomic masterpiece. ( )
  chamekke | Aug 25, 2007 |
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Originally titled "The Saddest Story" and heralded by Graham Greene as "one of the finest novels of our century," Ford's 1915 tale of passion and deceit in the lives of two married couples is a modernist masterpiece. The Norton Critical Edition of The Good Soldier allows the reader to thoroughly study Ford's great work and unravel its mysteries and meanings. This Second Edition is again based on the meticulously edited first text of the novel and offers detailed annotation, a note on the text, and sections on textual variants and manuscript development along with pertinent illustrations."Backgrounds and Contexts" brings together important appraisals of the work directly following its publication. Reactions from Rebecca West and Theodore Dreiser are included among the reviews. The section also collects critiques on literary impressionism, including one by Ford, and related writings by Henry James and by frequent Ford collaborator Joseph Conrad, among others."Biographical and Critical Commentary" collects differing assessments of The Good Soldier. Contributions from Richard Aldington, Samuel Hynes, John A. Meixner, Frank Kermode, Carol Jacobs, Thomas C. Moser, Ann Barr Snitow, and Vincent J. Cheng are joined by new selections from Colm Toibin, John G. Peters, Max Saunders, Karen A. Hoffman, and Julian Barnes.A Selected Bibliography is also included.

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