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The Good Soldier – Ford Madox Ford



Posted May 6, 2016 by

The Good Soldier – Ford Madox Ford – 1915

JBHandelsman-FordMadoxFord copy

JBHandelsman – The New Yorker – 28th of June, 1983


Posted by Sterling on 15/2/2015, 13:53:51

To be honest, I thought my days of really being excited by something I’m reading were over. For literally years now, I’ve kept reading because, well, that’s what I do. It’s always been my main hobby. I’ve enjoyed some books quite a bit; some books not so much. That thrill of reading that I got when I was much younger seemed to be burned out.

Until I read The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. My God, what a terrific novel! As I was reading it, I simply couldn’t believe how much I was enjoying it. The awesomely sly structure, in which the narrator appears to simply ramble, flashbacks and foreshadowings strewn at apparent random. But each is placed with the precision of a depth charge. The masterful control of tone — ironic, cruel, paradoxical, funny, and, yes, even sad (“This is the saddest story I ever heard”). The shocking twists to the plot, which would be much less effective if placed in strict chronological order. The ultimate unreliable narrator. Is he clueless? Is he manipulative? Is he both?

I know that you hated it, Guillermo, and it seems that someone else here (Steven? Joffre?) also didn’t like it. So-o-o, I guess “different strokes for different folks” or whatever. You might give it another try, though. It reminded me a good deal of late James, in terms of the obviously oral style. But it is both much easier to read than James and much, much more cruel. An amazing work! No wonder it makes so many “best novel” lists. It’s the first book that I might consider promoting to my all-time Top Ten in years.


Posted by Joffre on 15/2/2015, 16:29:44, in reply to “The Good Soldier”

I’ve never read it. I’ll have to consider it now.

Was this part of the gap filling project?


Posted by Sterling on 15/2/2015, 17:52:36, in reply to “Re: The Good Soldier”

Not exactly, because I haven’t thought of it as a “gap,” e.g. a must-read that I haven’t yet gotten around to actually reading. But, well, it’s free on the Kindle. It’s on McCrum’s list, as well as the Modern Library, Bloom, Smiley, etc. And, this may sound awful, but it’s the only novel that Guillermo “hated” out of all of McCrum’s list (although he didn’t seem to care much for Jude the Obscure, either.) That may sound disrespectful to Guillermo, but actually, he has such a generous spirit and broad range of taste, I was curious to try (for free) and see what sort of novel he “hated.”

(And now, I think he should really give it a second chance.)


Posted by guillermo maynez on 16/2/2015, 11:57:37, in reply to “Re: The Good Soldier”

Actually, I’ve been having second thoughts about that novel for a long time now. At the time of my reading “The Good Soldier” I wasn’t having exactly a good marital relationship and I think maybe that influenced my emotional state when I read that novel. Just a guess. One doesn’t like to think of oneself as prone to external influences, but isn’t that exactly what learning is all about, receiving and culling external opinions in order to form one’s own? So, in view of so many recommendations from people I look up to in those matters, from Bloom and McCrum to my good friends here in ReadLit, and especially now that Sterling has given such enthusiastic advice, I will read again “The Good Soldier”. I will let you know my thoughts after that second reading. Thanks for insisting.


Posted by Lale on 16/2/2015, 16:42:31, in reply to “Re: The Good Soldier”


Is it about war?

Don’t tell me the story, just tell me if it is a military/war book or not. The word Soldier in the title drew me away but your praise intrigues me.



Posted by Sterling on 17/2/2015, 10:04:26, in reply to “Re: The Good Soldier”

No, not at all. It’s about love, adultery, and betrayal. Not a battlefield in sight. It takes place at the very beginning of the 20th century before World War I.


Posted by Lale on 17/2/2015, 17:17:07, in reply to “Re: The Good Soldier”

Great. It is now on my list. Thank you. I loved your short review and want to read it.


ReadLit Team


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