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Parade's End (Vintage Classics)
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193 of 198 people found the following review helpful
on June 30, 1999
I find it very sad that this great novel has again gone out of print, perhaps never to reappear after Everyman had to put it on remainder. Granted, as the reviews below note, it is written in an elliptical manner with time shifts, interior monologues as substitutions for action scenes and other moderist devices which make this book, like the Ulysses of Joyce, for instance, or Woolf's To the Lighthouse, God help us all, a challenge to the reader. And let's face it. Only critics like, or claim to like, a difficult book. Parade's End has never been a best seller; it has never been a modest seller. But behind the challenge is a heroic life given to us fearlessly, without irony or cynicism; a story that simultaneously beats on us and disintegrates before our eyes; and, built accretively, below our consciouness until the final novel, the tapestry of all the dross and glory of our own lives--all this the result in large part, no doubt, of these very modernist devices (while Lighthouse shows us that modernism can be an empty stage too). Tietjens stands with Adam Bede as one of the most memorable and noble characters in English literature. We care about him, which is exactly why the modernist style maddens us here--we need to know what happens to him, to be rushed to the finish. But Ford will not let us. We have to be pulled deep into Tietjens, to experience as our own all of his humiliations, to hold hard and unbending with him in intuitive dignity against the moral folly of others and the emptiness through which they are hurtled. Toward the end our reading slows. He is become our strength, our safe harbor; we cannot let him go. I know of no more powerful multi-volume work after Proust, not Musil, Powell, Durrell, etc., than Ford's Parades's End.
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93 of 94 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2000
One of the greatest books EVER written in the English language. Period. (Well, actually, it's four books, but they don't publish them separately anymore.) FMF is a modernist genius in the order of a Faulkner or a Woolf, with a beautiful style, incredibly human characters, and a mind-boggling knowledge of both the human heart and the physical world. FMF seems to be as quasi-omniscient as his noble last Tory, the main character, Christopher Tietjens. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to say that it's an easy book. Parade's End not a potboiler to read at the beach while you're getting a tan and sipping margaritas. It is a book that challenges the reader to let go of expectation and any hope of conventional structure, and to allow FMF's unique storytelling to settle into your gut slowly. It is a moral novel that doesn't moralize. A book about what it is to be good, to be a human being. FMF's beautiful style is even exceeded by his love for humanity and generosity of spirit. The sheer uncynicalness of the book--especially in this hollow, cynical age--is like a balm on this reader's eyes. This is one of those books, like Sound & The Fury, like Ulysses, like Pride & Prejudice, like Great Expectations, that EVERYONE should read.
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70 of 72 people found the following review helpful
Ford Madox Ford wrote prolifically, with a repertoire which experimented with style, character and narrative across a variety of settings and subject matters. Ford's Parade's End is among the very best of his works. The centerpiece, Christopher Tietjens, seems on the surface to represent a now-commonplace theme in English literature--the "last English gentleman" metaphorically swept away by modernity in the aftermath of the First World War. The first of this set of novels, "Some Do Not", features an opening passage which is laced with brilliant satire, crystal-clear character development, and a style which is utterly accessible and utterly enchanting. Through the rest of this novel, and well into the next volume, Ford seems to be telling a straightforward "passing of the noble old things" story. But Ford Madox Ford is rarely so straightforward, and these novels are no exception. What seems to begin as a mere bemoaning of a passing age turns into a demonstration of the inevitability, and even the desirability of its passing. Although Ford creates a perfect foil to Tietjens to apparently illustrate the vulgarity and superficiality of the modern age, things are not so simple. Tietjens views his world as irreparably fading, but Ford understands that Tietjens' world may never have existed at all. Galsworthy's Forsyte Saga and CP Snow's Strangers and Brothers novel cycle both try to show the passing of "old England" and the marching in of modernity. Neither Snow nor Galsworthy, though each is wonderful, does as much with narrative style as Ford does here. Ford's novels seem to take a simpler approach to the topic by creating Tietjens, the representative of the "old order", and his wife Sylvia, the representative of the "new", but by the time that the plot is worked out, the reader comes to understand that Ford has created a hall of mirrors and metaphors, and nothing is as simple as it seems.
This is one of the great must-reads of 20th C. English literature. It's a shame that it's not required Brit lit reading in every college survey.
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2013
It surpasses all the recenty novels I have read about World War I. It gives a though perspective, not merely a historical one. The characters and the times, their way of looking at a fast-disappearing world are vivid on the page. The literary quality means that you can be transported back into the era without leaving your seat--or searching names and places on your computer. You are a part of the times, and bleed as they bleed. The work is a masterpiece; it reinforces the importance of World War I in our lives. A generation lost, a generation who survive lives in terrible fear. You should not miss this.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on December 6, 1998
Reading "Parade's End" requires courage and patience, and the reader must endure some frustrations. For instance, Ford refuses to dramatize any of the main occurrences in the story, preferring to have them fitfully recalled in the consciousness of one or more of the characters who may be simultaneously thinking of three other things. He is mostly interested in this interiority, and all its accompanying shapnel of thoughts and mental chatter. The reader must endure his disdain of traditional chronology, his vicious portrayal of Americans, and his uncomfortable comments on Jews. The novel is made up of four shorter novels, and parts of "No More Parades" and "A Man Could Stand Up" are insufferable--mainly when he overdoes the interiority and, again, simply refuses to dramatize. The amateur reader may feel crucified on a cross of modernism--for modernism's sake. And when they read some of the high claims made for this novel, they may wonder just what these critics could have been thinking. Yet parts of the book are beautiful and moving, especially sections of "The Last Post," and you feel throughout that you are in the hands of a brilliant man. Ford also has created some great characters. One could debate the authenticity of Sylvia Tietjens, perhaps--but the cast of Christopher Tietjens, Valentine Wannop, Mark Tietjens, Edith Ethel, and the wonderful Marie Leonie could comprise one of the best collections of characters in all literature. Ford surely thought that the style of this novel embellished its themes, but it also turned it into a fascinating muddle. Despite this, I would urge courageous readers to wade in, and see if they sink or swim.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
How I wish I could urge this enormous, engrossing, and satisfying novel on everyone who, for instance, loved Pat Barker's WWI Trilogy, or Ford's own THE GOOD SOLDIER, or Mary Renault's THE CHARIOTEER, or indeed anyone who cares about intricate characterization, a terrific love story, sweep and intricacy in serious fiction. The love story of Christopher Tietjens and Valentine Wannop, and Tietjens monumental battle with his vicious wife Sylvia and all the British ruling class who prop her up, will enthrall you. Let the Ford Madox Ford revival begin!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2013
Ford Maddox Ford (1873-1939) the grandson of Ford Maddox Brown the Pre-Raphalite painter was an innovative author in the early decades of the twentieth century. His most famous novels "The Good Soldier" and "Parade's End" have won him literary immortality. "Parade's End" is invariably listed as one of the best one hundred novels of the twentieth century. The huge 906 page tetralogy of four novels covering from 1912 to the postwar World World I has been made a bestseller due to the influential BBC series.
The book deals with such themes as:
a. The passing of the old aristocratic class society of England as manifested in the life of Christopher Tietjens. Tietjens is a rural Tory who has grown up on the vast estate of Groby in the Yorkshire Ridings. Tietjens is infatuated with eighteenth century living but is forced by war and love to enter the mechanized twentieth century of social disorder.
b. The difficulties of married life. Christopher and his wife Sylvia separate. She is amorous, beautiful and unfaithful to the saintly Tietjens. Their one child Mark may have been the son of a man she had an affair with prior to the Tietjens marriage. Sylvia is a cold and calculating woman is loosely based on one of Ford's mistresses Violet Hunt.
c. The huge book evinces the disillusionment and world weariness of the World War I generation. Ford would influence the writings of such authors as Hemingway and other authors of the lost generation.
d. The book is a searingly realistic portrayal of the gritty and tragic warfare experiences oi British troops on the Western front. The petty politics of the officers and the rat like existence of the enlisted men are well drawn by Ford. He was a veteran of combat in France during the war.
e. The book shows us a classic love triange tale. Christopher is loved by both cold Sylvia and the enchanting young Valentine Wollop a virginal, youthful and athletic young lady.
The book is modernistic in its use of flashback and the adroit way the characters reflect on their emotions. Some readers will find this book slow but it will reward careful readers through its close examination of the complex business of human love. It can be very slow moving at times!
Minor characters and upper class British society are well drawn. "Parade's End" is a classic novel by a great writer. It is an essential read for literate English readers. Highly recommended!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
How I wish I could urge this enormous, engrossing, and satisfying novel on everyone who, for instance, loved Pat Barker's WWI Trilogy, or Ford's own THE GOOD SOLDIER, or Mary Renault's THE CHARIOTEER, or indeed anyone who cares about intricate characterization, a terrific love story, sweep and intricacy in serious fiction. The love story of Christopher Tietjens and Valentine Wannop, and Tietjens monumental battle with his vicious wife Sylvia and all the British ruling class who prop her up, will enthrall you. Let the Ford Madox Ford revival begin!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on March 14, 2013
I began this this tetralogy when I was a callow youth, but I am glad I waited until recently to savour its gentle virtuosity. The main character, Christopher Tietjens, signs his name Xtopher, which suggests a Christ figure itself, especially when combined with his surname, which sounds much like Jesus.

Though the protagonist may be viewed by modern readers as a pompous prig, he is in fact a very humble, erudite character who does not struggle with worldly lusts or desires. He simply transcends them. Others he meets fear him because of his obvious physical strength and because of the wrongs they do him, whether adultery or failing to repay debts or by calumniating him cutting down Groby Tree and partly destroy his ancestral home. He is a victim of slander but is only concerned for those who are slandered with him than he is for himself. He gives of his money and his solace and love to anyone who asks for help. His main reason for wanting to be with Valentine Wannop, is because he wants to be able to complete conversations with her.

Parallels with Jesus pervade the four stories, including one to Lazarus where he uses his superhuman strength to pull a soldier out from a mountain of rubble that collapsed on him from a bombarded trench. Tietjens is feared and maligned but also followed and admired because of his unassuming strength and quite leadership. He is a genuine protagonist who, unlike Ford's suicidal protagonist in "The Good Soldier", is blessed with a future of uneventful years, in which he can be assumed to quietly do good.

Though the work is a love story without the hint of a love scene, and a war story without a single battle scene, it is gripping. It holds the reader enthralled through fugues provided from the perspectives of multiple characters, so that Ford quietly invalidates scandals and elucidates misunderstandings. In the end, the story has no villain, because the reader has come to walk in the shoes of all the characters. They are all, except Tietjens, lacking in virtue forgiveably. Parade's End (Vintage Classics)
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 1998
Having read Ford's absolutely brilliantly wrought little novel "The good soldier", and having read the terrible review of Parade's End on Amazon.com, I didn't quite know what to expect when starting on this tetralogy. I am quite sure I wouldn't have liked it at all as a teenager, but as a man of forty years with a wrecked mariage behind me, I find this a deeply moving account of a man's grappling with profound moral issues of love, faithfulness, war and politics. It is set against the dramatic backdrop of WW1, where Ford himself served as an officer in a regiment just like Tietjens'. One may suspect that Ford has incorporated other elements of his own life in the plot, as he himself lived with three women in succession after leaving his wife, whom he never divorced. Ford's style of writing isn't exactly straightforward, and if you are accustomed only to Tom Clancy and Robert Ludlum you may find it tedious reading. But my personal opinion is that Ford succeds in doing what his old buddy Conrad tried to do but never quite achieved, if you see what I mean... I do warmly recommend this book to the literate reader who wants to enjoy some truly great literature.
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