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The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion Paperback – August 24, 2004
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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Ford's novel revolves around two couples: Edward Ashburnham--the title's soldier--and his capable if off-putting wife, Leonora; and long-transplanted Americans John and Florence Dowell. The foursome's ostensible amiability, on display as they pass parts of a dozen pre-World War I summers together in Germany, conceals the fissures in each marriage. John is miserably mismatched with the garrulous, cuckolding Florence; and Edward, dashing and sentimental, can't refrain from falling in love with women whose charms exceed Leonora's. Predictably, Edward and Florence conduct their affair, an indiscretion only John seems not to notice. After the deaths of the two lovers, and after Leonora explains much of the truth to John, he recounts the events of their four lives with an extended inflection of outrage. From his retrospective perch, his recollections simmer with a bitter skepticism even as he expresses amazement at how much he overlooked.
Dowell's resigned narration is flawlessly conversational--haphazard, sprawling, lusting for sympathy. He exudes self-preservation even as he alternately condemns and lionizes Edward: "If I had had the courage and the virility and possibly also the physique of Edward Ashburnham I should, I fancy, have done much what he did." Stunningly, Edward's adultery comes to seem not merely excusable, but almost sublime. "Perhaps he could not bear to see a woman and not give her the comfort of his physical attractions," John surmises. Ford's novel deserves its reputation if for no other reason than the elegance with which it divulges hidden lives. --Ben Guterson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
If one prefers one's narrators and ostensible heroes to be truly heroic and sympathetic, then this novel will not please. If one, however, can imagine enjoying a novel written with J. Alfred Prufrock as the narrator and central character, then one is in a position to appreciate THE GOOD SOLDIER.
The novel is not a page-turner. If you read this novel quickly, you have read it wrongly. The beauty of the book is the exquisite prose, and should be read slowly, savoring each sentence and each sentiment. There is a dreamlike (one could say nightmarish) quality to the book, and one will most enjoy it by allowing oneself to become entranced by the atmospheres summoned up.
If you are willing to take the novel on its own terms, with its unheroic and unadmirable characters, with its pathetic elements and situations, and its subtle psychological observations, then there will be few reading experiences that will match THE GOOD SOLDIER. One of the most remarkable novels of the past century. But if you only like novels where there is a definite hero and admirable characters, you probably wouldn't enjoy this very much.
Perhaps the greatest effect the book has is the after-taste. When reading the book, I found it slow and boring. Once I set it down, though, I couldn't stop thinking about it. I had to read it again. And once I began again, I found myself reading it slowly once more, though not from boredom, but rather because I wanted to savor it and take it all in.
I encourage anyone who has begun this book only to find themselves tired of it rather quickly to stick with it. You'll be glad you did. You'll find yourself buying copies for friends to read, as I do. This book truly gets under your skin.
It seems like a book about Leonora and Edward Ashburnham as told by a naive and passive friend, John Dowell. In reality, it is the transformation of John Dowell as he makes sense of his world after shattering information. His entire sense of reality has been undermined by the knowledge that the past 13 years 6 months were established in lies.
The structure of the novel is deceptively simple. His retelling of past events masks the fact that the action of telling the story occurs in the present. Dowell tells us he has been writing for 6 months, he goes away for 18 months, returns, and then finishes the last two chapters. The lack of a fixed time frame for the narrated histories of the major characters again blurs time. And then there is the fact that there are several layers of story. There is reality, which we can never know. There is what Dowell believed was reality, of which he gives some description. There are the stories from various points of view that Dowell was told and then digests and retells to us. Then there is the present action of Dowell's changing self. All of these except for the last, are filtered through Dowell's narration. The last is exposed through his narration. In this work we have one of the finest examples of the Impressionist style of writing, as well as the Modern.
Dowell is a recovering innocent.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This story gave me a good picture of life in the English countryside before the war. The characters are engaging and the author does a good job making them come to life. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Karen H. Fink
Excellent read. One page was creased due to shipping, other than that I rate this order a 5.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Well written with a real twist. At the end, ask yourself, "Who has mental problems?"Published 2 months ago by Henrietta S. Barbour
Has a confusing beginning and moves a little slow and is kind of dark. But not a bad read.Published 5 months ago by john fees
Not an easy read but worth the effort; very perceptive of human nature.Published 6 months ago by adrian garai
I was disappointed. I can see why one might think it was clever: the unreliable narrator, the writing carefully done so it comes across as somebody talking to you; the... Read morePublished 7 months ago by Flynn
1. He says these phrases way too much in his book: "I mean to say", "I don't mean to say", "At any rate". Drove me nuts.
2. Read more
The Good Soldier is an intellectually interesting novel. The novel is the rambling memories of John Dowell, an American aristocrat who’s spent his married life in Europe. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Oddsfish
Published in 1915, Ford Madox Fords' The Good Soldier is a masterpiece in British literature.
It is a book to be savoured for the beautiful prose and the clever presentation... Read more