Two couples, two marriages; both seemingly perfect, both falling apart. Beneath the surface gentility of the American John Dowell with his wife Florence and the landed grace of Edward and Leonora lie fictions and deceit. There are secret desires, hidden power-games, suicides and madness. Everyone is hiding something; even the narrator can’t be trusted. Brilliantly inventive, tragic and ironic, The Good Soldier is one of the great novels of the 20th century.
Public Domain (P)2010 Naxos Audiobooks
' "This is the saddest story I have ever heard" has to be the best opening sentence of any novel ever written, doubly so when you discover that it is also totally misleading. Far from being a detached observer as the first sentence implies, Dowell is at the very centre of drama. Here's where a good reader (and Kerry Shale is one of the best) gives audio the edge over print. His characterisation of Dowell is breathtakingly subtle: the cultured, only discernible American accent, his disarming confidentiality and above all his laugh. Never was a laugh less careless, more calculated to deceive. Listen and I guarantee you'll be as dazzled by Shale's performance as I was.' (Time Out)
It's misogynistic and full of bigotry. I know it may not reflect the writer's own opinion, but it made me unconfortable. Also the narration is over dramatized which makes the main character sound pompous and unworthy of sympathy.
I suspect that Ford Madox Ford, like Marmite, you either love or hate. This book was my first taste of FMF (I thought I'd begin with something shortish before embarking on the Parade's End quartet) and I loved it. The story moves backwards and forwards in time and gradually unfolds and then pleats again but always leading to a fuller picture of what has been happening to the 4 characters of the novel. Nothing is what it seems and the idyllic picture of the four friends with which the novel opens is anything but. This is brilliantly written, funny and tongue-in-cheek at times, dark and penetrating at others. The interior world is contrasted against exterior social constraints and conventions, late Victorian manners with early 20th century psychology. Maybe think Virginia Wolf's Mrs Galloway but with heart and humour and without the pretensions. I listened to Kerry Shale as the narrator, who was brilliant. Highly recommended.
"The Good Soldier"
This book has a style that Scott Fitzgerald later echoes. Cynicism, passion, treachery and death all told by an unreliable narrator. But what makes this so much better than the book is the reader, he is wonderful! His voice is both disarming and poignant, and his heart-warming, self-deprecating laugh will stay with me for a very long time.......
"Highly rated by others but not by me"
I had just finished Parade's End by Ford Maddox Ford and was completely knocked out by it. I'd had only the vaguest awareness of Ford until Tom Stoppard's screenplay for a great TV three parter recently broadcast in the UK wetted my appetite. Listening to the whole five novels unabridged was a delight, so as soon as I finished I wanted more. The Good Soldier is regarded as Ford's greatest novel and makes it onto many lists of the greatest novels ever. The writer Jane Smiley, who writes a pretty good novel herself, calls it "one of the most stylistically perfect novels in any language". For me it was a disappointment. The story is an intricate construction, the interconnected lives of two affluent couples - one English and one American- holidaying in Europe, and it is brilliantly read by Kerry Shale. Smiley is right about the wonder of its construction and the artfulness of its story telling, but I just didn't care for any of the characters. That might be a rather unsophisticated approach to literature, but in Parade's End Ford makes you feel that you fully understand even the strangest of characters and, through understanding, care about them. This doesn't. But do give it a try - you won't be bored.
"Subtle, so subtle."
Reading this book is like watching an artist paint a quadruple portrait, of two married couples, in oils. First he sketches the four happy young figures, then he progressively fills in the colour and detail. (It's a bit like Julian Barnes, but with Edwardian values and hang-ups). FMF never puts a smudge out of place as the picture gets fuller and darker. Trouble is, I'm a twenty-first century reader, and I don't quite have the patience for it. Of course it is fascinating to contrast my life, attitudes, and marriage to the pre-female liberation lives of Florence and Leonora. Unfortunately, I just don't have the patience. I'm afraid I am going to have to drop this novel at about 60% audioed, and not stay to watch the paint dry. I'll finish it when I am retired in a few years time and have loads of time and patience.
"Gripping story told in a unique style"
Yes, the story is gripping and there are layers and layers to it - nothing is as it seems and even the narrator (the character Dowling) might not be telling you the full truth. This is an 'impressionist' novel but don't be put off by the unusual story telling technique it keeps you hooked to the end and takes you on a twisting journey that ranges from beautiful to shocking
understated but full of emotion
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