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The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  13,928 ratings  ·  943 reviews
For nine years, John Dowell and his wife have spent the summer season at a German spa town in the company of the respectable Ashburnhams. Behind the placid exterior of their lives lie the destructive passions of men and women. When Dowell's world breaks apart, he tells his story as intimately as to a silent listener across the fireplace of a country cottage. 'Who in this w ...more
Paperback, 307 pages
Published May 13th 1999 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1915)
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“I don't know what anyone has to be proud of.”
― Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier


What? You mean this novel isn't about war? Is it possible to hate a book and love it at the same time? This is one of those books where it immediately becomes obvious you aren't going to read this novel for the strict pleasure of it. This book ain't ice cream on the beach folks. I don't think I've run across a more amoral, unsympathetic cast of characters since I visited Kehlsteinhaus. But, Ford Madox Ford is absol
Jun 22, 2012 ·Karen· rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to ·Karen· by: Teresa
Shelves: favourites, brits
Oh! Propriety!

Nowadays there's a word for Edward Ashburnham. And I don't mean some modern vulgarity, unavailable to the Edwardians, something like emotional fuck-up, appropriate as that may be (or not). No, I'm thinking serial monogamist. The term is new, because the concept is new. At the turn of the 20th century there was monogamy. Or there was promiscuity: casual couplings with seamstresses, milliners, laundresses or the convenient and pliable housemaid. A taboo subject, to be spoken of in hu
Jul 14, 2008 Chris rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: just about anyone
Today’s special from the bill of fare: Crow. Market Price. Served with a complimentary slice of stale pumpernickel and a glass of river water.

I really did not think I was going to enjoy this book one bit; I also erroneously believed it was included in the collection of crap known as Time’s ‘100 Best 20th Century Novels’, and the fact it isn’t is probably why it was actually enjoyable. This is, however, included on several other ‘hits lists’, such as the ridiculous 1001 Books to Read Before You D
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 23, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K.D. by: 501 Must Read Books, 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Shelves: 1001-core, 501
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 02, 2008 Kelly rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of the Lost Gen, fans of british literature, those who like character studies
Wow, was this well done. I almost wrote 'fantastic', but that didn't seem appropriate to the mood of the piece. It is also throughly soul-crushing, of course, but that shouldn't affect your reading plans in favor of it. It really is a must-read, I think.

The book is a thorough condemnation of the principles of Edwardian society and the Victorian society that came before it, made all the more effective by the fact that it comes from the most unlikely source, a timid, quiet American man who has ha
Why is this titled ‘the Good Soldier’? Edward was a soldier, for a spell. Edward of the nefarious quadratic epicentre where, after the music stopped everyone sat on the wrong chair. Is narrator John Dowell (where only Dowell seems to appear in the text and you have to read FMF’s intro to gather it was prefixed by a John, a man insignificant enough to not have a name?) in love with him? And did said John ever consummate his twelve year marriage to Florence? And, do lets dig some more dirt: did Ed ...more
The Good Soldier is so heartbreakingly beautiful. I wonder if I have ever felt so conflicted when a book came to an end, on the one hand I didn't want the experience to end - I unearthed gems on every page, gems of solemnity, disappointment, angst, and insight; on the other, each page filled me with renewed heartbreak. The "saddest story" is about two couples, the upright up-class English Ashburnhams (Edward (the eponymous, ironic "good soldier") and Leonora) and the American Dowells (John (our ...more
This is indeed a sad story, where no one gets what they want.

Based on a true story and revolving around two couples, one English the other American, and narrated by the American husband, this novel is told in an experimental style. When I mean told, there is very little dialogue and most of the incidents come out in dribs and drabs, out of sequence, and from a rather unreliable narrator who constantly contradicts his statements. The narrator goes over old ground frequently, mostly trying to reco
Reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast brought me back to Ford, an author whose most well known piece of fiction has been on my perpetual "to read" list. Hemingway's less than flattering portrayal of Ford was the tipping point, and I finally decided to read this novel while Papa's well depicted portrait of Ford was fresh in my head.

After the first 50 pages I was convinced that I had read this story. Tropes tried-and-true seemed to drip from the pages; I found myself sighing and noting frequently h
Lots of books (novels and otherwise) attempt to mix the chilling and the blasé for that extra-cold "banality of evil" effect. Among novels, American Psycho comes to mind as a possible least-favorite and The Good Soldier as a certain favorite. It would be too much to call any of these characters "evil" but as you ponder who among the morally vacuous cast is the "worst", you'll discover that your gaze turns inward, which is Ford's real achievement here.
Victoria Young
The Good Soldier is an amazing feat of plot construction. This is the best example of how an unreliable narrator (John Dowell) and fragmentary plot can be used to reveal intricacies of character that could never be as effectively expressed through simple description. Not only is this brilliantly done, but I was amazed to realise how early a piece of modernist work The Good Soldier is- published in 1915. It must have created quite a stir when it was published as its main interest is the destructi ...more
This is a novel that describes a labyrinth. Any one who has survived a terrible relationship knows this labyrinth well, its fretful turns and endless doubts. Maddox Ford pretty much sums up the crushing fate that follows any one who willingly takes on the labyrinth. The moral is simple and edifying. Where there is no love, there is no life--or rather life can only stretch out indeterminately, looking increasingly impossible, as a consequence of there being no love, or having been fooled by its p ...more
Some questions arise when reading The Good Soldier. Is it an impressionistic masterpiece? Is it a tragedy or a comedy? Published in 1915, from the pen of Ford Madox Ford, it is unique enough to have been described by its critics as all of the preceding and more. Subtitled "A Tale of Passion", it is unique both in my experience and within the author's total work.
The story is narrated by an American, John Dowell, who invites the reader to sit down with him beside the fire of his study to listen t
The evidence that I am a complete Philistine continues to accumulate, as yet another acknowledged classic sails right over my head. I did not like "The Good Soldier", for various reasons. Here are a few:

# The plot was an awkward mixture of implausible contrivance and overwrought melodrama, and seemed fundamentally not credible, from start to finish. The basic setup (Serial philanderer Edward cheats on controlling Leonora and cavorts with Florence, the slutty wife of the book's narrator John) was
Embarrassed to say that I somehow missed this one. I know it is highly acclaimed and my fellow readers here seem to love it, but i must be missing something. The narrator is frustratingly stupid and naive and the good soldier is simply a bastard. Social constructs doomed the characters but their adherence to society's rules borders on foolishness, particularly when they clearly dont really care for these rules.

The point of view aspect is intersting and I wonder if I didnt miss something there.
If you want a good case of cultural whiplash, read The Good Soldier and then the reviews of Michel Houellenbecq's Plateforme (thanks, Hazel). From 20-year-old virgins who don't know where babies come from to sex tourism in less than a hundred years.

Ford's book has been called a perfect novel by some. There are endless (and interesting) debates about the reliability of the narrator. The novel has been described as impressionist literature, and the story is told in kaliadoscopic flashes. One's und
Apr 30, 2009 Tyler rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Tyler by: Goodreads Review
I shouldn't have liked this book: Two wealthy, idle, hypochondriac couples while away the summers in jaded ennui at a German spa. But I did like it. How does the author pull that off?

The answer comes down to the writing, though creative technique also deserves mention. Ford Maddox Ford uses a single member of this foursome to tell the entire tale from an embedded point of view, leaving readers to work through the inevitable gaps. To good effect, Ford also fractures the story according the jumble
Chiara Pagliochini
“Questa è la storia più triste che io abbia mai sentito. […] Mia moglie ed io conoscevamo il Capitano e la signora Ashburnham così bene com’è possibile conoscere chiunque eppure, in un certo senso, non sapevamo proprio niente di loro.”

Mi congedo da questo libro con una tristezza incredibile, resa tanto più grande dalla costatazione che non avrei mai conosciuto questo romanzo se non fossi stata obbligata a leggerlo. Certe volte fioccano libri che sembrano darti le risposte che cercavi e allora re
Four and a half stars.

Two couples, John and Florence Dowell (American) and Edward and Leonora Ashburnham (English), meet and become friends at a German spa town in 1904. In a retelling of events, by an unreliable narrator, we learn the story of a tangled web of deceit, unhappiness, jealousy, fear and suspicion. A fear of public scandal, bound by convention and religious beliefs all add to the behaviour. A cataclysmic event occurs. Control, pride, silence and tolerance in marriage are themes too.
Marlin Elina
A bit tedious to read at times (I have a mind that easily digresses, and this combined with a narrator that easily digresses as well made my focus slip quite often), but honestly, I just love a good, sad story. And this is supposed to be the saddest story.
So, I read this book in my endeavor to try some of the works of various expatriates. I liked it. It is obvious from the start that Ford is a great writer. I did not know much about the author or book, and it was different from what I was expecting. The story revolves around two couples who disintegrate over the course of the book due to their infidelities, deceptions and manipulations. (It isn't a war story!) ha. But, the story did flow nicely, and I am glad I took the time to check it out.
Mysterious and extraordinary. It is bemusing to start with, but very well worth staying the course. In the end, quite heartbreaking in the way the characters destroyed themselves and each other.
"The Good Soldier" is a southern European opera masquerading as Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night". It's that nuts. I have no idea what these people think they are doing. Isn't it supposed to be the twentieth century? Aren't most of them supposed to be English? (America is represented by an effete narrator and his slutty wife.)

I was reminded of something Junichiro Tanizaki had someone think in "Some Prefer Nettles":
"Surely, he may say to himself, the problem, no matter what strong emotions it s
I must have not seen the subtitle before reading this book, because I thought it was going to be about war or something. Actually, it's about love affairs, and honestly one of the most interestingly written books about love affairs I have ever read. It's a lot like someone you know was telling you about the love lives of your friends--taking great care to introduce characters they think are important, but sort of absent-mindedly referring to other people they haven't introduced or mentioned in p ...more
Tiffany Reisz
This book was pretty rad. I didn't know what to expect from it. Couldn't stop reading. I see why it's a classic. Read it if you like the classics and want to read an unreliable 1st person narrator.
This a book people who want to be serious professional writers. its unstable,sad, broken, story. The film with the same name is excellent as well.I'm afraid I can't write more.

Gary Brecht
A contemporary and sometime collaborator with Joseph Conrad, Ford Maddox Ford was not a novelist studied in the English Literature classes while I was a college student. Intrigued by the endorsement of a dozen or so well known authors and poets on the cover of a paperback version of The Good Soldier, I decided to give it a go and see for myself if this novelist was as good as advertised. I am an unabashed fan of Joseph Conrad and thought perhaps I’d stumbled upon a lesser known genius-friend of ...more
I reread this novel for a book group and was surprised how little people had to say about it since I was fascinated by the characters, the story and the way it is written. The layering and returns of the narrative, with more revealed each time, as well as the themes reminded me very much of Henry James--Portrait of a Lady, The Wings of the Dove--with the contrast of social appearances and the gradual revelation of what lies behind the appearances. And then there's the narrator and what he does a ...more
I liked it. I have been pondering this book a bit since I finished it and - admittedly I struggled with the complex plot, the writing, the endless description of a series of affairs and their upsetting consequences on the lives of nearly every character throughout the novel - I now realize that there isn't a perfect linear understanding of the reality within this story. Truth is illusive, truth is slippery and kaleidoscopic. It changes and tries to stay just a half step away from our sensory org ...more
John Hartwell
I loved the complexity of this novel - the complexity of the relationships between the chief characters, and the hidden intrigues and passions behind the respectable facade of wealthy, ruling-class Edwardians. The narration is intriguingly haphazard with important elements of the plot exposed when you least expect them. There are lots of comic moments in what is, in effect, a tragic love story. The writing is of the highest quality - one of those books you know you will read and re-read for the ...more
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Ford Madox Ford, born Ford Hermann Hueffer, was an English novelist, poet, critic and editor whose journals, The English Review and The Transatlantic Review, were instrumental in the development of early 20th-century English literature.

Ford Madox Ford was the author of over 60 works: novels, poems, criticism, travel essays, and reminiscences. His work includes The Good Soldier, Parade's End, The R
More about Ford Madox Ford...

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“I know nothing - nothing in the world - of the hearts of men. I only know that I am alone - horribly alone.” 50 likes
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