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The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion

3.72  ·  Rating Details  ·  15,668 Ratings  ·  1,038 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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Feb 04, 2016 Darwin8u rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“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 it was amazing
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 really liked it  ·  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
Feb 02, 2008 Kelly rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Sara Steger
May 17, 2016 Sara Steger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story of two marriages, a philandering husband, a controlling wife, living lies, keeping up appearances, misusing religion and pursuing happiness in all the wrong places. It is told by an unreliable narrator who scarcely seems to understand the import of the story himself. It is wonderfully constructed, gloriously convoluted, and amazingly misdirected. The narrator tells us, "I have stuck to my idea of being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between the gusts of the ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 23, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it
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.
Dec 27, 2013 knig rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2013 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 07, 2012 Shane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 19, 2007 Jesse rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: them, him
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.
May 02, 2012 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Oct 02, 2013 James rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
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
May 20, 2008 James rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lplib-classics
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
May 14, 2016 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I waffled a bit between 3.5 and 4 stars for this classic. While there were things about it that didn't appeal to me (some Catholic bashing for example), it made an impression on me & made me think. Two different but equally dysfunctional marriages are laid bare throughout the course of the book.

It is written in an unusual style that I am not sure that I liked but worked well here -- the narrator
writes as if the reader knew some fact or event that had not been revealed yet and then later ex
Sep 26, 2008 Lostinanovel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 12, 2016 Emma rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Deeply hated everyone is this book. But a really fast and enjoyable read. If you like mystery, passion, people with blue eyes, and modern classics then give this a go. Also the writing is kind of gorgeous.
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
Aug 15, 2009 Beth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 16, 2016 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
As I try to gather my thoughts on this book, I suppose that I should begin by saying that I knew nothing about this book. I was intrigued by the premise and decided to join a buddy read of it. It focuses on the relationship of two couples, but don't let that simplicity fool you. This book is full of complexity.

The book is told by a narrator, John Dowell, who unravels the story as if you were sitting with him having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. That aspect is what drew me into the book. T
Apr 30, 2009 Tyler rated it really liked it  ·  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
Tiffany Reisz
Sep 08, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nov 18, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
"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
Chiara Pagliochini
Nov 12, 2011 Chiara Pagliochini rated it it was amazing
“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
Jul 14, 2015 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 04, 2015 Eleanor rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Marlin Elina
Nov 02, 2015 Marlin Elina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, uni-books
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.
Jan 28, 2016 Sandy marked it as abandoned  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Ford Madox Ford has had three hours of my precious "listening-to-Librivox" time and he won't be getting a minute more. After having heard about one-third of this book, I began to suspect that the narrator - and maybe also the author - was full of the proverbial "BS".

I have known people who tell convoluted, confusing tales like this. Yes, they do exist. No doubt you know at least one of the species too. Why do they do it? My theory is that there is a perverse sense of power in stealing the liste
Oct 09, 2015 qtasha rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know you're supposed to wait between readings when you read your favorite book to air yourself out, but I read this book two times in 2014 and this year because its just so good I heard Joan Didion read this book every time she begins a new book. In my humble opinion this is the book to read if you want to be a writer of any worth. This heartbreaking masterpiece of English literature its just hard to describe the disjointed and numb narrator John Dowell the honorable and dishonorable Edward As ...more
Dec 23, 2008 Anjali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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
“The world is full of places to which I want to return” 38 likes
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