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The Good Soldier

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  21,609 ratings  ·  1,470 reviews
Leonora and Edward Ashburnham were "good people" from England, as John Dowell, the narrator of this tale, explains: and Dowell and his wife, Florence — leisured Americans of solid stock — were, like their English friends, a "model couple."
For a dozen years, the foursome cultivated and maintained a friendship reinforced with yearly meetings at a fashionable German health
Paperback, 160 pages
Published November 2nd 2011 by Dover Publications (first published 1915)
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Jul 30, 2012 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
Sep 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a sick, rotten, depraved society we're treated to, populated by liars and knaves, and yet I found myself heartbroken by the end, wondering what kind of magic spell Ford had cast on me. Ford is an absolute master of technique--in this case the use of flashbacks and an unreliable narrator--and I found myself riveted throughout. The novel begins with one of the most famous opening lines in literature: "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." That may well be true.
"In all matrimonial associations there is, I believe, one constant factor - a desire to deceive the person with whom one lives as to some weak spot in one's character." (page 86)

"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise"

Most of us aspire to knowledge and perhaps we hope it will lead to wisdom.
But we make exceptions. Sometimes major ones.
Wilful ignorance of some dark behaviour of another or even oneself: an affair, addiction, abuse, debt, or fraud, for example.

The layers of deception and
Steven Godin
The Good Soldier I found to be a difficult book to grasp, at least to begin with. I felt the need to go back over the first 40 pages or so, just to try and accustom myself to it. Things paid of in the end, but it really did require patience, a quiet room, and reading big chunks at a time, rather than just picking off a few pages here and there. The theme is a strong one, that being marriage and adultery, with a narrator who you feel in the dark about, going over the events of two couples, one ...more
“We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist.”

This novel is so stunning. Oh my god. I did not expect it to be this good.

After reading this a second time for my term paper, I'm still in awe of this book. I've never read anything quite like it. First of all, I'm glad I picked this up. We were supposed to read this for a literature class and if it wasn't for this seminar, I would never have picked up this novel in the first
Jr Bacdayan
Oct 01, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Storytelling is about as much an art as is writing. Any piece of paper can have beautifully constructed sentences, impeccable prose, dazzling verses, yet when there simply is nothing to tell all those words are moot. The alarming strength of the Good Soldier can be found in its maze-like narration that starts off with an innocent consciousness that through the pages, like a survivor seeing a massacre unfold as a blinding mist slowly recedes, realizes one by one the sins of the world he once ...more
Mar 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ·Karen· by: Teresa
Shelves: brits, favourites
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
Feb 23, 2016 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
Oct 16, 2007 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
Jul 11, 2008 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
May 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
K.D. Absolutely
Jul 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
I don't think it's a good idea to read and review books know you won't like, unless you're being paid for it, or trying to get decent marks in a course that has them on the syllabus. Even so, I do it occasionally too. For this list, I needed one Ford Madox Ford book. The subject of Parade's End appealed somewhat more - though not a lot - and I avoided watching the TV series partly in expectation of one day reading the book. But I've never been terribly keen on the subjects of Ford's books - and ...more
Jul 27, 2012 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
Nov 21, 2012 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 ...more
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 ...more
May 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kristy K
Jan 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I imagine this book would have been very scandalous for its time. Our narrator, John Dowell, tells the tale of his and his wife’s friendship with the Ashburnhams and the subsequent affair between his wife and Edward A. He goes on to talk about many of Edward’s dalliances and you get the feeling John at times envies Edward. While there is some tragedy, on a whole this book reads with lots of dry humor and naïveté.
Oct 19, 2007 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.
I read Parades End last year and really enjoyed it, Rather expected this to be in a similar vein so was a bit taken aback on reading. Strangely enough it's not a war story but is about an American and English couple whose lives entwine over nine seasons in the early 1900's.

I didn't mind so much the unreliable narrator Dowell as it happens, but I did have some trouble accepting his naivety towards his wife Florence. A story of unhappy, destructive, obtuse people who are tied to each other by
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
Apr 21, 2012 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
Tale of the breakdown of relationships that I read roundabout the age of seventeen. What I found remarkable was the narrative style that cleverly pulls your sympathies from one character to another. Very effective piece of writing.

Ford Madox Ford was an admired but commercially unsuccessful writer and much of his work is sadly out of print, worth hunting down though.
Nov 19, 2014 marked it as aband-s  ·  review of another edition
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
Dillwynia Peter
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A daring title for the year it was published – 1915 - for our male characters are anything but good soldiers. This novel seems to polarise readers into extreme love or hate. It also announced the Modern novel had arrived.

It is not the simplest of reads and it doesn’t take you long that something is very off kilter in the narrative. There aren’t that many surprises, you are told from an early time that most of the characters in the tale are dead. This is more how their actions may or may not
I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze. I cannot help it. I have stuck to my idea of being in a country cottage with a silent listener, hearing between the gusts of the wind and amidst the noises of the distant sea, the story as it comes. And, when one discusses an affair—a long, sad affair—one goes back, one goes forward. One remembers points that one has forgotten and one explains ...more
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Yes definitely one to read again.
classic reverie
Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier was my next read. You would think this story had something to do with the war since it was written in 1915 but it takes place from 1904 until 1913.
It is loosely based on Ford's life & adulteries that were present in his life but unknown what character would best represent himself. The title was changed from "The Saddest Story" to "The Good Soldier". One of the characters is a soldier but many characters were trying to be "good soldiers" in their life. When
Nov 15, 2012 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
I liked it. Mostly. To be precise, up to two-thirds; after that, the subject matter, the narrator (for it is largely a retrospective, first-person narrative by a middle-aged white male), and the style (increasingly exalted - think schoolgirls, not nobility) began to tire me. I think it was partly because I started to dislike the narrator and his manner of self-presentation; what made the first two-thirds of the book enjoyable for me was waiting for some sign that he is, in fact, unreliable - it ...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
“I know nothing - nothing in the world - of the hearts of men. I only know that I am alone - horribly alone.” 72 likes
“The world is full of places to which I want to return” 50 likes
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