The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford is considered one of the best 100 best novels of all time. One reviewer called it the "finest French novel in the English language." This alludes to the complex plot, fascinating involvements and constant surprises. It recreates the difficult relations between two "perfect" Victorian couples who leisurely travel and stay at the finest European luxury gathering places.
While "weeding" our collection, I came across this title. I was unfamiliar with it, but the preface sounded fascinating. I thought I'd give it a try that weekend while I went up the coast to bask in the beauty of the ocean crashing on the cliffs. My weekend went totally differently than I had planned. I holed up in a bed and breakfast and read nonstop. I could not put this book down. Sometimes a classic is a classic for a reason! The story is timeless in many ways, but definitely of-and-in the Victorian upper class world.
Don't be misled by the title. It is not about war. This book was to be published right at the end of WWI and the publisher didn't want Ford's title, The Saddest Story Ever Told, because everyone was dealing with sadness of The Great War To End All Wars. The main character had been soldier, liked and respected by all, hence a "Good Soldier." The publisher thought the public would be more willing to pick up a book featuring such an attractive person. This was a wildly popular book when it first came out and is considered Ford's best work.
Ford was a fascinating character and friend of many major writers of the era, including Joseph Conrad. After you read this title you'll want more from Ford and his friends.
I recommended this as a title for our book club at Lakeview. Below is the update to our group after the meeting:
The seven of us who were there really liked the book. A couple mentioned that at times it was confusing, because the narrator would jump forward and back in time. This was something the author did intentionally and we agreed that it helped build the suspense and sense of danger around this gathering of mostly unlikable people with mostly useless lives, deceiving and mistreating and emotionally torturing each other. There was something for everyone :>
We briefly wondered at the hormone level of the husband who never consummated his marriage. We agreed we actually knew people like this and didn't really understand it. We could see why this book has stayed popular.
One member mentioned that Ford's other most popular novel, Parade's End, is now in serial form on HBO. BBC did a mini-series of the Good Soldier, (I believe only two episodes) and it is available at Main. I watched it eagerly and found it very good, but by no means as stunning as the novel.
Oakland Public Library currently has three copies of this novel. If those copies are checked out, be sure to reserve a copy from our Link+ system. Link+ allows us to borrow books that Oakland Public Library may not have available. You just need your card number and pin number to place a hold. There are many, many copies available through Link+. Call Main or any Branch if you need help placing a Link+ hold. ,,,or call me. 510-238-7344 at Lakeview :>
Mary Farrell, Branch Manager, Lakeview