Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Good Soldier

An impressionistic masterpiece? A tragedy or a comedy? This novel, published in 1915, from the pen of Ford Madox Ford 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 to the "saddest story" he has ever known. The story, set during the decade preceding the Great War, while sad for some of the participants is truly sad only in the ironic sense of the word. The characters are not particularly likable or sympathetic. Considering that, it is counter intuitive, but the reader is spurred on to read the novel by the precision and the beauty of the prose and the intrigue within the story. The narrative unfolds in a mosaic-like way with a traversal of the narrator's memory back and forth over the nine year period that is covered. When complete, the tale is ended perfectly much as it begins. The result is a beautiful small novel that ranks high in this reader's experience.

The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion by Ford Madox Ford. Everyman's Library, New York. 1991 (1915).

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