- Ebury Press
- Publication Date:
- 16 August 2012
Showing 1-4 out of 5 reviews. Previous | Next
Masterly evocation of the Great War and the upheaval in British society which accompanied it. The POV drifts and weaves from first to third person, time is dilated, layer on impressionist layer is daubed, until Ford's subject is embedded in the very marrow of the reader.Every character is sumptuously drawn, every chain of thought is as natural, as solid and as wildly intricate as a spiderweb. This book is an aching lament with moments of roguish, cocksure humour.Half star knocked off for the marginal drop in perfection of Book IV.More ellipsis and exclamation marks per page than any other book.
Though in the swing of some monumental historical events, this is not exactly a novel in which things occur. It's an obsessively detailed, crushed-flat-against-the-window-of-the-car trip through the characters' innermost, intimate minds. I found Ford's protagonists, prose style and and thematic windings unique, compelling and inimitable; I will read this book for the rest of my life. I can understand not wanting to sit through it, however. It's binds the reader to one of the most idiosyncratic human psyches ever written up.
With the dawning of a new century and war breaking out across Europe, the fabric of social custom in England begins to unravel around Christopher Tietjens. Wealth and status and marriage, all of the values that long ordered society, have little meaning for Christopher. Though born into wealth, he regularly gives money away to a host of parasitic friends. Every choice he makes in his personal life and work seems designed to anger the arbiters of polite and revered society. And his wife Sylvia, though he stubbornly refuses to divorce her, is devoted to openly seducing other men and tormenting him.The four books that comprise Ford Maddox Ford’s [Parade’s End] examine the dissolution of, for want of a better term, Victorian life in Great Britain. Ford uses the Tietjens’ marriage as a metaphor for all that was falling apart during the European world’s descent into war and madness. Christopher clings to the marriage in a thoughtless and blindly dutiful way, while in love and devoted to Valentine Wannop, a lively young idealist. Sylvia refuses to leave Christopher, even though her only attraction to him is aroused when she believes that another woman might be interested in him. Everyone around Christopher focuses on the appearances of his choices, to the point that wild stories of sexual intrigue and betrayal take the place of the truth. And the innocent Christopher consistently refuses to defend himself. The hard edge of absurdity slicing through the social interactions for each of Ford’s characters carries his central message: life based on blind duty and social order constructed on empty values and appearances is ridiculous. Ford abuses and punishes Christopher in every imaginable way, from saddling him with dimwitted and devious functionaries for bosses to pairing him with uncaring family and friends to muddy and absurd trench duty during his war deployment. Besetting Christopher from every direction with uncaring and manipulative characters was not enough for Ford to make his point. He also plagued the luckless Christopher with a personality so passive that it borders on a martyr syndrome. The result is a tiring read. At some point, after Christopher has declared his refusal to leave his philandering wife for the hundredth time, even a patient reader starts to grouse. In fact, the biggest problem with Ford’s Job-like experiment is that he says too little too often and for too long. That Ford needed four books and over 900 pages to detail the dissolution of the Victorian way of life in the wake of the First World War doesn’t seem out of proportion. But the execution suffers from too much repetition, especially in the long inner dialogue passages. The same ground seems covered and re-covered too often.On the other hand, Ford’s novel warrants classic status. First, as a contemporary of Joseph Conrad and James Joyce, it is no wonder that Ford masterfully changes perspective in building his narrative thread. The story loops back on itself again and again, being re-told from varying perspectives in a way that is fresh and offers new and important information from each characters point of view. Ford builds tension and interest by folding the story back and forth on itself in time with each new section. Ford’s collection of books also deserves a place in the hall of classics because he is one of the first authors to take on the First World War and its effect on the soldiers who fought it. The second book in the collection deals almost exclusively with the trench warfare and the endless absurdity in the administration of the war. Christopher’s experience trying to outfit and move soldiers to the front reads like a Monty Python version of George Orwell’s .On balance, though I enjoyed large sections of [Parade’s End], the reading experience was too repetitive and too long. Ford is a master writer and the story an interesting one, but the marathon nature overshadowed things.
this book at it's best a non-linear, psychological puzzle of sorts. at it's worst a drawn out epic leaving little delight for at least this reader. to say that i hated every paragraph would be a gross overstatement. there is much to appreciate including the tension filled love pseudo-triangle between christopher, sylvia, and valentine. the author is unafraid to fully drench the reader inside each character's soul, to excavate even the basest of thoughts and motives. this sort of honesty in literature is to be commended. the beginning of each section is like waking up from a dream in a strange bedroom. you never know where you are, what is going on, what has happened previous. only slowly does the author reveal these things. all that said, this novel lacked so much that i appreciate in literature. it didn't draw me in as so many authors do. i approached the book each time as a duty instead of a joy and by the end it was a final push just to finish it. can i pinpoint any general reason? everything sounds so superficial so i leave it at this. some authors strike a note with certain people in not only what they say but in how they say it. from the first page to the last this ear never found the note that ford was pounding.
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