The Good Soldier, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


Ford Madox Ford's extraordinary novel of passion and betrayal, The Good Soldier, is edited with an introduction by David Bradshaw in Penguin Classics.The Dowells, a wealthy American couple, have been close friends with the Ashburnhams for years.

Edward Ashburnham, a first-rate soldier, seems to be the perfect English gentleman, and Leonora his perfect wife, but beneath the surface their marriage seethes with unhappiness and deception.

Our only window on the strange tangle of events surrounding Edward is provided by John Dowell, the husband he deceives.

Gradually Dowell unfolds a devastating story, in which everyone's honesty is in doubt.

The Good Soldier is a masterpiece of narrative skill and emotional depth.David Bradshaw's introduction discusses John Dowell as the classic unreliable narrator and as English literature's most fascinating enigma, and shows how Ford Madox Ford's unconventional narrative structure makes The Good Soldier a modernist masterwork.

Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), born in Surrey and educated in England, Germany and France, changed his original surname, Hueffer, in 1919, after having served with the British army in World War I.

As well as founding both the English Review and the Transatlantic Review, home to such writers as James Joyce, Ezra Pound and Gertrude Stein, Ford was the author of more than sixty works including novels, poems, criticism, travel writing and reminiscences.

The Good Soldier (1915) is considered his masterpiece.If you enjoyed The Good Soldier, you might like Ford's Parade's End, also available in Penguin Classics, and now the subject of a major new BBC/HBO television miniseries.'A masterpiece'Julian Barnes, Booker Prize-winning author of The Sense of an Ending'I don't know how many times in nearly forty years I have come back to this novel'Graham Greene


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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

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The Good Soldier is less about what the text says than about what it doesn't.John Dowell is the narrator of this story of two couples (John and Florence Dowell; and Edward and Leonora Ashenburner). He is, allegedly, unaware of the affair between his wife and Edward until after her death, when he relates the story to the reader. How a man could be 1/4 of a close circle of people and remain unaware of their activities stretches credibility; hence, we must come to view John Dowell as an unreliable narrator.The writing is superb and kept me interested in spite of little direct action and almost no dialogue. This is the kind of book that could be read several times, and each time will bring new insights into John's character, and through those insights, to the "truth" of what really happened.

Review by

Ford Madox Ford originally intended to call this beautiful but tragic novella "The Saddest Story", based upon the opening sentence, "This is the saddest story I have ever heard"> His publisher objected, suggesting that such a title would have a disastrous impact upon sales. Ford was not convinced, responding angrily that the publisher should do whatever he thought fit, adding that one might as well just call it "The Good Soldier". "The Saddest Story" might have spelt disaster on the booksellers' shelves but it would certainly have satisfied those who lean towards the "It does what it says on the tin" approach to titles. It is an immensely sad story - the tale of two self-destructive couple touring Europe in the early years of the twentieth century.However, it is also a beautifully written story, to such an extent that one suffers all the pain of the narrator as he recounts his tragic story.Ford was a master of literary criticism and brought all his stylistic knowledge to bear here giving a series of different literary devices (flashback, impressionism, florid conjecture). It is a short book but infinitely rewarding .. yet also heartbreaking.

Review by

"This is the saddest story I have ever heard." - nice first line. A wealthy American spends time in Europe with his ill wife, and they befriend the Ashburnhams, a couple of similar age who appear to be more or less perfect. They aren't of course, nothing and nobody in the book is. What they actually are is never quite clear - the book is full of uncertainty and the reader is never quite sure how the book's events come about, or how accurate the picture being given of the various characters is (is the narrator really wealthy or even American? Is his wife really ill?). This is really good, it reminded of Conrad in its approach and psychological intricacy, and it turns out that Ford and Conrad were friends, so that's doubtless no coincidence.

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