Thursday, July 21, 2022

Review: The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford

Have you seen the meme about how childrens' books are all about unicorns and rainbows, and adult books are all about depressed people having affairs? Well, buckle up, because this may be the most depressed book about the most depressed people having the most depressed affairs ever in the history of depressed people having affairs.

That said, it's kind of wonderful- beautiful and sad and stupid and tragic and full of dumb people making dumb choices.

Originally published in 1915, it tells the story of two couples, the Dowells and Ashburnhams, as told by Ned Dowell, one of two survivors of what he calls "the saddest story I have ever heard."  The two affluent Anglo-Irish-American couples meet every year in at a resort in Germany and it quickly becomes clear that things are not all on the up-and-up. Edward Ashburnham is a serial adulterer; Florence Dowell has a past she would rather her husband not know about, and Florence's husband Ned and Edward's wife Leonora seem to just exist as cover for theirs spouses' various issues. 

Edward and Florence have a passionate affair but that's not even the one at the true center of this domestic maelstrom, something we learn about much later in the narrative than you might think, given the outsize role that relationship plays. 

What I loved about this book is the beautiful, careful writing, the slow unrolling of the mess of these peoples' lives and the complete lack of resolution. By modern standards these peoples' lives are ridiculous but if you can put that aside and just kind of wade in and let yourself get immersed it's worth it. I think the pointlessness is also the point. This is not going to be a book for everyone; stay away if you need likeable characters or a satisfying resolution. But if you can lose yourself in the story of a life you'll be grateful you're not living, it can be a satisfying read.

I did not receive this book for review.

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