review of: the good soldier, by ford madox ford

The Good SoldierThe Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

This book is vastly overrated. It pioneered, if that is the right word, the untrustworthy narrator, which may have seemed an innovation a century ago, but now looks worn, disconsolate, like a ramshackle back alley.

It also gave us the flashback, told in non-chronological order, which some call literary impressionism.

Accordingly, the story flits between two couples, one English, the other American, taking the airs on the continent while hanging out a lot of dirty laundry. For 1915 this was intended to be shocking. The sarcastically titled Good Soldier, the Brit hubbie, is a particularly good rogue, despite his charities and decent soldiering, while his American counterpart, who narrates the sludge, is a Quaker and particularly nebbish dolt. The women don’t escape untarnished. One, a young, married woman and the rogue’s third between-the-covers affair, in fact only escapes by killing herself, while another, a young ward of the Brits, is seduced, then sent back to her father in India, goes mad en route, and eventually is nursed by the long-suffering narrator who loves her but can’t marry her due to her madness. Got it?

In my teens (which lasted well into my twenties: tweenties?) I dabbled with this unreliable narrator convention, having fun with a short fiction film named “rendez vous” (both the illicit encounter sense, and “to render yourself”), but have matured enough to be heartily sick of it. (Hollywood, I hear, has re-discovered this type of trickery. Good riddance.)

In the end, our sad, modernist age began with such innovations: for if a book’s narrator can be untrustworthy, then why not doubt the veracity of the Apostles and the Bible itself?

All narrations then, in this metatext world, are self-serving dribble. Or are they?

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About ben

Ben Batchelder has traveled some of the world's most remote roads. Nothing in his background, from a degree in Visual & Environmental Studies at Harvard to an MBA from Wharton, adequately prepared him for the experiences. Yet he persists, for through such journeys life unfolds. Having published four books that map the inner and exterior geographies of meaningful travel, he is a mountain man in Minas Gerais, Brazil who comes down to the sea at Miami Beach, Florida. His second travel yarn, To Belém & Back, received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. For more, visit

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