The Good Soldier


Today I finished reading

The Good Soldier frontispiece

This frontispiece contains one of Philip Bannister’s excellent illustrations.

The Good Soldier cover

Although the term was not universally adopted until 1925, the Art Deco period had already begun in France by 1915, when Ford’s novel was first published. This, I imagine, is what inspired Bannister’s front cover design.

The author begins with ‘This is the saddest story I have ever heard’, but do not despair, the book is a perfectly constructed work demonstrating profoundly insightful characterisation, well-observed description and good story-telling written in flowing prose.

I will not reveal the story save to say that as a “tale of passion” it is of the suppressed kind, and is related by a close observer of humanity who has not, himself, experienced the “magnetism and passions” of such “splendid and tumultuous creatures” as the ill-fated protagonists of “the Ashburnum tragedy”. Dowell, the narrator, is convinced that in a world stifled by “conventions and traditions”, only the “normal” survive, and no-one, even they, gets what they want in life.

I found myself wishing that Henry James, an earlier American-born writer with an equally psychological bent, who died the year after this book’s publication, could have written rather less densely, and as apparently freely as Ford.

Julian Barnes has provided an interesting introduction to my Folio Society edition.

The Good Soldier illustration
The Good Soldier illustration

Here are a couple more of the illustrations.

This evening we dined at The Hare & Hounds in Sway. Jackie’s starter was prawn cocktail,


mine was whitebait in beer batter, served with brown bread and butter and salad.

Fish and chips

We both enjoyed fish and chips as a main course,

and neither of us could manage a dessert. Jackie drank Amstel, and I drank Ringwood’s best.

38 responses to “The Good Soldier”

  1. It was after a session at the Hare and Hounds that I cycled home in a rather discombobulated state and ended up in the ditch by the goose farm opposite Peterson’s folly on Barrow’s Lane. To say it was full of run off does a disservice to ‘run off’. This stuff would have left Usain Bolt for dead. Mum swears she smelt me from a mile a way and she was certainly at the back door when I staggered round to ensure I didn’t come in until she had hosed me down.

  2. Food looks good, apart from a lack of mushiness in the peas, and I’m sure the company was good. The Good Soldier has been on my “to read” list for about 40 years – really must try harder! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. An excellent review (I know the book) …. I particularly like the observation on H James’s writing as opposed to Ford and agree. The word ‘dense’ is in perfect context. Supper looks scrummy …. it reminds me that a visit to England is overdue ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Food looks great! As for the book…that subject seems to have been a common one for writers of that time. I suppose a lot of writers, and other people as well, felt repressed.

  5. An amazing collection of illustrations throughout the book Derrick and an interesting read too. I do love Fish and Chips, yours looks as delicious as the one I recently had when visiting Freeport, Maine.

  6. I like the addition of peas, nicely served fish and chips platter! “Yummy for the tummy,” as my grandson Micah would say. All the grandkids like fish ๐Ÿ™‚ which may seem normal~ but I have run into many children who don’t over the years. . .
    The book is quite beautiful and the Folio Society series is a great idea, Derrick.

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