Introduced by Julian Barnes
Illustrated by Philip Bannister
Ford's masterpiece. This extraordinarily influential novel tells the tale of John Dowell, who sits down one day to write the saddest story he ever heard
When John Dowell sits down in an English country house to write ‘the saddest story’ he ever heard, he knows only some of the passionate and tragic events which have passed. Slowly, as he writes, five tangled lives are presented to us. John Dowell and his wife Florence are wealthy, leisured Americans living on the Continent. Their close friends, Edward and Leonora Ashburnham, accompanied by their devoted niece, Nancy Rufford, seem the perfect English family. But behind the Edwardian façade of elegant ease and correctness lurks secret layered upon secret.
‘Probably one of the finest novels of our century’
Ford himself called this, ‘the only novel of mine that I considered ... at all to count’, and certainly it was an extraordinarily influential book for later writers, including Joseph Conrad, Henry James and Graham Greene, who found in its impressionistic and brilliant narrative techniques new ways to express themselves.
In Ford’s revolutionary style, Dowell reflects on his involvement with the Ashburnhams and Nancy, piecing together fragments of memory in his search for the truth. The result is a remarkable achievement, the story pushing onwards with increasing intensity to its tragic denouement. ‘Why can’t people have what they want?’ asks Dowell as he reaches the end of his story. ‘Perhaps you can make head or tail of it; it is beyond me.’
‘The Good Soldier – a tale of operatic passion and tragedy – is Ford Madox Ford’s masterpiece. It is regulary chosen by novelists asked to name their most underrated book’
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