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THE GOOD SOLDIER A Tale of Passion \o7 by Ford...

June 04, 1989|Elena Brunet

THE GOOD SOLDIER

A Tale of Passion

by Ford Madox Ford

(Vintage International: $6.95)

Narrator John Dowell and his wife, Florence, have known Capt. Edward Ashburnham and his wife, Leonora, "with an acquaintance-ship as loose and easy and yet as close as a good glove with your hand." For nine years both couples spend the late summer months at the German spa of Nauheim that specializes in the care of heart ailments.

Florence had told her husband "that if she became excited or if her emotions were really stirred her little heart might cease to beat"; for his entire married life he has been absorbed with nurturing his wife, directing conversations off controversial subjects such as poverty, crime, religion and love.

Hence it comes entirely as a surprise when he discovers that his partners in the "four-square coterie," so-called "good people," have in fact been unfaithful, deceptive, traitorous.

Ford Madox Ford may have been the first novelist to introduce a narrator who has been an entirely unreliable witness. As he lets slip fragments of what has actually been taking place, the narrator's lack of imagination, his passivity and unquestioning obedience are made abundantly clear.

It is a measure of Ford's finely crafted tale that rather than be frustrated by the narrator's obliqueness, a reader will be spurred to collect clues to get the real story.

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