We know, the name is not thrilling. We groaned inwardly at the prospect of another war book with gruesome battle scenes and unrequited love for the poor wounded soldier, a la Hemingway. But who knew we’d be taken to a German spa town?
It turns out, The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford, is war “John Irving style” (read: love wars, war of the mind, and just plain screwed up people). To sum it up, it’s a tale of love, friendship, adultery, and people losing their minds. Just what we look for in a novel!
John Dowell, a cuckolded husband, looks back after his wife’s death and tries to piece together the love quadrangle he unwittingly lived for nine years. Add a myriad of plot twists, Dowell’s unreliable memory, and comical perspective, and you have yourself a page-turner.
First published in 1915 and set in the angst-ridden pre-World War I years, the novel is a fascinating glimpse into the history and culture of a Europe not so long ago. The plot, mostly set in the German spa town of Nauheim, is ripe with the British struggles of proper Victorian manners, day trips to historic Prussian castles, and the anxieties of a Europe on the brink of disaster. Author Ford Madox Ford doesn’t leave us wanting for anything, except maybe more novels.