The Good Soldier
The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion by Ford Maddox Ford begins with the famous line "This is the saddest story I have ever heard." It is the tragic tale of an upper-class English couple, Edward Ashburnham ( the soldier from the title), and his wife Leonora. The two befriend an American couple, John and Florence, at a German health spa which becomes the scene for some extra marital foolery. This story is notable for its first person, unreliable narrator, whose memory is prone to fits and starts - all sorts of flashbacks and non-linear narration make The Good Soldier a pioneering work in literary impressionism.
This is not a high-speed, action-filled read. It's a nuanced evaluation of the pain and darkness that lies beneath the surface of well-ordered lives and "perfect marriages." Some might find the narrator unlikeable, while others will find the style too choppy. But long before "Pulp Fiction" began artfully dicing up plots, this work shot beyond the typical layout of a novel. It's structured the way that minds actually recall events and tell stories, out of order, in fragments, with details fudged and filled in. If you fancy modernist fiction, or love stories gone terribly awry, you'll enjoy The Good Soldier. For its merits it ranked 30th on the Modern LIbrary's 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.
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