You can not imagine my relief when I discovered that The Good Soldier was not a novel about war. I dislike war. I once collapsed in a fit of tears the middle of a room full of people when a friend of mine whispered lines from a war movie in my ear. We were in drama class and the point of the exercise was to find unique and different ways to break into a circle of people....mission accomplished! While The Good Soldier is not a book about war it does show the battle of wills between several different people one of whom is Edward Ashburnham the "good soldier" of the title.
The title was selected in a rather tongue in cheek sort of way. The author sent out the book to be published originally under the title "The Saddest Story". In the gap before it was published, the First World War broke out. From the front lines, Ford Maddox Ford received a letter from an editor letting him know that the title was not marketable in war time. He sent a wire back saying, "Dear Lane, why not The Good Soldier?"
This novel is an attack on British culture and the restrictions of the social props of the time. It is loosely based on Ford Maddox Ford's own experience as a man who struggled with adultery in his own life. this novel is about two couples the Dowells and the Ashburnhams. Nothing is what it seems amongst them and their seemingly perfect lives are marred by affairs, jealous and battles of will.
The novel's narrator is John Dowell, an unreliable narrator if ever I saw one. The story is told through stream of consciousness and jumps backwards and forward in time as the Dowell tries to piece together the mess of his life. The novel is a bit of a mystery as the reader is left to try and piece together what is going on. "I have, I am aware, told this story in a very rambling way so that it may be difficult for anyone to find their path through what may be a sort of maze"
The novel makes a rather ambiguous point. Through out most of the novel I was wondering what it was all for. Dowell, too wonders why there is so much suffering and whether life is really worth it. After reviewing the many quotes that stuck out to me I think the number one thing I am taking away from this novel is that no one is what they same and no one is perfect.
"And yet I am so near to all these people that I cannot think any of the wicked."
"There is not even any villain in the story"
"We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist."
"The human heart is a mysterious thing."
"Not one of us has got what he really wanted."
Overall, I would say this is a good book. For the most part it kept my attention. I wasn't in love with any of the characters...in fact I despised all of them the hapless narrator included however, I think that is the point of the book.