Posted by: Lisa Hill | February 25, 2009

The Good Soldier (1915), by Ford Madox Ford

the-good-soldier1The Good Soldier is a strange book, and I’m not surprised to see that 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die suggests that opinion is divided about it.  First published in 1915, and now reissued as one of the Penguin Great Books of the 20th Century, it’s a very early example of modernism, in which a foolish, rich American discovers that his wife, Florence, has been having a long-term affair with his friend, Edward Ashburnham.  Dowell is  hopelessly ignorant about life in general and very naive about his wife and friend in particular, and the story is constructed to show his dawning awareness of events.  As he finds out more about what’s going on, he keeps having to revise his opinion about Florence, Ashburnham and his rather strange wife, Leonora, with the result that the reader becomes as confused and befuddled as he is.

Ideas, conclusions, opinions, emotions and recriminations swirl around in his mind as he gathers new pieces of information about the situation.  At times he can’t really believe what has happened, and he is especially reluctant to amend his high regard for the man who has cuckolded him.   He is a lonely man, and his story is very poignant, but I have to confess that I became rather tired of Dowell, muddling through one revelation after another, and I felt like giving him a good shake.

It’s a book that would repay repeated reading, but it didn’t engage me enough for me to want to do that.

PS For a much better analysis of this book, visit Nancy’s blog at Silver Season.

Update 22/8/19 Alas, Nancy has deleted her book reviews from Silver Season, but you can read a much better review than mine at Reading Matters. 

Author: Ford Madox Ford
Title: The Good Soldier
Publisher: Wordsworth 2010
ISBN: 9781840226539



  1. Good to read your review of this which I haven’t come across yet. Have you guys got a copy of Arukiyomi’s 1001 books spreadsheet?


    • Lovely to ‘meet you’ at last! I’ve been tracking my progress using your spreadsheets #1 & #2 for a while now, and I think it’s great:). I put a link to it on your page from the ANZLL Challenges page. (See the 3rd paragraph).


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