I was at The Book Depository ordering Parade's End and on a whim decided to add The Good Soldier and what a good decision that turned out to be.
The very definite opening line " This is the saddest story I have ever heard" immediately captured my attention and the discovery a few lines later that the narrator was, in fact, a part of that story made it even more intriguing.
The Good Soldier is about two married couples; Americans John and Florence Dowell and Edward and Leonora Ashburnham who are English. For nine years of the first decade of the twentieth century they travel, socialise, and take the waters at the German spa Bad Nauheim - a friendship of ' extreme intimacy' the narrator assures us although soon after he admits that no one knew anyone else very well at all.
" But the feeling that I had when, whilst poor Florence was taking her morning bath, I stood upon the carefully swept steps of the Englischer Hof, looking at the carefully arranged trees in tubs upon the carefully arranged gravel whilst carefully arranged people walked past in carefully arranged gaiety, at the carefully calculated hour, the tall trees of the public gardens, going up to the right; the reddish stones of the baths - or were they white half-timber chalets? Upon my word I have forgotten, I who was there so much."It was enough that they were 'good people', a term which has nothing to do with being good but refers to social class. Wealthy, idle people who were outwardly the perfect examples of well-bred Edwardian respectability. The reality of what lies beneath that genteel facade slowly emerges during the course of the story and it is not pleasant!
The narrator is John Dowell - a man who having always accepted everything at face value is now looking back at the events of the past nine years and struggling to understand the reality of what happened. From the beginning the reader knows that nothing he says can be fully trusted but as the narration wanders here, there and everywhere......
" 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."......and one attempts to keep up and put the pieces together it is hard to remember Dowell is not a reliable narrator.
I thought it was brilliant! Sure to be one of the best novels I read this year.
The Classics Club
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