The Puzzle of Parade's End: why was it so dull?

BBC2, 5 episodes, 2012

Dir. Suzanna White. Scripts: Tom Stoppard

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Adelaide Clemens

By Peter Hulm

The television version of Parade's End has gathered several prizes from television critics for those involved as actors, writer and director. It should bring new readers to Ford Madox Ford's most ambitious work, one of the few novels to attempt to give a credible picture in fiction of life in World War I's trenches and at home. As television, however, it represented the worst of BBC homages to Literature with a capital L.

Even in his most accomplished novels, Ford Madox Ford (deliberately, I think) sailed his stories close to the perilous cliffs of soap opera. On one level, Parade's End (1924-8) is a conventional tale of star-crossed lovers. It's a kind that flourishes in the soapiest of today's melodramas.

For example, in The Bold and the Beautiful (as broadcast on Swiss Television in 2012) we have the long-drawn-out travails on television of Hope and Liamand. In the reality-based 'serious' soap The Newsroom we are offered the tangled relationship of Jim and Maggie.

It seems hardly coincidental that in Parade's End and the two contemporary soaps, the three women characters are blonde with childish faces and coltish movements, while the men are pasty-faced and awkward. The Bold and the Beautiful even has a tortured, malevolent Sylvia Tietjens figure in Steffy Forrester, married to Liam.

In Parade's End, Ford's major heroic characters Christopher Tietjens and Valentine Wannop (the naming of characters in popular fiction seems worth a study in itself [1]) suffer cliff-hanging frustrations that a writer would have difficulty getting past the script department in 2012.

Like any series villain, too, in Ford's original work the elegant, vindictive Sylvia, Christopher's wife, is motivated to torment her husband solely because — she declares — of his unforgivable forbearance.

This might seem to make Ford's romances ideal for popular revival, given the seriousness with which such plot devices could be treated as the dramatization of a classic work, and therefore exempt from critical contempt (think Dickens or Shakespeare comedies).

It hasn't been that way, partly because Ford embedded his melodrama in a hard-edged social context that knowingly uses the melodrama as much for its mocking absurdity as for its twisting of individual hopes and desires into knots bound by social convention.

And this he achieved through what was called "Impressionism" (though Ford characteristically disclaimed "Papacy" over a style he was the only one to practise), writing scenes as they appeared to each character in turn.

Rather than the narrative Portrait of the Artist of a Young Man or the panoramic Ulysses, Ford's work shows us characters sliding back and forth between present and past, the important and the trivial, and the devastating confusions of everyday life, all as a result of our assumptions and momentary concerns.

It offers us a stream of thoughts rather than James Joyce's stream of consciousness (in Ulysses). But at times it achieves a startling emotional power as well as a display of authorial brilliance.

1. The breakfast from hell

Chapter 5 of Some Do Not...(1924), the first of the Parade's End tetralogy, offers a prime example of Ford's mastery along with his self-conscious virtuousity.

The hero, Christopher Tietjens, and his more conventional but intelligent friend MacMaster go to a breakfast meeting with a Rector who knew the pre-Raphaelites. MacMaster, unimaginative but ambitious, is a specialist in Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Unfortunately, Rector Duchemin suffers from intermittent madness and is given to uttering salacious comments in Latin and then explaining their meaning in English.

Mrs Duchemin spends the breakfast in alarm as she tries to keep MacMaster and an intrusive novelist Mrs Wannop away from the big chair her husband uses at the end of the table, where he remains in easy reach of his prizefighting bodyguard.

The priest's wife is overcome by shame and panic when she realizes that Christopher and MacMaster are about to see a display of her husband's mania.

Luckily, MacMaster has handled an old university colleague who also suffered from bouts of insanity (no doubt, for Ford, a typical skill required in the old English universities).

Dealing with the scatalogical priest

At Tietjens' prompting to Mrs Duchemin, MacMaster is allowed to deal with the priest, winning her astonished gratitude.

Valentine Wannop, suffragette daughter of a deceased professor and his social inept wife, now a novelist making her living as a journalist (the mother, that is), is also there as a friend of the priest's wife.

Tietjens, without knowing who Valentine is, had saved her the previous day from arrest on a golf course when she and a fellow suffragette tried to accost the Government Minister playing in a foursome with Tietjens.

Valentine's mother has turned up at the breakfast uninvited because she has heard MacMaster is a published critic, which for her means a reviewer who can promote her forthcoming book.

MacMaster, for his part, is struck by the panicked Mrs Duchemin and at first considers her a very good match for the separated Christopher. But he ends up kissing her (in front of Tietjens) and falling immediately in love. Marvellous plotting.

Tietjens, who has heard his name linked with Valentine (who as a suffragette is naturally presumed to be promiscuous), comes to recognize that the young woman, both in social standing and youthful attractiveness (though not a beauty like his wife), is someone he could quite easily be paired with, and feels gradually drawn to her.

Valentine starts the meal by despising Tietjens for his imagined stuffiness and mediocrity, only changing her mind later when she appreciates his instinctive kindness, and humanity the previous day in saving her from jail.

There's a lot going on underneath the surface.

Great Gatsby and Partygoing

The confusing scene is as brilliantly painted as Nick Carraway's first meeting with Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby (1925).

The perfectly serious drama also proceeds at the pace of a farce. Forget the undertones of emotion with which we are meant to sympathize and we have Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust (1934), with its long-suffering husband and indifferent, promiscuous wife.

But readers had to wait until Henry Green's Partygoing (1939) for upper-class (or any) social life to be depicted again with as sharp an awareness of how much the superficialities could hide.

To put all this on screen at once is a major challenge for any writer, not least because of Ford's accurate mimicry of the English squirarchy's vocabulary: Tietjens perceives Valentine's attractiveness with the comment to himself: "What a jolly little mistress she'd make!" (before thinking she'd make a perfect wife for MacMaster).

A dud or a doody

To judge from the series that attempted to bring Parade's End to the screen, the job of dramatization was too much even for Britain's cleverest modern playwright, Tom Stoppard. Though he began his career in broadcasting (for radio) and came back to television for the first time in over 20 years with this script, Stoppard (who confessed he does not watch much TV) gave us 1960s television in its simplifications and hokey drama (think Dr Who).

So what we got from the breakfast scene was the obscenity-spouting pastor and numerous meaningful stares between various pairs of actors.

Going by the comments on the Guardian website devoted to Parade's End, a fair number of viewers felt the television series was a dud without necessarily being able to explain where it failed. For some the melodrama was offputting while others were enthusiastic about the adaptation and production.

The trap of human drama

I obviously side with the disappointed and critical group. Granted the often marvellous acting, Stoppard's uncanny skill in removing melodramatic phrasing from Ford's dialogue if not from his story, and the obvious care given to the direction (Sylvia, for example, has none of the viciousness of Ford's character in Stoppard's script or its scene presentation), the failure is puzzling, as it also seemed to some viewers.

The collapse of Tory Britain

One reason seems to be the decision, perhaps by the director, not to give emphasis to issues that Ford wanted brought to the forefront, and instead to focus on the 'human drama'.

It is clear from Ford's other novels is that he wants to depict the collapse of his own Tory, Catholic view of Edwardian England in the run-up to World War I. As — to be fair — the television script notes, Christopher recognizes his attitudes make no sense in the shabby, duplicitous world in which he is forced to live.

Contempt and happiness

In Ford's account, this is one of the most shattering discoveries a man could make about his life, and Christopher feels contempt for himself, though this recognition ironically opens the way to personal happiness with Valentine (his emotional equal in honesty and sympathy though no Tory).

What they do not

When he and Valentine agree to finally come together at her home but are frustrated in their plans by the arrival of Valentine's sailor brother on leave, they stand outside the house in the extremes of sexual need for each other but Christopher notes ruefully that they are not the sort of people who could...(i.e. make love in the open there), hence the first novel's title (Some Do Not...).

In spite of the melodrama of self-sacrifice, the moment brings us back with a shock to the dilemmas that the murderous First World War posed to the middle class, as well as hinting at the common solution among the lower classes (and a key scene in Pat Barker's much later, 1993, Regeneration trilogy).

Television's flat screen

In the television version of Parade's End, Christopher's defining moment of self-disgust passes as a second or two of dispirited reflection.

Nothing of the dry rot in Edwardian England, manifested throughout the scandals of the First World War, comes across. Instead the early episodes focus on the rather incredible drama of Christopher and Sylvia.

The damping-down for television of Sylvia's dangerous unpredictability may have made her more attractive to viewers and has earned Rebecca Hall considerable praise from critics and audiences (not from me — I thought it completely misjudged), but it made the front story even blander than it needed to be (a directorial misjudgment, I think, since the vicious lines are all there in Stoppard's script).

A Black Adder spoof

Most of the subsidiary characters were cartoons of Edwardian England and wouldn't have been out of place in a P.G. Wodehouse story. You might never have imagined that Saki's vitriolic tales of country house and city life sprang from the same period.

As a result, the projection of Edwardian incompetence and upper-class blathering into the worst of trench warfare came off, as one viewer suggested, like a version of the spoof comedy Black Adder.

The critical dimension to the picture of life in the trenches was lost. We were almost expected to cheer Sylvia's manipulations to get to Christopher's camp at Rouen instead of being horrified by her selfishness and crassness (as well as admiring her determination).

The Good Soldiers

This double image of human potential is characteristic for Ford. The novel that is today his most famous, The Good Soldier, and often considered his best (though not by me), is full of torn personalities: the unhappily married soldier who is attracted to young wome n, his Roman Catholic wife who miserably feels she has to manage everything in his life even to controlling his affairs, the narrator's wife who marries to continue her affair with a young male 'guardian', and the narrator who seems to keep himself blind to what is going on almost before his eyes while proclaiming how happy they all were.

How the upper classes use media

The television version in 1981, with a script by Julian Mitchell and Jeremy Brett in the title role, left some viewers dithyrambic while others were like me and found it slow and disconnected (see imdb). It was insistently out of date in everything it depicted.

By contrast, what the television series of Parade's End gives us is a very modern awareness of how the upper classes use the media to communicate indirectly with each other: a magazine photo of a married woman with an eligible bachelor, designed to tell her husband she is having a fling to pay him back for an earlier adultery.

One viewer even suggested that Benedict Cumberbatch, as Tietjens, was channelling Prince Charles. Sylvia on TV certainly seems to have more of Princess Diana than the character as written by Ford. But it's a sign of our times that we feel free to speculate in public about the private life of celebrities, even royal ones.


General Campion (Roger Allam)*, on the other hand, comes out of the dullest British comedy stock on television with his continual harping on the qualities of Tietjens's wife ("She's the real thing" he says to Tietjens, when she is obviously not).

In fact, the whole upper-class condescension and self-satisfied aspect of Edwardian life is exaggerated if not beyond belief, then beyond credibility, as if the producers feared giving us a picture of the current Conservative Party (where a Minister in the Cabinet run by old Etonians was allegedly, and apparently falsely, recorded as calling policemen "plebs").

A little less blimpish certainty from Campion and more earnest entreaty as a friend would have made the General more believable (consider Lady de Bourgh in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice), especially as he ends up marrying Sylvia. The ironies then would have been as bitter as Ford intended. Graham Greene described Sylvia as "surely the most possessed evil character in the modern novel".

Greene and Ford

The links seem obvious between Ford's two masterworks and Graham Greene's The End of the Affair (1951), a novel of frustrated adultery and a good, long-suffering if not complaisant husband, with a malevolent novelist narrator who bears a striking similarity to an unsympathetic version of Greene and his personal relationship with a married woman.

The other resemblance is to The Quiet American (1955), where apparently obvious events turn out to have a less innocent meaning, as well a Tietjens figure living with a much younger (Vietnamese) woman.

Greene was a drum-beating admirer of Ford, writing an important essay in the revival of Ford's reputation as an introduction to his 1962 reprinting of a selection of Ford's works. He described The Good Soldier as "perhaps one of the finest novels of our century" [2]. Greene also said: " The Good Soldier and the Tietjens series seem to me almost the only adult novels dealing with the sexual life that have been written in English. They are our answer to Flaubert."

Going beyond Flaubert

As Julian Barnes observed (see the previous link), Ford extended Flaubert's style indirect libre into something even more fluid and dramatic. Barnes also describes The Good Soldier as the story (surely ironic) of a chivalrous hero and Tietjens as an Anglican saint (earlier essays by the U.S. critic Arthur Mizener use almost the same terms, though Ford always loads this term with irony in the fiction itself).

Ford himself was an "eccentric" Catholic convert (Stannard, xii), which might have been a major part of his novelistic attraction for Greene. Time and again, like Greene, he wrote of the problems that Catholic doctrine, particularly forbidding divorce, cause for believers — as it did for Ford personally.

Ford was a sentimental fabricator of his own past and behaviour, but would have expected us to relish the mock-irony of his descriptions, I am sure. He was anything but a naive manipulator of words.

Splendid scenes, marvellous moments

Not that the television series does not have splendid scenes and marvellous moments. The much remarked segment of episode 1 where Valentine wanders around in the ground fog has the magic of a late Antonioni scene, if it wasn't cribbed wholesale from Above the Clouds or inspired by Red Desert.

Certainly it seems unmotivated (why did Valentine get down from the cart?), halts the drama of their falling in love (no bad thing), and the mist vanishes as quickly as it came: we next see them stretched out companionably in a field.

But it captures better than anything seen before in that episode the sudden switches of mood to be found in Ford's novels: the mad rector's breakfast is followed by the spiriting away of the fugitive suffragette at night and then the nascent lovers' ride in the mist.

Confused viewers

After a confusing first 30 minutes (to judge from viewers' comments), it throws us into a 'thick' world of imbrication, social involvement and poetry. In the novel (Chapter 7), Valentine gets down to find the road because their lamp has gone out, and she does not know her way around the countryside. This absence leads to Christopher's reverie about the young woman.

It might have been truer to Ford's artistic credo to have given the scene in the mist a pre-Raphaelite delicacy, having heard some of the more florid poetry in favour of chastity from MacMaster to Mrs Duchemin earlier in conditions that make the irony plain.

During the ride in the mist Valentine also delivers perhaps the most damning criticism of Christopher: he is one of those Tories who "won't stir a finger" while the country they love goes to hell, she tells him.

In the television version, the remark drops to earth like a dud, without our being given the chance to judge the importance of the remark — another example of the failure to give Ford his due.

Face pulling and symbolism

Some viewers objected to Cumberbatch's face-pulling, since he has little to say that reveals his feelings. I found the grimaces, lip-tightening and wandering gaze quite plausible, an almost perfect embodiment of a passionate man forced by his upbringing and principles to stifle most of his emotions in most of his social relations.

He might have been too bumbling to win over some viewers — Julian Barnes notes Ford's artistic courage in focusing from the beginning of the tetralogy on a man whom few people like mdash; but Cumberbatch in my view was spot-on in his depiction of this aspect of Tietjens.

Most important, he also convinces us that Christopher's fecklessness is not from cowardice or lack of sensitivity but comes rather from his regard for others.

The Old Cedar Tree

The symbolism of the Old Cedar Tree at Groby, the family estate, seems to work perfectly: its roots threatening the house, a centre of local traditions. Its destruction seems perfectly reasonable by the world's standards as well as Sylvia's vindictive moods towards Christopher.

With a plain-speaking rare in later writers, Ford documents how divisive the war was in England, both among the upper classes and among the intelligentsia, while stirring up anti-German prejudices among the unseen lower-class civilians.

All this is faithfully and carefully reflected in the TV series, whose wealth of detail becomes clearer on a second viewing, when the unbalanced production no longer disturbs the viewer.

But a transposition of the dialogue in the ground fog scene from an exchange between Tietjens and Mrs Wannop to Christopher and Valentine seems to me entirely misplaced. An important aspect of Mrs Wannop's character is her core of principles ("the only thing that matters is to do good work").

It would have been better if Valentine had credited her mother with these words, but that would have given more intellectual depth to someone treated as nothing more than a literary Mrs Bennet in the television version.

The Good Soldier reloaded

Parade's End is (I think, quite consciously) an inside-out version of The Good Soldier, this time from the viewpoint of the adulterous husband and from someone much more aware of the precariousness of what later became known as "the Edwardian afternoon".

Instead of showing weakness however, in Parade's End the good soldier (as Tietjens becomes) is calumnied and his affair with Valentine is only possible as a result of his recognition that he is in a poisonous marriage and the old standards no make sense.

Tietjens remains as silent as The Good Soldier's narrator John Dowell, but for honourable reasons. Sylvia is the good soldier's wife recycled with the viciousness of Florence Dowell (the adulterous wife in The Good Soldier).

Valentine is any number of the young girls from the earlier novel whom Ashburnham seduces but Valentine in Parade's End displays both self-awareness and ethical principles.

Making up for a cop-out

It is as if Ford, reflecting on his own affairs with Stella Bowen and Jean Rhys, felt it was a cop-out to have the ward Nancy Rufford go mad in the earlier book.

It is notable that Roman Catholicism plays such a significant part in both masterworks: in The Good Soldier as a cause of personal suffering and in Parade's End as the source of personal misery and social divisions.

I am not the first to notice the similarities between The Good Soldier and the later tetralogy. Martin Stannard, in the preface to the Norton Critical Edition of The Good Soldier, observes that Parade's End "effectively rewrites Ashburnham's history" (xiv).

The changes between The Good Soldier and Parade's End (Christopher is not blind to the corruption around him) reflect Ford's increasing pessimism about the possibility of maintaining an honourable society in the face of widespread self-serving ambition.

A new courage

In this Parade's End is, to my mind, a much greater work than The Good Soldier, confronting the issues head-on as they are never treated in the earlier novel.

In Stannard's words, Ford was a self-described "obstinate, sentimental, old-fashioned Tory" and Roman Catholic who "found himself living with a new breed of Tory: materialistic, xenophobic, with a particular loathing for Germans" (xiii). One can wonder what the novelist would have made of the 1970s and 980s, let alone the even more hard-hearted first decade of our millennium.

Certainly, in Parade's End Ford brings us a panorama of suffragette unrest, union agitation, awareness of the probability of war with Germany, government chicanery fudging official figures via its civil servants, Ireland's demands for Home Rule as well as racism in the trenches (against Canadian volunteers) and French railway strikes.

Conflict-wracked society

In contradiction to the received wisdom created by Paul Fussell, Trevor Wilson has written: "All the forms of upheaval that were reputedly wracking British society in 1914 had developed in the previous five or six years" (Wilson 1988:10).

The historian Samuel Hynes agreed: "Though the war dramatized and speeded the changes from Victorian to modern England, it did not make them" (Hynes 1992:5).

Geoff Dyer is explicit about the unrest in 1914 depicted by Ford: "For many contemporary observers the war tainted the past, revealing and making explicit a violence that had been latent in the preceding peace. Eighty years on, this sense of crouched and gathering violence has been all but totally filtered out of our perception of the pre- war period. Militant suffragettes, class unrest, strikes, Ireland teetering on the brink of civil war -- all are shaded and softened by the long, elegiac shadows cast by the war" (Dyer 1994:6).

Cinema's master manipulators and the grand old man of suspense

Other cinema artists have found solutions to the dilemma posed by Ford's multiple perspectives. The TV series makes rather too much of a kaleidoscope — it might have been better to use split screens as in 24, with something happening in each frame.

Among film-makers, Akira Kurosawa, for instance, in Rashomon gave us four versions of the same story. Most notably we have the example of Orson Welles. In many ways (particularly in The Magnificent Ambersons) he seemed to deal with the same themes of the misunderstood and flawed hero in a miscomprehending time and a critical social circle (from Citizen Kane and Lady from Shanghai to the unfinished Don Quixote).

The bravura and overlapping dialogue of Welles's film style captures the floundering obtuseness with which his characters confront major issues of existence through banal everyday behaviour (Agnes Moorhead in The Magnificent Ambersons could be Edith Duchemin). We see something of the same mechanism at work in Spike Jonze's Magnolia, where each segment offers a different light on the characters we are following.

What Tietjens came to know

Ford himself was an admirer and young collaborator of Joseph Conrad, the arch-presenter of theatrically lit visual scenes, and the Henry James of What Maisie Knew. Frank Kermode said The Good Soldier could be retitled What Dowell Knew (334), for its echoes of an uncomprehending narrator telling a terrible story.

Parade's End,on this score, could be renamed What Tietjens Came to Know. David Eggenschwiler, noting Ford's caricatural side, says Ashburnham "would have been quite at home in Vanity Fair" (345).

Raising the spectre of Thackeray, however, points to the limitation of Ford's world-view. Writing of English society years before Parade's End, Thackeray — with even more brilliant dramatization — was able to depict its corruption and venality in a more striking fashion than Ford could contemplate.

Falsifying sentimentality

Tietjens may bear some resemblance to Dobbin, but Dobbin was quite aware of the decadence of the world around him and the failings of many characters (though not of Amelia Sedley until the end of the novel).

The earlier novelist showed the impossibility of Ford's Toryism and its falsifying sentimentality decades before the post pre-Raphaelite tried to argue for a 17-century Papalistic "feudalism" in Stannard's terms (I would rather say a squirearchy) as an honourable and still possible mode of existence.

Ford and postmodernism

For postmodernists, Ford's literary technique offers a number of instructive pleasures that advance him well beyond modernism.

Sara Haslam notes a justification for TV director Susanna White's emphasis on kaleidoscopes in the television series (2002:7): "A key Fordian modernist image is that of the kaleidoscope," she writes. Ford himself said in 1905: "You carry away from [a train]"... a "vague kaleidoscope picture — lights in clusters, the bare shoulders of women, white flannel on green turf in the sunlight, darkened drawing rooms" (Ford 1905:120).

His biographer Max Saunders invokes postmodernism to describe Ford's technique: "Ford published 26 other novels, nearly fifty further books, and over five hundred periodical pieces, including reminiscences, poetry, criticism, and travel writing. His creative prose is often characterized by a generic hybridity that is perhaps more familiar in postmodernism. His memoirs incorporate a high degree of fictionalization" (Saunders 2003: 127)

Evanescence and bafflement

However, the other side of his achievement is what interests me: Saunders writes of Parade's End: "Its panoramic scale, tracing of history, preoccupations with love and honor, give it continuities with Victorian fiction. Yet it also continues Ford's experiments in modernism: the exact rendering of experience, in all its instability, evanescence, and bafflement. The techniques develop throughout the sequence, so that Last Post is structured entirely by streams of consciousness. The emphasis on the psychological effects of war, together with Ford's determination to see the war in relation to questions of society and sexuality, make the tetralogy seem ahead of its time" (126).

All this is true. Parade's End has a Tolstoyan sweep, a precise recording of the interpenetration of political and human dramas, an insistence on the ubiquitous power of sexual drives in all social relations and their human cost, as well as our most comprehensive picture of the First World War in all its monotony and variety.

At the same time, Ford's kaleidoscopic style of presentation and keen eye presents a striking portrait of the age with the force of modernity.

Transport and modernism

We can gauge something of Ford's awareness of history from the prevalence of trains in his work. Ashburnham's court case for assault came from an incident in a train. Some Do Not...opens in a railway carriage. He underlines that it is "perfectly appointed".

In fact, in his recollection of starting the tetralogy, after nearly ten years of feeling his imagination exhausted, was that the sentence came to him whole. In time we learn that Sylvia and Tietjens made love on their first meeting, "in a railway carriage, coming down from the Dukeries" (which is on the way from Sherwood Forest).

Later in the series, a French railway strike plays an important part in the plot.

It's a commonplace of European industrial history that the First World War could not have been so destructive without the railway system to take soldiers to the front. Germany delivered Lenin into Soviet history in a sealed railway carriage. The promise of the railway played as important a part in America's conquering of its 'Wild' West and the creation of its cities.

The Last Tycoon

With commercial aircraft as his spur, F. Scott Fitzgerald summoned up something of the same feeling of an important shift in human sensibility in his writing and narrative plotting in the unfinished (Love of) The Last Tycoon (1941).

Both writers had the kind of ambition to depict the forces of their time. Both, too, seem almost impossible to put on the screen. Their romantic sensibilities are too alien to drama, though their stories are all about the tensions between individuals in their search for an honourable life.

Perhaps then, one should not judge too harshly the failure to bring Ford's personality, as distinct from his stories, to the screen and be grateful for the moments when the dramatizations flare up with something of the power of his writing.

Homeland and The Good Wife

But it has to be admitted that these moments do not attain, as they do in the novels, the sheer energy and excitement of much trashier, conventional takes on our current situation such as Homeland or The Good Wife.

P.S. To gauge something of Thackeray's superiority to Ford in notating social nuances in transport, consult K.C. Phillipps ( The Language of Thackeray, 1978) on the differences between the britska, fourgon, stanhope and tax-cart, as well as Hansom cabs and parliamentary trains. Thackeray even has that old biddy Major Pendennis use old-fashioned phraseology and speak of making "a railroad journey" (21-22).

It's a world away from Ford's clubhouse (Ian Fleming-style) display of knowledge, precisely deliniating the limitations of his characters as well as their pretensions to fashion (more Kipling than Thackeray in Ford).

Other reviews

Time magazine

Philadelphia Inquirer


[1] Hope and Liam live in a California dream time apparently of the 1950s (Douglas Sirk without the subversive cynicism), Jim and Maggie are rich kids in today's television (i.e. without money), while Christopher and Valentine are upper middle-class Edwardians.

[2] See the Norton Critical Edition of The Good Soldier for references between [] after this point.


Geoff Dyer, 1994. The Missing of The Somme. London: Hamish Hamilton.

Ford Madox Ford, 1905. The Soul of London. London: Alston Rivers.

Ford Madox Ford. 1934. It Was the Nightingale.New York, Ecco, 1984.

Sara Haslam. 2002. Fragmenting Modernism: Ford Madox Ford, the Novel, and the Great War. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Samuel Hynes. 1992. A War Imagined: The First World War and English Culture. London:Pimlico.

Paul Poplawski (ed.) 2003. Encyclopedia of literary modernism.Westport CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN -313-31017-3.

Max Saunders. 2003.'Ford Madox Ford'. In Poplawski 2003.

John Sutherland. 2000. 'Whose Daughter is Nancy?' In The Literary Detective. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN:0-19-210036-X.

Trevor Wilson, 1988. Myriad Faces of War. Cambridge: Polity Press.

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