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Ford Madox Ford is another one of those writers who is basically only read and respected by other authors.  (In fact, these books tend to go out of print and stay out for long periods of time.)  His other entry on this list, The Good Soldier (1915), was mildly diverting, but this monstrosity eluded me completely.  On its surface this quartet of novels would seem to be exactly the type of thing I'd be drawn towards.  Christopher Tietjens, the hero of the books, is supposed to be the "last Tory", a man of 19th Century sensibilities and morals, who tries to maintain these standards in the face of the First World War and the changes it has wrought.  But it seems like the only values that he is really imbued with are patience and tolerance, verging on masochism.  So his great virtue proves to be his refusal to retaliate against the horrific wife who cuckolds and harasses him, in an attempt to get him to succumb the same human weaknesses that she has yielded to so willingly.  I have trouble buying this line of reasoning.  Acquiescing in your wife's misbehavior doesn't strike me as a plausible basis for personal morality.  In fact, on some level, choosing to accept her outrageous behavior, rather than confront it at the risk of causing a scene, strikes me as a form of moral cowardice.  Moreover it is ultimately pretty selfish; Tietjens demonstrates his own "superiority" by not reacting in kind, and doesn't even make an effort to change her self-destructive behavior.  Suffice it to say that there are no characters here that we feel much empathy for, and, not caring for them, it's hard to care what happens to them.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (D+)

  

Websites:

Book-related and General Links:
    -REVIEW: of Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford (Alfred Kazin, NY Review of Books)
    -THE FORD MADOX FORD HOME PAGE
    -The Life of Ford Madox Ford: A biographical sketch with critical references and links for students
    -DEDICATORY LETTER TO STELLA FORD from The Good Soldier By Ford Madox Ford
    -ESSAY:  MADOX REDUX  (Anatole Broyard, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of FORD MADOX FORD A Dual Life. Volume 1: The World Before the War. By Max Saunders (Martin Stannard, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Ford Madox Ford: A Dual Life by Max Saunders (Julian Barnes, NY review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of THE PRESENCE OF FORD MADOX FORD A Memorial Volume of Essays, Poems, and Memoirs (Margaret Drabble, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of FORD MADOX FORD By Alan Judd (Penelope Fitzgerald, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of Ford Madox Ford by Alan Judd (Malcolm Bradbury, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of GROUP PORTRAIT Joseph Conrad, Stephen Crane, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James and H.G. Wells. By Nicholas Delbanco  (Howard Moss, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of POUND/FORD The Story of a Literary Friendship  (Hugh Kenner, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of VIOLET The Story of the Irrepressible Violet Hunt and Her Circle of Lovers and Friends - Ford Madox Ford, H. G. Wells, etc. By Barbara Belford (Moira Hodgson, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: several books on Ford (Noel Annan, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Life and Work of Ford Madox Ford by Frank MacShane (Edward Dahlberg, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of The Fifth Queen by Madox Ford Ford (R.W. Flint, NY Review of Books)
    -REVIEW: of several books on Ford (Allen Tate, NY Review of Books)

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