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Parade's End

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This monumental novel, divided into four separate books, celebrates the end of an era, the irrevocable destruction of the comfortable, predictable society that vanished during World War I.


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This monumental novel, divided into four separate books, celebrates the end of an era, the irrevocable destruction of the comfortable, predictable society that vanished during World War I.

30 review for Parade's End

  1. 4 out of 5

    Warwick

    Starting Parade's End is a little like reading an ethnologist's report from some alien world. All the characters, in this vision of pre-1914 England, seem to be moved by obscure impulses and constraints; and in many ways they appear more unfamiliar than, let's say, characters of a century earlier as described by someone like Austen. The feeling passes, but it is no accident: part of Ford's argument is that the First World War spelled the end not just for a generation of young men but for a whole Starting Parade's End is a little like reading an ethnologist's report from some alien world. All the characters, in this vision of pre-1914 England, seem to be moved by obscure impulses and constraints; and in many ways they appear more unfamiliar than, let's say, characters of a century earlier as described by someone like Austen. The feeling passes, but it is no accident: part of Ford's argument is that the First World War spelled the end not just for a generation of young men but for a whole mindset, a way of behaving and of being English, that is now utterly gone and cannot be recovered. Standing as the prime example is the central figure of Christopher Tietjens, who like everyone here is a strikingly original creation. A brilliant man working at an uninspiring government post, he is tired of the modern world and feels more at home in the eighteenth century, which he thinks of as ‘the only century that never went mad’ (‘Until the French Revolution; and that was either not mad or not eighteenth-century’). Christopher is no dashing hero – he is physically awkward and not very attractive, compared somewhere in book four to ‘a lumbering character from Molière’, ‘elaborate of phrase and character, but protuberant in odd places.’ He is, though, staunchly English in the most traditional sense – ‘the last Tory’, a man who considers it ‘the highest achievement and justification of English manners’ when he notices two people ‘talking with polite animation and listening with minute attention’. Reserve and privacy are his watchwords: ‘He would, literally, rather be dead than an open book.’ This odd, not especially likeable character forms the apex of an emotional triangle which, on one level, Parade's End explores across four books. The other two players are his wife Sylvia – she is unremittingly awful to him, but he considers it ungentlemanly for a man to divorce a woman – and the smart, spiky suffragette Valentine Wannop, who appears to be Christopher's opposite in every way and yet is clearly as perfect for him as he is for her. Sylvia Tietjens is one of the most breathtakingly horrible fictional characters I can remember encountering. She is mesmerisingly unpleasant. At first I worried that she would be one of those sexily fatal femmes that male authors love to come up with; but she is a lot more than that to me. Ford gives us long exposure to her thought processes and background, so that her vindictiveness becomes gradually textured with psychological nuance. She is described once or twice as ‘Sadic’, but there is also something masochistic going on, as is made clear with a couple of hints to trauma in her past – take for instance this passage of extraordinary insight where she remembers an abusive encounter with one of her lovers: The miserable memory would come, ghost-like, at any time, anywhere. She would see Drake's face, dark against the white things; she would feel the thin night-gown ripping off her shoulder; but most of all she would seem, in darkness that excluded the light of any room in which she might be, to be transfused by the mental agony that there she had felt: the longing for the brute who had mangled her, the dreadful pain of the mind. The odd thing was that the sight of Drake himself, whom she had seen several times since the outbreak of the war, left her completely without emotion. She had no aversion, but no longing for him…. She had, nevertheless, longing, but she knew it was longing merely to experience again that dreadful feeling. And not with Drake…. With great skill, Ford allows us to understand that Sylvia's many affairs – what are referred to wonderfully as her ‘high-handed divagations from fidelity’ – are just one facet of a tendency morbidly to sexualise everything. This comes back (as all things do in Parade's End) to the war, which for Sylvia is – an astonishing word to use – an ‘agapemone’, or zone of free-love. Indeed it's not just about sex, it's about sexual abuse: ‘You went to war when you desired to rape innumerable women. It was what war was for….’ And later: These horrors, these infinities of pain, this atrocious condition of the world had been brought about in order that men should indulge themselves in orgies of promiscuity. That in the end was at the bottom of male honour, of male virtue, observance of treaties, upholding of the flag…. An immense warlock's carnival of appetites, lusts, ebrieties…. What a statement! And what a difference, here as everywhere, with Valentine Wannop, for whom the war is primarily a ‘mental torture’— Immense miles and miles of anguish in darkened minds. I fell in love with Valentine, and I found the shy, constrained romance between her and Christopher extremely moving. The section where they ride together through the moors, and become lost in fog, all while conducting a long, flirtatious game of one-upmanship about Latin poetry, is one of the best things I've read in years. Valentine is ‘the best Latinist in England’ (we learn much later), and Christopher feels that special pleasure which very intelligent people feel when they are in conversation with someone who is in a position to correct them. ‘It's alto, not caelo…“Uvidus ex alto desilientis….” How could Ovid have written ex caelo? The “c” after the “x” sets your teeth on edge.’ Christopher is deeply charmed – as is she by his general sense of bluff, rough gruffliness and his inability to do anything but what is right, no matter how much personal pain this may cause him. Or indeed her. The two of them know they cannot – should not, by all-important convention – be together, and so their courtship, such as it is, is confused, restrained, clipped, polite; and the more passionate for it. It passed without any mention of the word ‘love’; it passed in impulses; warmths; rigors of the skin. Yet with every word they had said to each other they had confessed their love […]. When Christopher finally decides that the war has done away with the conventions he was used to, and that therefore he will damn well allow himself to have an affair if it will make him and Valentine happy, there is something both moving and hilarious in the blunt way he propositions her before returning to the Front, never previously having exchanged a single word of affection: ‘Will you be my mistress to-night? I am going out to-morrow at 8.30 from Waterloo.’ Overall, Ford's treatment of sexual desire and sexual jealousy is extraordinary – no wonder Julian Barnes, in the introduction to the Penguin edition, floats the idea that he's the English Flaubert (although this is a slightly weird comparison). Sylvia may hate Christopher but she also loves him, of course – some of her conflicted reflections on the relationship are exquisite: When he had said: ‘I'd have liked you to have said it,’ using the past, he had said his valedictory […] her agony had been, half of it, because one day he would say farewell to her, like that, with the inflexion of a verb. As, just occasionally, using the word ‘we’ – and perhaps without intention – he had let her know that he loved her. As should be clear from the quotations, the writing is superb throughout – but also dense, and often quite challenging. Deep psychological insight is funnelled into long, complex internal monologues, which in some cases (especially, I thought, in the last book) bear comparison with those of Molly Bloom or of Beckett's narrators. The result is deliberately confusing, with a throwaway comment in one book not explained until three hundred pages and two books later; or contradicted by another character's recollection of the same incident, so that you're never sure whose ‘version’ of the truth, if any, is the right one. Language itself (and here again Ford seems part of the modernist project) is unstable and often breaks down. ‘What is language for? What the hell is language for?’ one character demands. ‘We go round and round.’ The ellipsis gradually becomes the primary punctuation mark, and the prose becomes increasingly aposiopetic – as can be seen even in the titles of two of the four books, Some Do Not… and A Man Could Stand Up—. At the same time, Ford can also write with eye-catching economy. When one character hears something nearby, Ford writes, magisterially: Noises existed. Structurally, too, the work shows great craftsmanship. All in all it covers a fairly wide timeframe, from 1911 to the mid 1920s; but only a few tiny moments are illuminated, like shafts of light in a vast tunnel. Book two covers less than forty-eight hours, and book three might be even shorter – the majority of it happens during a single evening. The overall effect, then, is stroboscopic, a series of sudden flashes separated by years, with much remaining dark to us as readers, disclosed only confusedly, through memories. Book four, I should point out, is not universally liked. Graham Greene famously cut it out of his copy and referred to the work as a trilogy, and Virginia Woolf hated it. I have to admit I can't see why it provokes such strong feelings; it takes an oblique approach to the central characters, sure, but that's not unexpected – and it contains some of the best and funniest prose of the series. I also think the four-act structure makes sense – one of the recurring terms of Parade's End is ‘parallelogram’, for whatever reason, and I think the fourth book is needed to complete the parallelogram of novels. They make up a thick, wonderful, multitudinous work – a powerful character study, an analysis of sexuality, a contextualisation of the war, and a truly great romance…all of which leaves you feeling, at the end, that this alien world is your own world after all, that you are as alien as any of them, and that they are as richly human as you.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Violet wells

    I was expecting a masterpiece; what I got was a neurotic obese windbag of a novel. VS Pritchett, always an astute critic, remarked that confusion was always Ford’s mainspring as a novelist. This novel is so hysterically confused it reads like a diary of someone chronicling his own nervous breakdown. At one point in the novel a character forms the thought that her companion is still droning on with an idea she thought they had got past. I can’t say how many times I thought this same idea while I was expecting a masterpiece; what I got was a neurotic obese windbag of a novel. VS Pritchett, always an astute critic, remarked that confusion was always Ford’s mainspring as a novelist. This novel is so hysterically confused it reads like a diary of someone chronicling his own nervous breakdown. At one point in the novel a character forms the thought that her companion is still droning on with an idea she thought they had got past. I can’t say how many times I thought this same idea while reading this novel. I had already seen the BBC production of this before reading it and the first thing that needs to be said is what a fabulous job Tom Stoppard did in editing and extracting every last drop of what’s good in this book and weeding out all the prodigious irritating excesses, including the entire last section. An obvious example of Stoppard’s masterful alchemy is how he hones down exchanges between characters which in the novel usually drag on for pages and pages into a handful of critical lines. Another example is how much more sympathetic he is to the character of Sylvia than Ford was. When Tolstoy began Anna Karenina he disapproved of the adulterous woman and set himself the task of dramatizing this disapproval of his. Had he continued with this irksome puritanical stance he deployed in The Kreutzer Sonata it’s likely Anna Karenina would have been a dud as a novel. However, Tolstoy came to love Anna and it was the empathy he felt with her that contributed massively to the novel being a masterpiece. Ford Maddox Ford begins with a similar premise – except he doesn’t fall in love with his adulterous woman. He, like his hero, remains a puritan throughout the novel. She’s the villain, the harbinger of everything Ford doesn’t like about the new world (dis)order. At times it’s as if Ford is blaming the promiscuity of restless women for the insane mess the world has become. Not even Stoppard could alchemize this facet of the novel which is why the last two episodes of the TV adaptation fell flat for me. In the novel we’re called upon to boo Sylvia every time she enters the stage and cheer the docile schoolgirl male-honouring suffragette who is her rival for Christopher’s affections. The less said about the suffragette the better. Graham Greene refers to Sylvia as “surely the most possessed evil character in the modern novel”. What a load of hogwash that statement is! Sylvia betrays a husband who shows no interest in her, a husband who is emotionally retarded. Ford’s determination to make me dislike Sylvia had the subtlety of a right-wing newspaper maligning the leader of a left-wing political party in every single editorial. Somehow and brilliantly, Stoppard alchemized Sylvia into the most credible and admirable character in the book though I’m not sure Ford would have approved of this outcome. Ford’s ostensibly grandiose vision of Britain at the time of the first world war contains much that has become rather hackneyed. And a lot of his notions have turned out to be untrue. It wasn’t really the end of the old social order. He pokes lots of fun at the ruling classes. There’s a lot of schoolboy humour in this novel – and maybe how much you enjoy it will depend to some extent on how prone you are to giggling. Like Waugh at the end of Brideshead he seems to romantically and nostalgically lament the decline of the feudal world of the 18th century. But like Waugh he got it wrong. That world wasn’t vanishing into the mists of time. Just take a look at the members of the Tory party who were responsible for the referendum. Same old old boys club. However, Ford does throw something more interesting into the mix – and this is his obsession with frustrated sexual feeling. Every character in this novel is sexually neurotic. It’s like Ford had just read Freud and believed obsessively but without much clarity that he was on to something. Unfortunately to a large extent Ford comes across as a latter-day Oliver Cromwell in this regard. No coincidence Sylvia is a Catholic. I didn’t understand what he was getting at with his sex obsession but at least it was interesting. Julian Barnes praises the structure of this book and it’s true this is its most interesting element – the surface of gossip, lies and misunderstandings which defines the social order at the expense of truth. But his declaration that “Few novelists have better understood and conveyed the overworkings of the hysterical brain, the underworkings of the damaged brain (after his first spell at the front, Tietjens returns with partial memory loss), the slippings and slidings of the mind at the end of its tether, with all its breakings-in and breakings-off” is sheer hyperbole for me. Ford dramatizes a confused mind by resorting to endless spatterings of ellipses on every page, a crude, almost schoolboyish technique for creating the interruption of mental processes. (It’s worth remembering this was written long after both Mrs Dalloway and The Waves, in neither of which does Woolf resort to cheap ellipses to show a mind in turmoil.) At the end of the day I’d say there are about a hundred pages of this novel worth reading; that leaves 800…Five stars though for Tom Stoppard who for me has proved himself to be a superior artist to Ford Maddox Ford. And perhaps Greene and Barnes’ elevated evaluation of this novel have helped explain to me why I’ve never been able to get excited by either of them as novelists.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jan-Maat

    It has been on my mind to read Parade’s end since I was in my late teens, still at school, doing my English Literature A-Level. I think I have said before that I am slow. At that time I certainly read The Good Soldier almost certainly because our teacher Mrs P. mentioned it in the context probably of To the Lighthouse on account of it’s use of stream of consciousness. I don’t know yet if it was worth the wait, but I feel that Parade’s End is the kind of book that you can turn round after It has been on my mind to read Parade’s end since I was in my late teens, still at school, doing my English Literature A-Level. I think I have said before that I am slow. At that time I certainly read The Good Soldier almost certainly because our teacher Mrs P. mentioned it in the context probably of To the Lighthouse on account of it’s use of stream of consciousness. I don’t know yet if it was worth the wait, but I feel that Parade’s End is the kind of book that you can turn round after finishing and start again on the first page. One reason for this is that the book’s structure parallels the experience of serving in WWI, it opens conventionally enough, upper class marital crisis in late Edwardian England - a full body immersion in the mores of a different time, two gentlemen – the central character Christopher Tietjens and his pal Macmaster knock off work from a ministry dealing with statistics to take the train down to Rye to play some golf where they are interrupted by an eruption of Suffragettes (and why not) followed in time by Tietjens travelling with one of the suffragettes on a horse and buggy through a foggy night, not quite getting lost, just to the north of Romney Marsh, and on the verge of turning the novel into a love triangle, when a car turns out of a concealed drive driven by Tietjens’ godfather and motors directly into the horse. Ah -ha exclaims the reader – this be that Symbolism that be all the rage – it’s WWI: machine versus flesh. As the horse so to the man. At this the fog immediately clears and we skip a great chunk of the war to find Tietjens on leave in recovery from shell-shock – this in part based on the author’s war time experiences. It is as though this late Edwardian upper class marriage crisis novel has been cut through by a bullet or was caught up in a shell explosion and ripped apart, (or even hit by a car maybe) from now on we experience something disjointed and dislocated, we are disorientated, maybe even stressed, we jump from the steam of consciousness of one character to another, there are few markers as to when we are in time - perhaps the only time markers of relevance are if war is ongoing or not, the narrative will shift abruptly, after the initial section the book becomes very concentrated we are in what feels like real time as a character’s thoughts sprawl out – sometimes while they have a conversation with somebody else, a hundred pages of text might be about an hour in the character's lives. The series of novels are bound up in ideas about the passing of time and the (violent) transition from one era to another. That all sounds very serious, but I feel there is a strong element of parody and play making too. The surname Tietjens suggests something like Little titties – not a family then to take entirely seriously, the family home is the fictional great house of Groby in Cleveland, then in the North Riding of Yorkshire, Christopher and his elder Brother Mark conceive of themselves as archetypal North Country men, Sheffield or Barnsley are already dangerously southern and suspect and soft. Theirs’ is that profound patriotism that expresses itself by staying away from the homeland and apparently rarely if ever going there – in addition as we are told several times they are the descendants of one of William of Orange’s men who replaced some Catholic bigwig. Their northcountryness is an elective affinity. Instead they live in London and both brothers darkly suspect the other of having been corrupted by life in the south, the countryside we experience is that of a curve from Kent in to Sussex – a region where Ford Madox Ford knocked around championing the writing of Joseph Conrad and H.G. Wells, practising Free Love whenever he had the chance. This is a novel where the coast and moors by Redcar are frequently on the mind but never shown, but where we are shown, is barely on character’s minds and has only limited resonances for several of them. Christopher Tietjens is radical Tory, at one moment anti-Empire in the style of the Tories in 1713, a Francophile, a man who claims that only one worthwhile book has been written in English since the eighteenth century (so certainly not a stand in for the author). He is a radical in his way and the last Tory in the sense that his politics are those of before the French Revolution, he sees society as essentially Feudal (all though explicitly his family wealth from from coal mines, and he is precisely aware of coal prices at the market and mine head), he might approve of ‘Oligarchy tempered by riot’ as a constitutional principle he certainly finds elections and the vote a bit of a sham. Physically it appears that Boris Johnson has modelled himself on this Christopher Tietjens - a shambolic, messy looking person. The war that he experiences is also a parody, it is not about fighting – and this is not the WWI novel to read if you want to see someone’s entrails spill out over the page – this war is about the traditions and style of the army, getting the paperwork done, checking that soldiers brush their teeth and that their feet are fit for service, it’s about politics and transportation, and who owes who what money. The army too like the individuals we see is in shock from the war and desperately clinging to regulations that impair fighting efficiency, presumably because if they let go of them there might be no order or structure what so ever. Above all I had the curious feeling that this novel is an adaptation of The Idiot into English with a WWI setting, like Prince Myshkin (Mousy) , Tietjens (Titty) is in a love triangle, both aspire to Christian lives, Tietjens wishes to become an Anglican saint and is, I think twice, compared with J.C. There are references in the text to the metaphysical poet George Herbert and Gilbert White (in the form of his The Natural History of Selborne both of whom appear as potential role models for Tietjens, both of which he avoids partly out of stubbornness, partly from love or the desire for the chance of (non-divine) love. The Idiot is I felt indirectly referred to by brother Mark in the text in his thoughts about Russian aristocrats giving away their wealth and lands then sitting by the side of the road and begging – but maybe Tolstoyians or Anarchists were what he had in mind. Again though I think the point is that a big Tit in the army, previously working in Government on statistics, who aspires to be an Anglican saint while approving of the extermination of defective newborn children in the interests of sound eugenics is a parody, recognisably of Tory England for whom God is an Englishman, and Blake’s Jerusalem (arranged by Parry) contains no criticism of the Patria. The carnival of characters around the still and speechless figure of Mark Tietjens, in the penultimate chapter of the entire series a strong splash of Dostoevsky I felt. The book is also a visual one, Sylvia Tietjens and Lady Macmasters both appear as Pre-Raphaelite beauties, but also Belle dames sans Mercy straight out of Keats, they are out of time, and old fashioned already at the beginning of the book, they are in contrast to the fractured landscapes of WWI battlefields. While the book begins with the horse killed by a car and ends with the appropriately Biblical falling of a Cedar of Sardinia (a transplant like the Tietjens) which brings down with it part of the great house itself – while a few times through the book we are reminded of an Italian saying that the man who sleeps under trees will (need to) see a doctor often. I wonder if it inspired The strange death of Liberal England . It is quite wonderful and chewy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I decided to start reading this great First World War novel after seeing the start of the BBC adaptation, but then became caught up by the book and fell behind with watching the TV version. It's a hard book to describe, the tale of an upper-class English family falling apart in and around the war. In particular, it is the tale of the 'Last Tory', Christopher Tietjens, the two women in his life, wife Sylvia and true love Valentine, and his struggle to stay true to his stubborn traditions as the I decided to start reading this great First World War novel after seeing the start of the BBC adaptation, but then became caught up by the book and fell behind with watching the TV version. It's a hard book to describe, the tale of an upper-class English family falling apart in and around the war. In particular, it is the tale of the 'Last Tory', Christopher Tietjens, the two women in his life, wife Sylvia and true love Valentine, and his struggle to stay true to his stubborn traditions as the world changes around him. The writing is demanding, largely told in stream-of-consciousness style and jumping to and fro. By the end of book three I felt it was it was a magnificent novel - some parts are better than others, with the battlefield scenes tending to be especially strong, but the whole experience is overwhelming. However, I thought the novel (which was originally published in four parts over a number of years) falls off badly in book four, which Graham Greene hated and cut out of his edition. Another problem is that there is a lot of casual racism and in particular anti-Semitism - at first I wasn't sure if the author was satirising these attitudes, but there is no indication of him disagreeing with them. Of course, I realise that the novel was written in the 1920s and attitudes have changed, but the build-up of unthinking throwaway remarks detracts from the book's power. I had only read 'The Good Soldier' by Madox Ford before this, which I loved - I don't think 'Parade's End' is quite as great, but it is still one of the best novels I've read in a long time, though I must knock one star off for the last book!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    This is a wonderfully rewarding read, although at times the story seems impenetrable, but stay with it as the book will become a personal favourite, that repays frequent revisits. The beguiling, irresistible and utterly compelling, Sylvia Tietjens is described, ' immensely tall, slight… reddish, very fair hair in great bandeaux right over her ears. Her very oval, regular face had an expression of virginal lack of interest such as used to be worn by fashionable Paris courtesans a decade before This is a wonderfully rewarding read, although at times the story seems impenetrable, but stay with it as the book will become a personal favourite, that repays frequent revisits. The beguiling, irresistible and utterly compelling, Sylvia Tietjens is described, ' immensely tall, slight… reddish, very fair hair in great bandeaux right over her ears. Her very oval, regular face had an expression of virginal lack of interest such as used to be worn by fashionable Paris courtesans a decade before that time.” A beautiful, sensual woman. Sylvia has enjoyed a colourful past and learned the hard way that surrendering to impulse is damaging and disastrous, and knows through bitter experience the yearning of flaming passion and desire, 'that dreadful feeling' that always leads to awkwardness and unexpected repercussions. It is Sylvia's colourful story that injects the volume with mischief and unexpected twists and turns. She is the unconventional heroine of this multi layered convoluted story. A troubled Catholic and a reckless adulteress, Sylvia was already pregnant when she married Christopher Tjetjeans and the child probably wasn’t his, but as a man of complete honesty and integrity he does the decent thing, of course. Sylvia is completely self obsessed and all knowing. for example, she 'knew she was displaying indolent and gracious beauty', as she entered the room, but she has an affected insouciance designed to deter but which has the opposite effect as men, of all ages and social classes are entranced by her beauty. ' She had purposely increased her air of scornful insolence. That was because she felt that her hold over men increased to the measure of her coldness. Someone she knew, had once said of a dangerous woman, that when she entered the room every woman kept her husband on the leash. It was Sylvia's pleasure to think that, before she went out of that room, all women in it realised with mortification - that they needn't!' 'To know everything about a person is to be bored, bored, bored,' she protests. She treats all men with disdain, ' Taking up with a man was like reading a book you had read when you had forgotten that you had read it. You had not been for ten minutes in any sort of intimacy with a man before you said: "But I've read all this before." Men are like putty in her hands entranced at first sight, captivated within moments of their first encounter, ' She could, she flattered herself, tell the amount of empressment which a man would develop about herself at the first glance - the amount and the quality too.' Julian Barnes has written a definitive introduction to the Penguin Classics edition (2012) in which he says : 'For Graham Greene , Sylvia Tietjeans is surely the most possesssed evil character in the modern novel. A wife who is bored, promiscuous and up-to-date,tied to a husband who is omniscient, chaste and antique; there's a marriage made in hell.' Certainly Sylvia does not suffer fools gladly; she can be mean, at times sadistically cruel, with a lacerating tongue and utterly self centred. Sylvia reluctantly admits, 'She was by that time tired of men, or imagined that she was' as the men in her acquaintance never fulfilled expectations.' So she remains filled with an inexpressible love for her emotionally repressed husband. Parade’s End – made up of four novels published between 1924 and 1928 – explores post-Freudian female sexual desire and Sylvia Tietjens represents the unfettered, repressed, but now viewed as zany, women unleashed by the 'Boom & Bust ' decade, rationalising their intemperate, conflicting but passionate desires. Standing naked before her husband, Sylvia darkly exclaims, “Higher than the beasts, lower than the angels: stuck between the two in our idiots’ Eden. God, I’m so bored of it all. Guarding or granting permission to a temple no decent butcher would give to his offal tray. I’d rather be a cow in a field…” Promiscuity and serial adultery lacks the intimacy for which she is searching, and doesn't fill the aching void in her soul, revealed in her stream of consciousness admission, 'Blessed Virgin, mother of God, make him take me, before midnight...He's my husband, it is not a sin.'

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bloodorange

    Ever since reading Constellation of Genius by Kevin Jackson I was fascinated by the fact that Ford Madox Ford was, to lift the phrase from The L-Word, a major hub; I even considered rereading the book to draft a graph showing all of his intellectual connections. While he didn’t sleep with everyone who mattered he clearly knew, in person or by correspondence, everyone worth knowing in the modernist writing circles. I already knew, and wasn’t floored by, The Good Soldier, I knew of the Ever since reading Constellation of Genius by Kevin Jackson I was fascinated by the fact that Ford Madox Ford was, to lift the phrase from The L-Word, a major hub; I even considered rereading the book to draft a graph showing all of his intellectual connections. While he didn’t sleep with everyone who mattered he clearly knew, in person or by correspondence, everyone worth knowing in the modernist writing circles. I already knew, and wasn’t floored by, The Good Soldier, I knew of the troublesome ménage involving Ford, his ‘wife’ Stella Bowen, and a then-newcomer Jean Rhys. So when I watched BBC version of Parade’s End, and read Warwick’s review of the novel, I knew I have to give Ford another chance. I approached Parade’s End with some apprehension, having read reviews that stressed how confusing it is. I knew what to expect of a modernist novel - I like the period - but the sheer number of such remarks coming from people who had the literacy and the stamina to go through it was intimidating. Unnecessarily so; it is a wonderful novel, and even though it took me three months to read due to its impractical bulk (I rarely have the time to read at home), the events of the previous chapters were fresh in my memory and when I came back to the retelling of a scene from a different character's PoV I didn’t find it difficult to follow. Another thing the reviews and the introduction pointed out was that the last part of the novel is markedly weaker than the previous three (it was deemed so by the critics, even left out in some editions), but my experience was different. It wasn’t as vivid as other parts, perhaps, but definitely not worse than books I-III. The subject matter… let’s say this is another novel for grown-up people. It is largely set during World War I; the loss of freedom is manifested in one’s inability to “stand up” (one of the books is entitled (“A Man Could Stand Up”, which refers to one character’s wish to “stand up on a hill” and not be shot at), but the focus is not on “physical suffering”, but rather “mental torture. Immense miles and miles of anguish in darkened minds. That remained. Men might stand up on hill, but the mental torture could not be expelled." Reading Parade’s End, I learned two things about WWI that were completely new to me – one was how emotionally disturbing, distracting it was for soldiers to keep contact with their family, lawyers, keep track of their affairs during wartime thanks to improved comunication.It's that they won't let us alone. Never! Not one of us! If they'd let us alone we could fight. But never...No one! It's not only the beastly papers of the battalion, though I'm no good with papers. Never was and never shall be...But it's the people at home. One's own people. God help us, you'd think that when a poor devil was in the trenches they'd let him alone...Damn it: I've had solicitors' letters about family quarrels when I was in hospital. Imagine that! ...Imagine it! I don't mean tradesmen's dunnings. But one's own people. I haven't even got a bad wife as McKechnie has and they say you have. The other – that the men who went to war, often because they were shamed and emotionally blackmailed by the society and even their loved ones, were, on their return, treated with suspicion and frequently hostility: “after the war was over, the civilian population would contrive to attach [determined discredit] to every man who had been to the front as a fighting soldier.” Yet the war seems to be simply a manifestation of worldwide catastrophe, rather than the catastrophe itself. The message, to me, seems to be against the simple interpretation that the British society changed as a result of WWI; the end of "Old England" was not due to the war. Rather, the war gave people – chaotic, evil, selfish people - the chance to shatter whatever harmony was left in the world (the novel is narrated from the PoVs of "Quality", mostly). The post WWI order is one of modernist chaos, uncertainty, and despair, in which the protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, strives to function with his new family. Christopher is a Job-like figure, whose socialite wife turns his life into a nightmare, probably in order to exert some kind of emotional power over him, and who is routinely betrayed by everyone, and let down by debtors. A large part of the novel’s appeal lies, to me, in the examination of what it meant to be a pre-WWI gentleman. Gentlemen, remarks Tietjens bitterly, dwell in a celestial sphere untainted by financial affairs:Gentlemen don't earn money. Gentlemen, as a matter of fact, don't do anything. They exist. Perfuming the air like Madonna lilies. Money comes into them as air through petals and foliage. Thus the world is made better and brighter. And, of course, thus political life can be kept clean!...So you can't make money.The representation of upper class’ morality is fascinating: characters seem very preoccupied with the issue of who fathered who, and make most outrageous guesses; protecting oneself against STDs is what a gentleman does so as not to cast a bad light on his sphere – as we learn from the internal monologue of Christopher’s brother; central to the plot is the fact that gentlemen do not divorce, for divorce would mean “dragging one’s woman through the mud” - even when the woman is mud itself. And there’s responsibility, in various shades and forms. The unavoidable paternalism towards lower classes:It was to him a certain satisfaction that (...) he hadn't lost one of the men but only an officer (...) for his men he always felt a certain greater responsibility; they seemed to him to be there infinitely less of their own volition. It was akin to the feeling that made him regard cruelty to an animal as a more loathsome crime than cruelty to a human being, other than a child.Self-control -“If you let yourself go …you may let yourself go a tidy sight farther than you want to”. It is Christopher's and Valerie's sense of responsibility which makes the main love scene of the novel look like this:We never finished a sentence. Yet it was a passionate scene. So I touched the brim of my cap and said: So long!...Or she...I don't remember. I remember the thoughts I thought and the thoughts I gave her credit for thinking. But perhaps she did not think them. There is no knowing.Characterisation is formidable. Making Christopher relatable is short of a miracle. The contrast between Sylvia Tietjens, probably the single most fatale femme I have encountered in fiction, and Valerie Wannop, Christopher’s eventual lover, seems lifted straight from Jane Eyre’s Bertha and Jane (with the stipulation that little unfolds for the two women after JE fashion). The only thing the two women have in common is their good physical shape – sport for Sylvia being a way of maintaining her stunning figure and spending more time around men, for Valerie – a part of her moral, hygienic, modern education. Sylvia is compared to “the apparition of the statue of the Commander in Don Juan”, or a snake; she is “[radiant] and high-stepping, like a great stag”. She uses her sexuality to dominate, destroy, use men: she ran the whole gamut of 'turnings down.' The poor fellows next day would change their bootmakers, their sock merchants, their tailors, the designers of their dress-studs and shirts: they would sigh even to change the cut of their faces, communing seriously with their after-breakfast mirrors. But they knew in their hearts that calamity came from the fact that she hadn't deigned to look into their eyes." Valerie, on the other hand, “seemed a perfectly negligible girl except for the frown.” And finally, the wry humour: 'I see what you're aiming at,' Sylvia said with sudden anger; 'you're revolted at the idea of my going straight from one man's arms to another.' 'I'd be better pleased if there could be an interval,' the Father said. 'It's what's called bad form.'

  7. 4 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    Reading this (consisting of four books: "Some Do Not...", "No More Parades," "A Man Could Stand Up--," and "The Last Post), for me, was like chewing a single piece of gum for a month. It is not unreadable or incomprehensible. It's in English, originally in English (can't blame any faulty translation), and the characters are even English. But they talk differently. They act differently. Their motivations are hard to grasp. Like they're in a dream, their movements come in hazy sequences. The plot Reading this (consisting of four books: "Some Do Not...", "No More Parades," "A Man Could Stand Up--," and "The Last Post), for me, was like chewing a single piece of gum for a month. It is not unreadable or incomprehensible. It's in English, originally in English (can't blame any faulty translation), and the characters are even English. But they talk differently. They act differently. Their motivations are hard to grasp. Like they're in a dream, their movements come in hazy sequences. The plot is gettable but not unforgettable: Christopher Tientjens, maybe conceived by Ford Madox Ford while looking at the mirror, never described as handsome (FMF was ugly) but only big, strong, clumsy and gray, is married to the beautiful Sylvia, a flirt who ran away with another man, they have a son but it is not certain if Christopher is really the father, fed up with her paramour Sylvia writes Christopher a note saying she wants to go back to him and he accepts her, no questions asked, then there's Valentine (described as having big feet somewhere) she's in love with Christopher who agrees when he asks her to be his mistress but didn't even kiss her and instead just goes to the trenches to fight world war one, hoping at one point to die, he's rich but renounces wealth, intelligent but does stupid things, Sylvia, finding him too perfect, wants to destroy him, ah what the heck! I found no thrill with the story. The characters did not come alive (for me). I started to worry that maybe something is now wrong with my brain after reading too much and playing chess too much, so I checked some of the reviews and see several praising the novel without even reading all four books, like they tasted one dish in a food buffet and announced all the rest as outstanding (really? Then why not finish the rest?). One said he started reading it one day, but never said he finished reading it another day. So if he's alive, in front of me, I may be yelling right now to him, asking him to answer the question if he had actually finished reading all four books and not if the novel is great as I am not asking him that question. Another hinted that he actually read all four books but then added that Parade's End is "A fabulous look into the personal experience of WW1" when it is not actually about WW1 (Christopher Tietjen's foray into the trenches is just a very small part of the entire narrative--he never even got to fire a gun, nor kill a German), but more about marital/siblings conflicts, love, hate, honor and family concerns.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Amazing insight into British society and the English mind around WW1. I read this for one of my MA classes (and re-read for an essay and then re-read yet again) and since have read several others books by Ford, a forgotten great hopefully coming back to the forefront with the new BBC/HBO miniseries, though I think this book is too difficult for most casual readers that will come to it from the miniseries. The time shifts are initially confusing, but when one lets yourself go (I think the Amazing insight into British society and the English mind around WW1. I read this for one of my MA classes (and re-read for an essay and then re-read yet again) and since have read several others books by Ford, a forgotten great hopefully coming back to the forefront with the new BBC/HBO miniseries, though I think this book is too difficult for most casual readers that will come to it from the miniseries. The time shifts are initially confusing, but when one lets yourself go (I think the confusion the reader feels is intended, it mimics the confusion the characters feel), one discovers great comic moments (the breakfast scene at the Duchemins in particular), a beautiful love story and a very sympathetic hero of the stiff upper lip variety, and one of the most despicable yet fascinating characters you're likely to encounter in literature. If you're not sure that you can commit to the full book, read Some Do Not.... This is a self-contained book in it's own right--if you finish it wanting to know what happens to the characters, then by all means read on. But it's in my mind easily the strongest of the four books--most comic and best use of modernist techniques, namely the time shift (which Ford coined).

  9. 5 out of 5

    Mark Hinton

    “…there are not many English novels which deserve to be called great: Parade’s End is one of them.” ~W.H. Auden When I was in college, I had to make a choice one semester between taking Romantic Literature or Victorian Literature. Knowing just enough about everything to get myself into trouble, I chose to take Victorian Literature. Romantic poetry did not sound like something a Montana kid grown up on Hemingway would want to read. Only much later, years and states away, would I discover how wrong “…there are not many English novels which deserve to be called great: Parade’s End is one of them.” ~W.H. Auden When I was in college, I had to make a choice one semester between taking Romantic Literature or Victorian Literature. Knowing just enough about everything to get myself into trouble, I chose to take Victorian Literature. Romantic poetry did not sound like something a Montana kid grown up on Hemingway would want to read. Only much later, years and states away, would I discover how wrong I was…. The Victorian sensibility that pervades Arnold and Browning – the interest in the ordinary and common day, the moral purposefulness, the unmooring clash with science, the search for the Victorian ideal – seemed cloyingly myopic and dark. I admired much but was never able to get my sea legs. Years later on a whim, walking through a bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I picked up a copy of Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford. The big paperback caught my eye because of the size and the price, $1.00. By then, I knew a little about Ford: his relationship with Conrad, his literary influence, his reputation for untruth (though hardly a vice in a writer), his bad relationship with Hemingway. I knew of, but had not read, The Good Soldier, his most celebrated and read work. I think, but cannot be sure, that I may have read by that time some of his literary reminiscences, which (whether “embellished” or not) remain in my mind some of the best of that genre ever written. I put the book on a shelf and carried it for a few moves. Through years of reading the once neglected Romantics, through expanding my familiarity with Irish poetry beyond Yeats. [In those days, before kids and domestic distractions, I created, as I continue to do, my own courses of study, but, of course, had much more time to concentrate and ruminate.:] Finally, one day dark winter day in my little studio on Cathedral Hill in St. Paul I picked up the big book and began to read. Parades End has been called the last Victorian novel. And I suppose it is. So much that is Victorian is in this book, and yet… there is something of the lost generation in here also. It is in my mind a transitional novel, the last hurrah of the Victorian and a first tentative peek at the modern. Or more properly perhaps, the first description of the Modern by a Victorian: “No more hope, no more glory, not for the nation, not for the world I dare say, no more parades.” Ford, always an admirer of Henry James, lived by the credo: why say it in 4 words when 24 will do better. His is the anti-Hemingway style. His sentences and paragraphs go on for pages… and yet, I found myself enthralled in the same way that James enthralls me. So exotic does their language usage seem that I feel I am reading another tongue altogether. A language at once more ornate and expressive and beautiful than I could even dare to imagine – the term baroque comes to mind (although unlike baroque music, James and Ford are always satisfying). The four separate novels that make up Parade’s End (Some Do Not, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up, and The Last Post) tell the story of Christopher Tietjens, a man struggling to survive personally and publicly. His wife is unfaithful to him, he is betrayed by friends and colleagues, and the modern, post-war world is changing everything he once thought he knew. Those who have read The Good Soldier will recognize some familiar themes, but in Parade’ End will enjoy Ford at his most expansive. Why Ford has fallen so out of favor, and this novel in particular has been all but forgotten, is one of those peculiarities of taste and time. Ford himself once said, “Only two classes of books are of universal appeal; the very best and the very worst.” It is certain that Parade’s End belongs in the former class. Certainly it will again be “rediscovered” by some generation of writers. It’s quality and execution demand it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Cphe

    Not an easy novel to read not by any means. This is the story of Christopher Tietjens a man quite out of step with the times and with those closest to him. An interesting character in his own right although quite overshadowed by his manipulative and spoilt wife Sylvia. Found that the novel did lag in places however the descriptions of life in the trenches and the physical and psychological impact of the Great War to be compulsive reading. The characters were constrained and at times understated Not an easy novel to read not by any means. This is the story of Christopher Tietjens a man quite out of step with the times and with those closest to him. An interesting character in his own right although quite overshadowed by his manipulative and spoilt wife Sylvia. Found that the novel did lag in places however the descriptions of life in the trenches and the physical and psychological impact of the Great War to be compulsive reading. The characters were constrained and at times understated but that did add to their power on the page. One of those novels that you find yourself thinking about after the last page is turned.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Genia Lukin

    I found this book to be a fantastic slog. It had been so difficult for me to read, in fact, that I found myself trying to skim, and resisting, just barely. I suppose part of the problem must have been the unmatched expectations I've had for this humongous doorstopper. I've heard of it as 'an epic tale of WWI'. But in reality, it was more involved with two people trying to outdo each other in the amount of suffering they could cause. I found the endless digging in the machinations and idiotic I found this book to be a fantastic slog. It had been so difficult for me to read, in fact, that I found myself trying to skim, and resisting, just barely. I suppose part of the problem must have been the unmatched expectations I've had for this humongous doorstopper. I've heard of it as 'an epic tale of WWI'. But in reality, it was more involved with two people trying to outdo each other in the amount of suffering they could cause. I found the endless digging in the machinations and idiotic moves. I didn't particularly want to read a book about marital machinations and moves, I wanted to read a book about WWI. Too, there is in me still the sense that I could never envision the main characters, Tietjens and his wife, Sylvia, as in any way real. They do what they do from reasons which, to me, are inexplicable and incomprehensible, and I don't think that's just because they're turn-of-the-century Brits. Sylvia cheats on her husband and tries to ruin his life (and hers with it, since for some reason she would not divorce him, though her Catholicism is less than nominal) because she "hates his immoral opinions". Since I never really encountered an opinion of Tietjens - not to mention a deed - that was immorally appalling, I had a hard time seeing Sylvia do what she was doing for any reason other than the author's strings, pulling at her. The prose is abstruse and difficult to read. I found it almost prohibiting at times. It's full of elliptical sentences and unexplained utterances, and one loses the thread of what people are actually saying, and why, astonishingly quickly. The novel (I should say novels, I read all four) does have its good moments. For instance, the scene in which Sylvia discovers that her husband was not, in fact, shamming his memory loss, is almost touching. She is repentant. Why she then proceeds to go on and continue to cause trouble for him, though, I am not sure. It's yet another enigmatic move, on the part of an utterly enigmatic author, in a completely enigmatic setting. I guess this book was just too much of a riddle wrapped in an enigma for me. I barely finished it, though I am glad I at least did finish.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    When it was time to finish the last section of this brilliant book, I bought myself a bottle of sparkling cava to celebrate and cried like a baby. And by 'end', I mean the end of A MAN COULD STAND UP (a phrase which now makes me shout 'ON A BLEEDIN' 'ILL!!!' and then cry)... I took a few more weeks to decide whether or not to read "Last Post". I did, and... cor. Well. I see what the rest of the internet means. Christopher Tietjens is absent from the majority of the book. You get far more narration When it was time to finish the last section of this brilliant book, I bought myself a bottle of sparkling cava to celebrate and cried like a baby. And by 'end', I mean the end of A MAN COULD STAND UP (a phrase which now makes me shout 'ON A BLEEDIN' 'ILL!!!' and then cry)... I took a few more weeks to decide whether or not to read "Last Post". I did, and... cor. Well. I see what the rest of the internet means. Christopher Tietjens is absent from the majority of the book. You get far more narration from Mark Tietjens (who I want to be so so angry at, but...), Mark's hilarious French live-in madam and a bit from Valentine (which is kinda heartbreaking) and from Sylvia and Michael Tietjens which are just a bit... confusing. It's so difficult to advise whether to read Last Post or not. The end of A Man Could Stand Up is like gloriously and gleefully throwing your frozen heart off the most dramatic cliff-top you can be bothered to imagine because perhaps, perhaps - a man can finally stand up! on a bleeding hill yes yes etc etc... their narrative could so happily end then as we all cry together as the clouds part (it's kinda like when someone smiles for the first time 2 hours into a Kaurismaki movie). But KNOWING there's *a bitttt* more, makes it really difficult not to read. I can't really say reading it was anything like reading the first three novels. It added lots about Mark's attitudes towards the war ending. It is kinda interesting and sad to see how people are living after the return from the war, but it's not *very* fulfilling? On the other hand - after two weeks, just knowing it was there... meant I had to read it anyway. Do I think it needed to be there? No. But can you ignore it? Not really?? Argh, eh!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939) was an English novelist, editor, and critic who lived in the UK, France, and the US. Perhaps his best known and most read novel is The Good Soldier. A giant of modernism, his monumental novel Parade’s End combined four shorter novels, each of which became one part of the larger whole. These included, in order, Some Do Not…, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up, and Last Post. At first Parade’s End was published as a trilogy, excluding the last novel, but Ford later Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939) was an English novelist, editor, and critic who lived in the UK, France, and the US. Perhaps his best known and most read novel is The Good Soldier. A giant of modernism, his monumental novel Parade’s End combined four shorter novels, each of which became one part of the larger whole. These included, in order, Some Do Not…, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up, and Last Post. At first Parade’s End was published as a trilogy, excluding the last novel, but Ford later included all four, some critics having subsequently claimed that the final volume is weak whereas others have seen it as integral to and perfectly capping the whole. The plot covers the period from just before, during, and immediately after WW I. It’s main protagonist is Christopher Tietjens, a brilliant and wealthy government statistician who views himself as “the last Tory,” living a century or two after his ideal time. He is curmudgeonly though deeply caring, determined to live a life of honor and goodness under trying circumstances. His wife Sylvia, whose son may not be Christopher’s own, is a shrewish socialite intent on humiliating him at every turn despite his maddeningly persistent tolerance of her infidelities. Christopher’s older brother Mark plays in increasingly prominent role in the narrative. Christopher’s love and soulmate is Valentine Wannop, a young suffragette. Many other memorable characters people the narrative, reminiscent of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time. The two middle parts of the narrative provide what is arguably the most vivid description of trench warfare on the Western Front, the details of the conflict being less gratuitous than illustrative of the stresses and personalities that were shaped and formed by that experience. Overall, the narrative highlights the social changes in the UK during this period, with blurring of class distinctions and the decline in income and prominence of wealthy landed gentry. Ford uses a fascinating variety of narrative styles throughout the work, the most impressive being his own approach to interior monologue. Christopher in particular is strikingly aware but often imperfectly self-aware. Sentence fragments and ellipses abound, and the ambiguities and inconsistencies of personality are beautifully captured. Themes appear briefly, only to vanish and emerge later in different contexts, and this mastery of leitmotif is effective and often unobtrusive. Frequent allusions within and beyond the novel itself are carefully integrated into the narrative. Despite its almost 1000 pages, the book thus remains gripping and engrossing. I am grateful for having discovered this amazing novel, a work that as recently as a few months ago I had not known even existed. Ford’s imagination and skill are impressive, and he deserves a much wider readership. Along with such acknowledged modernist masters as James Joyce, Marcel Proust, and Virginia Woolf, Ford Madox Ford recreated the novel into what would be a flourishing during the early and mid-20th century.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Helena Fairfax

    This is one of the best books I've ever read. So brilliant, in fact, I find it hard to describe why I LOVE it so much! The author evokes the emotions of his characters with unique brilliance, using a stream of conscious style of writing to describe inner dialogue, so that we feel exactly what each character feels, especially at moments of great stress. Not only this, but the characters themselves are infinitely well-drawn and their actions believable, totally sympathetic and consistent This is one of the best books I've ever read. So brilliant, in fact, I find it hard to describe why I LOVE it so much! The author evokes the emotions of his characters with unique brilliance, using a stream of conscious style of writing to describe inner dialogue, so that we feel exactly what each character feels, especially at moments of great stress. Not only this, but the characters themselves are infinitely well-drawn and their actions believable, totally sympathetic and consistent throughout. The descriptions of what it was like to serve in the First World War are also vivid and again (I think) unique in that they describe not just the horror but also the constant organisational effort involved in moving troops about, and sometimes just the sheer boredom of it all. Finally, the descriptions of the English countryside - a vanishing landscape in the early 20th century - are just perfect. The scene where Christopher Tietjens (the hero) and Valentine Wannop fall in love whilst riding a horse and cart all night through thick fog was so real for me I wished I could actually be in it. I wish I could write like Ford Madox Ford. That's all I can say.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Adrian White

    Quite the most singular book I've ever read. Modern. Post-modern. Pre-modern. So many times I had absolutely no clue as to what was going on and yet I stuck with it for over 800 pages. Now I see where Graham Greene came from. A masterpiece; an infuriating masterpiece.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ka

    I can't decide whether to give this book 2 stars or 4. Ultimately it does succeed as a powerful story of the effects of the Great War on English society. Instead of the sweeping narrative of the typical war novel, FMF takes his story completely inside the characters' heads, looking at society and war in the microcosm, an approach that must be respected. And yet. I did not enjoy reading it. The third book does finally portray a good bit of the misery and danger of the trenches and the front I can't decide whether to give this book 2 stars or 4. Ultimately it does succeed as a powerful story of the effects of the Great War on English society. Instead of the sweeping narrative of the typical war novel, FMF takes his story completely inside the characters' heads, looking at society and war in the microcosm, an approach that must be respected. And yet. I did not enjoy reading it. The third book does finally portray a good bit of the misery and danger of the trenches and the front lines. The first two books are really more about a love triangle in England during the time of the first war. At all times, the story is narrated through the inner thoughts, relevant or irrelevant, of the 3 main characters. Often these are overwrought; it is exhausting to read so many sentences ending in exclamation points. It's like a soap opera, in that you can skip forward 30 pages and be confident you'll still be in the same scene. The reader is left to tease out the few narrative points amidst the torrent of banality. I did not read the fourth book, choosing to side with Conrad and others who called it 'a disaster' and who state that FMF never intended it to be published. A further disadvantage of the extreme interior view FMF gives, of the war and the times, is that context is never developed or revealed. I am not sure whether, for example, I would have perceived the portrayal of the disintegration of classes, had I not already known that WWI was the catalyst for this. I can't imagine what a reader without prior knowledge of the era and the war specifically would make of it. Editorial addition after watching the HBO miniseries of Parade's End: It pairs perfectly with the book. How often can that be said?! The book is not terribly visual, while the miniseries is lush with color & period detail, supplying the images the book didn't. The TV series, of course, could not contain the pages and pages of interior reflection that make up 2/3 of the book, so it leaves out the part I found most tiresome. At the same time, there were many times in the miniseries when I thought, 'I sure am glad I read the book and know everything that was meant by that 15-second scene'. And revisiting the scenes & characters from the book was like finding valued old friends. I now think, or maybe I always did, that Christopher Tietjens is one of the great literary characters. Thanks to the symbiosis of book & movie, I'm upgrading yo 4 stars. A final comment on the version - I bought an inexpensive ($2.99) Kindle version, which was very sloppily converted and suffered far more than the usual 'Kindleisms' of sentences illogically broken and scrambled words. The book would benefit greatly by well done commentary & footnotes, and it would be worth it to pay more for them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Aliza

    This novel has touches of genius but is at its core deeply flawed, an example of execution failing to match talent or intent. There are parts that come alive - in particular, anything involving Sylvia, who is monstrous but also fascinating and even strangely relatable. But the war sections drag and while I understand and appreciate modernist techniques, perhaps I didn't care enough Christopher Tietjens to put the effort into truly focusing on those chapters. The final book feels like it is This novel has touches of genius but is at its core deeply flawed, an example of execution failing to match talent or intent. There are parts that come alive - in particular, anything involving Sylvia, who is monstrous but also fascinating and even strangely relatable. But the war sections drag and while I understand and appreciate modernist techniques, perhaps I didn't care enough Christopher Tietjens to put the effort into truly focusing on those chapters. The final book feels like it is entirely separate, both in style and story, and I had to push myself to finish it. Interesting characters are simply dropped, their fates barely addressed. And while I did find Sylvia fascinating, I was bothered by the fact that the women are all monsters bent on destroying their men or pure, innocent saviors who sacrifice all for the men they love.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Barnhouse

    A brilliant, sprawling book, unusually combining inventive modernist prose with a mingled nostalgia and hopefulness. I'm still processing what I think of it, but it's an eloquent and poignant exploration of the anxieties of England's gentry, and the genteel poor, in the years surrounding the First World War.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This book is a tetralogy composed by the following books: Some Do Not (1924), No More Parades (1925), A Man Could Stand UP (1926) and Last Post (1928). Even if these four novels have been reissued in 1948, after Second World War, the first omnibus version was published by Knopf in 1950. It is interesting to find out that I have the same opinion as stated by Graham Greene: "an afterthought which he (Ford) had not intended to write and later regretted having written.” In addition, "...the Last Post This book is a tetralogy composed by the following books: Some Do Not (1924), No More Parades (1925), A Man Could Stand UP (1926) and Last Post (1928). Even if these four novels have been reissued in 1948, after Second World War, the first omnibus version was published by Knopf in 1950. It is interesting to find out that I have the same opinion as stated by Graham Greene: "an afterthought which he (Ford) had not intended to write and later regretted having written.” In addition, "...the Last Post was more than a mistake—it was a disaster, a disaster which has delayed a full critical appreciation of Parade's End." Lets go back then to the review of the four novels. In the fist book of this series, the author describes the main character, Christopher Tietjens, “the last English Tory” after the World War I and his involvement with two women in his life: his faithless wife, Sylvia (a quite annoying woman in my opinion) and his lover, Valentine Wannop, a pacifist and suffragette. In the second volume, the author describes the Chistopher’s engagement in the Great War, who lives his aristocratic world and moves to the chaos of the French trenches. The third volume - A Man Could Stand Up, is the best one in my opinion. It starts with the Armistice Day and the author describes the feelings of the main characters in a magnificent way. The author also describes Christopher’s emotional and psychological responses under fire. As consequence, he decides to retreat and decides to live with Valentine, selling antiques as a way of economically survive. And the last one, the worst of this series, does have almost nothing to do with the previous ones. It seems that the author was looking for some kind of redemption or some other feeling which we cannot fully understand. All four novels area available at the Public Domain: Free download available at [email protected] Free download available at [email protected] Free download available at [email protected] Free download available at [email protected] In 2012, HBO, BBC, and VRT produced a television adaptation Parade's End (2012) written by Tom Stoppard and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall. 3* The Good Soldier 4* Some Do Not 4* No More Parades 4* A Man Could Stand Up 2* Last Post TR The Fifth Queen TR The Young Lovell TR The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood TR Henry James, a critical study

  20. 5 out of 5

    James

    “At the beginning of the war…I had to look in on the War Office, and in a room I found a fellow…What do you think he was doing…what the hell do you think he was doing? He was devising the ceremonial for the disbanding of a Kitchener battalion. You can’t say we were not prepared in one matter at least…. Well, the end of the show was to be: the adjutant would stand the battalion at ease; the band would play Land of Hope and Glory, and then the adjutant would say: There will be no more parades…. “At the beginning of the war…I had to look in on the War Office, and in a room I found a fellow…What do you think he was doing…what the hell do you think he was doing? He was devising the ceremonial for the disbanding of a Kitchener battalion. You can’t say we were not prepared in one matter at least…. Well, the end of the show was to be: the adjutant would stand the battalion at ease; the band would play Land of Hope and Glory, and then the adjutant would say: There will be no more parades…. Don’t you see how symbolical it was—the band playing Land of Hope and Glory, and then the adjutant saying: There will be no more parades?… For there won’t. There won’t, there damn well won’t. No more Hope, no more Glory, no more parades for you and me any more. Nor for the country…nor for the world, I dare say… None… Gone… Napoo finny! No…more…parades!” Ford Madox Ford made his reputation as a novelist on the war & peace themes. The Good Soldier (1915) is his most famous, and is on several different ‘Best 100 Novels of the Century’ lists, as is his four-part Parade's End. The latter book was recently in the news, Tom Stoppard having just completed his adaptation for BBC television, the mini-series scheduled to air in 2011. This novel reminds me of other great chronicles of individual lives and war, in this case a chronicle of the life of Christopher Tietjens, "the last Tory," a brilliant government statistician from a wealthy land-owning family who is serving in the British Army during World War I. While this is generally considered a "war" novel it is unique in the way Ford has Tietjens' consciousness taking primacy over the war-events like a filter. Ford constructs a protagonist for whom the war is but one aspect of his life, and not always even the most prominent though he is in the middle of it. The two central novels follow Tietjens in the army in France and Belgium as he ruminates on how to be a better soldier and untangle his strange social life. In a narrative beginning before the war and ending after the armistice, Ford's project is to situate an unimaginable cataclysm within a social, moral and psychological complexity. The result is a modern literary project that rivals those of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time or, more aptly, Evelyn Waugh's Sword of Honour trilogy.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Beth Bonini

    I usually try to stick to a policy of only reviewing novels that I have 'recently' (meaning days, or weeks at most) read, but I'm going to make an exception in this case. Having loved the BBC production, with Benedict Cumberbatch as protagonist Christopher Tietjens, I wanted to read the novel in order to fill in the gaps and details that I felt I might not have grasped. (Do other people do this? My typical response, after watching a film adapted from a novel, is to want to read the novel.) After I usually try to stick to a policy of only reviewing novels that I have 'recently' (meaning days, or weeks at most) read, but I'm going to make an exception in this case. Having loved the BBC production, with Benedict Cumberbatch as protagonist Christopher Tietjens, I wanted to read the novel in order to fill in the gaps and details that I felt I might not have grasped. (Do other people do this? My typical response, after watching a film adapted from a novel, is to want to read the novel.) After spending much of January 2014 slogging through this book -- and SLOG it was, despite many wonderful moments and bits of writing -- I realised two things: Tom Stoppard and Benedict Cumberbatch are both geniuses. If you felt that the television drama was somewhat elliptical, please believe me when I tell you that it is a masterpiece of straightforward narration compared to the novel. And if you thought Tietjens was a maddening, inscrutable character, let me assure you that Cumberbatch -- through his extremely expressive face and noble suffering -- managed to make that character sympathetic (even lovable) in a way that really doesn't come across in the novel. I don't regret reading this novel, but if you are short of time, do go straight to the BBC production without feeling the slightest bit guilty. You will also be able to enjoy the sumptuous scenery, costumes and acting. Personal note: I was motivated to write this slight review, or rather recommendation, after reading Stravinsky's Lunch. In discussing Stella Bowen -- Ford's partner, and the inspiration for Valentine Wannop -- I got an interesting insight into Ford as an author and a man. He was no Christopher Tietjens . . . but it did explain the bizarre scene on the train between Tietjens and Sylvia (the one that led to their disastrous marriage). I had never been able to believe that Tietjens would have sex on a train with a woman he barely knew, no matter how seductive. I suspect that was more Fordian.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Rick Slane

    All Quiet on the Western Front, The Forsyte Saga If you liked these books and the tv series "Downton Abbey" and have a lot of patience you may like this series.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected! I decided to read the books before the BBC miniseries came out, and I'm really glad that I did. Ford has created a wonderful character in Christopher Tietjens - noble to a fault, stubborn, fiercely smart, stiff and ponderous on the outside and a big teddy bear on the inside. You love him even when you want to slap him and tell him he's messing it all up. His wife Sylvia is fascinatingly manipulative, and even though she's one of the most genuinely I enjoyed this a lot more than I expected! I decided to read the books before the BBC miniseries came out, and I'm really glad that I did. Ford has created a wonderful character in Christopher Tietjens - noble to a fault, stubborn, fiercely smart, stiff and ponderous on the outside and a big teddy bear on the inside. You love him even when you want to slap him and tell him he's messing it all up. His wife Sylvia is fascinatingly manipulative, and even though she's one of the most genuinely terrible people I've ever read about, you still manage to care for her, too. Valentine, Tietjens' love interest, is a whipsmart suffragette whose temperament is a far better match for him than Sylvia. Ford does a great job of giving these characters a voice - I particularly enjoyed reading the chapters from Sylvia's perspective. To everyone else she's a villainous whore - from her own perspective she's a mischief maker, and her schemes are hilariously well-planned. The books do drag at certain points - I had a lot of trouble getting into the second book, because the first was so focused on the will-they-won't-they relationship between Tietjens and Valentine...then book 2 starts and it's all about warfare. I had some trouble adjusting to the shift in tone. Ford also has an annoying habit of introducing a character purely for the sake of affecting the plot, then giving us a 2-3 page life story for this new character when we're never going to see them again. Why yes, Ford, let's hear aaaallllll about the guy who gossiped about Tietjens to his father. His life story is so important to the plot. UGH! That being said, the good parts overwhelmingly make up for the bad parts. Tietjens has a wonderful character arc - during the 3rd book I actually started to feel PROUD of him, like "You're finally figuring it all out, Chrissie. Everything is going to be okay for you." It's so great to feel that way about a character. I became VERY emotionally invested in Tietjen's and Valentine's relationship (not something I expected to happen when I picked up this book!) and the ending of the third book was one of the most satisfying endings I've ever had the pleasure of reading. It literally made me feel giddy. Which brings us to the 4th book... The Last Post should never have been written. Book 3 ended so perfectly, and then this half-baked 4th book comes along and leaves you scratching your head. There's good information about what happened to the characters after the war, to be sure, but it's padded with so much uninteresting filler. You spend the majority of the book reading the inner monologues of characters who were never all that important to story originally, and find yourself wondering why the hell Ford is doing this to you when all you want to know is what happens to Groby and Tietjens' little boy and Valentine. All of the plot info given to you in the 4th book could easily have been condensed into a one-chapter epilogue for book 3. The Last Post is the only reason why this is a 4-star review and not 5-star.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Bettie

    (view spoiler)[ Bettie's Books (hide spoiler)]

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    My excuse is that the Ford Madox Ford novel on the list for my comprehensive exams as a senior in college was The Good Soldier. It was a solid WWI novel, as I recall, and that's all I recall except the distinctive name--Ford Madox Ford. So I didn't know that I didn't know about his quartet of novels, Parade's End, until I was browsing used books in Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill and came upon all 900 pages of four novels published separately but ultimately bound together into one huge, wonderful, My excuse is that the Ford Madox Ford novel on the list for my comprehensive exams as a senior in college was The Good Soldier. It was a solid WWI novel, as I recall, and that's all I recall except the distinctive name--Ford Madox Ford. So I didn't know that I didn't know about his quartet of novels, Parade's End, until I was browsing used books in Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill and came upon all 900 pages of four novels published separately but ultimately bound together into one huge, wonderful, idiosyncratic novel about Christopher Tietjens, his stiff sibling, Mark, his vicious wife, Sylvia, and his ultimate true love, Valentine...not to mention the multitude of characters that must, perforce, populate a novel that extends through pre-WWI upper-class British life, WWI in the trenches, and post-WWI British decay. This is a cheeky, satirical, witty, comical novel that serves as a kind of hinge between the Victorians and the Modernists. It anticipates Virginia Woolf and Henry Green. It is painfully acute in dissecting values and traditions, stuffiness and scruffiness, principle and vice. Mark is heir to Groby, a great northern estate, of no interest to him or to his younger brother. What to do? Christopher refuses to divorce his wonderful bitch wife, Silvia--because one doesn't divorce--so again, what to do? Valentine has no wherewithal to get her way no matter what she wants...what to do? Christopher is brilliant, idiosyncratic, and complicates everything with self-denial. He's maddening, but he's undeniably noble. The part of the novel that drags concentrates on his time in the trenches, but the way he makes things drag is also the way he preserves both his life and his virtue. The most surprising part of the novel is a long section wherein the stodgy, predictable Mark, having suffered a stroke, thinks through the pity of his ancestral estate and his younger brother tumbling farther and farther away from one another. Mark and Silvia, Christopher's wife, are stunningly unsentimental, which makes them stunningly shrewd and interesting. The difference between them, until the end of the novel, is that Mark is fatalistic and Silvia isn't. Like all great novels of a certain scope, this one has its flaws, but it also has an élan, a whispering quality, and immense insight into the rotting social structures of English life. The fun of it, if you like studies in English quirks and customs and hypocrisies, is that it goes on and on and as it does, it advises, through both good and bad examples, how to evaluate life, how to behave, how to appreciate...how to condemn... how to laugh. So you didn't know Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford existed? Well, now you do. It's actually as good as the high praise offered on the cover by the likes W.H. Auden and Graham Greene.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Akemi

    The classic that no one has ever heard of. My professor urged us to make others read Parade's End so that it stays in print- so go read it! Technically I haven't finished it yet since we only had to read three of the four books for my class, but I will complete The Last Post soon. Parade's End follows the singular Christopher Tietjens and his experiences of World War I. Tietjens is nothing if not unique, and I think it's worth reading the novel simply to meet him. Maybe I'm biased since I The classic that no one has ever heard of. My professor urged us to make others read Parade's End so that it stays in print- so go read it! Technically I haven't finished it yet since we only had to read three of the four books for my class, but I will complete The Last Post soon. Parade's End follows the singular Christopher Tietjens and his experiences of World War I. Tietjens is nothing if not unique, and I think it's worth reading the novel simply to meet him. Maybe I'm biased since I frequently found myself identifying with him. Also, if you like Kant, you'd like Tietjens (as my philosopher friend who kept geeking out while reading it will attest). The writing style is a blend of 19th-century Victorian with 20th-century modernism, which was great for someone who really likes the 19th century and isn't that crazy about the 20th. Also, Ford is chock full of strange Britishisms, such as describing someone as "more than a little barmy on the crumpet." The British-ness of it all can make it a bit confusing at times as understanding the social mores of the time is frequently essential to getting the plot, but I guess no more so than any 19th century British novel. ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Finished The Last Post and was underwhelmed. Definitely not as good as the previous three books and kind of ruins the unsettled feeling you get at the end of the third book, which would be nice in another story, but unsettled works for Ford. Believe me, I am normally a big fan of the happy ending (Harry Potter Epilogue anyone?), but I found this unnecessary. Quotes: "You seduced a young woman in order to be able to finish your talks with her. You could not do that without living with her. You could not live with her without seducing her; but that was the by-product. The point is that you can't otherwise talk. You can't finish talks at street corners; in museums; even in drawing-rooms. You mayn't be in the mood when she is in the mood - for the intimate conversation that means the final communion of your souls. You have to wait together - for a week, for a year, for a lifetime, before the final intimate conversation may be attained...and exhausted. So that...That in effect was love."

  27. 4 out of 5

    Joséphine

    It took me incredibly long to get through this book and it wasn't an easy or particularly enjoying read. I totally agree with Julian Barnes who said "Ford knows more and sees deeper". I found some aspects of Ford's explorations of human behaviour really interesting but it's painfully obvious to the reader that he was an incredibly detail-oriented person and to me it seems through this work, he enjoyed showing off his broad knowledge and intelligence. But honestly, do I really have to care about It took me incredibly long to get through this book and it wasn't an easy or particularly enjoying read. I totally agree with Julian Barnes who said "Ford knows more and sees deeper". I found some aspects of Ford's explorations of human behaviour really interesting but it's painfully obvious to the reader that he was an incredibly detail-oriented person and to me it seems through this work, he enjoyed showing off his broad knowledge and intelligence. But honestly, do I really have to care about how a cidre mousseux also known as cider or apple wine is properly made? Or about the backstories of unimportant minor characters, extensively explained on countless pages, yet serving no purpose to the story whatsoever? Due to many time leaps within one chapter (which I thought had a very inconvenient lenght, by the way) it was easy to lose track of which character was narrating the chapter in the first place. Many pages later, when I finally got back to what was meant to be the present moment in the story, I had forgotten all about what was going on in said present. Especially Mark Tietjens' narratives were a pain to read through. This brings me to another point I found really unsatisfying was that due to all of these countless details, nothing really got stuck in my mind for long and I found the story to be quite forgettable in general. These are exactly the reasons why I abandoned this book several times, just to pick it up a few weeks later with a deep sigh because I rarely leave a book unfinished. Still there were certain things in the book I enjoyed, most of it being character developement or details I actually did care about because I thought they were interesting and I could relate to them. Though I'm sure this varies and depends on the reader.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Wilson

    I loved these four novels more than I ever thought possible. Well — I loved the first three; I was on the fence with the fourth. Like many, I found the fourth superfluous and a bit irritating, but ultimately worth it. I was pleasantly surprised by how farcically funny and romantic these novels are. I loved the relationship between Christopher Tietjens and Valentine Wannop; though politically at odds, they are intellectually and emotionally aligned, a team of two surrounded by violence and I loved these four novels more than I ever thought possible. Well — I loved the first three; I was on the fence with the fourth. Like many, I found the fourth superfluous and a bit irritating, but ultimately worth it. I was pleasantly surprised by how farcically funny and romantic these novels are. I loved the relationship between Christopher Tietjens and Valentine Wannop; though politically at odds, they are intellectually and emotionally aligned, a team of two surrounded by violence and superficiality. The humor was almost Wodehousian in its silliness — people inventing outlandish gossip for their own entertainment even in the middle of a devastating war. For example, here is a list of the things that keep Christopher and Valentine from having sex for years after they agree to have sex: Her drunk brother WWI The selling of old furniture Armistice Day festivities A phone call from her mother A band of shellshocked visitors His wife pretending to have cancer His wife throwing herself down the stairs His brother having a stroke Ford doesn't shy away from depicting the violence of war, but he focuses more on Christopher's rich interior life, where he retreats to cope with the chaos around him. General Campion has to be THE most irritating person in the novel — Christopher's naive godfather who is obsessed with and deeply emotionally invested in all of the gossip surrounding Christopher, even as bombs explode around them. It's darkly humorous, but also a totally accurate depiction of human nature. We avoid facing up to terrible overwhelming disasters by fixating on bullshit.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Maida

    Absolutely exhausting.... And in all honesty, I could have done without the 4th and final book. I absolutely loved Ford Madox Ford's "The Good Soldier," & if "Parade's End" were condensed into 500 pages, I may have loved it as well. However, the tetralogy (as it stands) is just WAY TOO LONG. *2/5 stars*

  30. 4 out of 5

    Susan's Reviews

    Well, this is where the 2012 BBC mini series is actually better than the book. I found the book a bit "stodgy" and dull, and I wasn't convinced that "the old ways" were really worth preserving, if it ended up causing so much unnecessary grief and heart ache. Benedict Cumberbatch, Adelaide Clemens and Rebecca Hall really brought this story about "the last English Gentleman" to fascinating life. I highly recommend the series - but it was good to have the novels at hand to check certain background Well, this is where the 2012 BBC mini series is actually better than the book. I found the book a bit "stodgy" and dull, and I wasn't convinced that "the old ways" were really worth preserving, if it ended up causing so much unnecessary grief and heart ache. Benedict Cumberbatch, Adelaide Clemens and Rebecca Hall really brought this story about "the last English Gentleman" to fascinating life. I highly recommend the series - but it was good to have the novels at hand to check certain background facts.

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