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The Good Soldier

1 rating: -3.0
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1 review about The Good Soldier

"The Good Soldier" was not so good.

  • Aug 28, 2010
Rating:
-3

The evidence that I am a complete Philistine continues to accumulate, as yet another acknowledged classic sails right over my head. I did not like "The Good Soldier", for various reasons. Here are a few:

(the review contains some minor spoilers, so if you are about to read the book you might want to hold off on reading any farther)

# The plot was an awkward mixture of implausible contrivance and overwrought melodrama, and seemed fundamentally not credible, from start to finish. The basic setup (Serial philanderer Edward cheats on controlling Leonora and cavorts with Florence, the slutty wife of the book's narrator John) was OK - this kind of love quadrangle is hardly unusual. But the way the plot unfolds from the basic premise seemed ludicrous, even allowing for the fact that the account of events is being delivered as the recollections of possibly one of the most unreliable narrators in all of 20th century fiction. The plot was little more than a series of random, largely implausible events, lurching from one improbable crisis to the next. Prussic acid capsules in the vanity case? Suicide by penknife? Telegram-induced catatonia? Give me a break.

# The silliness of the plot had a lot to do with the complete lack of depth of the protagonists. You never get the feeling that any of these characters are real people, so their weird antics never seem like anything other than the jerky behavior of cartoonish puppets. Though most puppets have more character than these annoying stick figures. The most annoying of the stick figures being, hands down, the idiot narrator, John Dowell. A man allegedly so stupid that he doesn't notice his wife is cuckolding him with his best friend and hero for 8 years . Or that her "heart condition" is pure invention and that she's healthy as a horse. Who is apparently the only person on the planet unaware that she committed suicide by ingesting prussic acid. There was an enormous sense of relief upon finishing the book, because at least one didn't have to suffer the idiocies of the obtuse narrator any longer. (Dowell wasn't just idiotic; he was also completely without charm, probably a virgin, and likely a closet case)

# My final objection to the book was the profusion of passages like this one:

And, proud and happy in the thought that Edward
loved her, and that she loved him, she did not even listen to what
Leonora said. It appeared to her that it was Leonora's business to save
her husband's body; she, Nancy, possessed his soul--a precious thing
that she would shield and bear away up in her arms--as if Leonora were
a hungry dog, trying to spring up at a lamb that she was carrying. Yes,
she felt as if Edward's love were a precious lamb that she were bearing
away from a cruel and predatory beast. For, at that time, Leonora
appeared to her as a cruel and predatory beast. Leonora, Leonora with
her hunger, with her cruelty had driven Edward to madness. He must be
sheltered by his love for her and by her love--her love from a great
distance and unspoken, enveloping him, surrounding him, upholding him;
by her voice speaking from Glasgow, saying that she loved, that she
adored, that she passed no moment without longing, loving, quivering at
the thought of him.


Maybe I'm just a cruel and predatory beast, but I thought "The Good Soldier" was pretty dreadful.
 

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