Cbr11Bingo – Classics
Some Do Not
This is the opening novel of the Ford Madox Ford tetralogy, Parade’s End. I imagine he’s as well-known for this novel as his other major work The Good Soldier, but this definitely feels like the culminating work. For one thing, the four novels together are over 800 pages, and while The Good Soldier is a very good novel, this feels like a much more sweeping statement on the world.
The lead character is statistician and war officer, Christopher Tietjens, known in the novel as “the last Tory.” The novel jumps around from major scene to major scene, and from a few different time periods, and works in that modernist style of mostly viewing key moments and sort of the interstices of the world in which the characters inhabit. What this means, is that we see the psychic echo and shadow of the effects of important plot elements, but the plot itself is relatively slight. We begin with Tietjens and his Whig friend MacMaster discussing their various love lifes, their shared love of poetry and literature, and their differing views on politics, but mutual attention to social problems. They discuss how Tietjens wife, with whom he cannot possibly divorce, is embarrassing him with affairs all over town. We also meet Valentine Wannock, a young suffragette with whom Tietjens shares a deep attraction, but chaste relationship with. Circumstances cause a bit of a scandal in which the two experience the perception of impropriety without any of the fun. The novel then jumps to 1917 (five years later) in which Tietjens has been wounded in the war (a head injury) and is struggling to recenter his life as he recuperates from the injury. His wife is pregnant most likely with another man’s child and he’s thinking about going back to war.
No More Parades – CBR11Bingo – TBR
This second novel picks up exactly where the last left off, and so while this is a series of novels, they’re usually packaged together in one edition. We are back with Tietjens as he has returned to the war effort. There’s an interesting kind of fatalism about his time in war, not that he’ll die in combat or experience the adventures of war in other novels like A Farewell to Arms or All Quiet on the Western Front. Instead, he’s entirely preoccupied with the issues with his marriage. As a man of his particular sense of honor, he knows he won’t be able to divorce his wife as she’s pregnant, therefore not likely being able to be with Wannock, but that’s merely an inconvenience or double-inconvenience as his wife’s Catholicism won’t allow her to consider divorce.
While there is combat present in the novel, the focus is not about the horrors of war, but about the ways in which Tietjens believes he is seeing the fall of empire as he knows it. He’s right of course, as WWI does begin the changes that will be irrevocable, but his tragedy is in knowing that he’ll be unable to adapt to the new world in which he knows he’ll return. This all being the fall of the aristocracy, the equalizing of access, and the other kinds of things that will democratize, but through in imbalance the world as he knows it.