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Ford, Ford Madox

war books conrad rhys

(British, 1873–1939)

Ford was the grandson of the artist Ford Madox Brown and grew up among artists and musicians. His best books are difficult but very rewarding. Ford was a leading practitioner of modernist fiction and an influential editor who discovered, among others, D. H. Lawrence and Jean Rhys. As a young man he collaborated with Conrad, who recognized Ford as a marvellous stylist. Like Conrad, Ford has the capacity to generate subtle confusion in the mind of the reader—an experience which, once you get used to it, is quite exhilarating. He published more than seventy books, but only a handful do justice to his talent. Start with The Good Soldier (1915), one of the finest modernist novels in English. The narrator is a confused man who finds himself caught in a web of lust, betrayal, madness, and suicide among respectable middle-class people. Ford served in the British Army during the First World War and wrote about his experiences in Parade's End (1924–8). The book tells of Christopher Tietjens' tempestuous marriage to Sylvia and his affair with Valentine, a young suffragette. Tietjens goes to the war and endures the terror and suffering of the trenches. The book contains some of the most powerful descriptions of war to be found anywhere in English literature. Other interesting books by Ford include A Call (1910) and his autobiographies, No Enemy (1929) and It was the Nightingale (1933).

Joseph Conrad, Jean Rhys, Dorothy Richardson. See WAR  TT

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