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Good Soldier, The

Blast, The Saddest Sotry

nancy dowell edward florence

a novel by Ford Madox Ford, published in 1915, first serialized in Blast (1914) as The Saddest Sotry. The novel, in which the author perfected the allusive impressionistic style he had been moving towards in his earlier fiction, counterpoints themes of love and betrayal with masterly economy. Narrated in the first person by a wealthy expatriate American, John Dowell, it describes the relationships between Dowell, his wife Florence, and Edward and Leonora Ashburnham, an English couple whom they meet at a hotel in Nauheim in 1904. The ties which bind the foursome, ostensibly those of friendship and circumstance (both Florence and Edward suffer from heart trouble), gradually emerge as those of passion and intrigue. Edward and Florence become lovers and the latter is revealed as a liar, schemer, and blackmailer. In Nauheim, the spa which the foursome continue to visit, these events come to a head in 1913 with the arrival of Nancy Rufford, the Ashburnhams' young ward. Edward falls in love with Nancy and the distraught Florence kills herself. The Ashburnhams return to England with Nancy; Dowell, also in love with Nancy, returns to America to settle his affairs. Nancy is dispatched to her father in India and Edward, after receiving a heartless telegram from her, shoots himself in despair. The final scenes show Leonora remarried and Dowell acting as nurse to the now insane Nancy. Considered by Ford as his ‘best book’, the novel incorporates complex time shifts and subtle flashbacks and, in John Dowell, offers one of the best examples of the unreliable narrator in modern fiction.

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