FIRST LINES FRIDAY: The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford

Hello, Friday! First Lines Friday is a feature on my blog in which I post the first lines from a book I am interested in reading, either a new release or a backlist title! For the next several Fridays, I will be featuring titles I am going to hopefully read as part of my 12 Decades/12 Months/12 Books challenge (#12decades12books). After watching the adaptation of Parade’s End and reading one of the books in the quartet, I’ve been slowly acquiring Ford Madox Ford’s works. The Good Soldier caught my eye with a phrase on the back: ‘This is the saddest story I have ever heard.’

This is the saddest story I have ever heard. We had known the Ashburnhams for nine seasons of town of Nauheim with an extreme intimacy — or, rather, with an acquaintanceship as loose and easy and yet as close as a good glove’s with your hand. My wife and I knew Captain and Mrs. Ashburnham as well as it was possible to know anybody, and yet, in another sense, we knew nothing at all about them. This is, I believe, a state of things only possible with English people of whom, till today, when I sit down to puzzle out what I know of this sad affair, I knew nothing whatever. Six months ago I had never been to England, and, certainly, I had never sounded the depths of an English heart. I had known the shallows.

I don’t mean to say that we were not acquainted with many English people. Living, as we perforce lived, in Europe, and being, as we perforce were, leisured Americans, which is as much as to say that we were un-American, we were thrown very much into the society of the nicer English. Paris, you see, was our home. Somewhere between Nice and Bordighera provided yearly winter quarters for us, and Nauheim always received us from July to September. You will gather from this statement that one of us had, as the saying is, a ‘heart’, and, from the statement that my wife is dead, that she was the sufferer.

What do you think? What have you read of Ford Madox Ford?

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