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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Saturday, 24 August 2019

"Last Post" by Ford Madox Ford

This is the final part of the Parade’s End tetralogy, written, apparently, in response to fans who wanted FMF to wrap up some of the looser ends in the tangled mess of family relationships that had been explored previously in Some Do Not, No More Parades, and A Man Could Stand Up

This book, set in a single place and on a single afternoon, has all the surviving major players are gathered in one place. It is a country cottage owned by Christopher Tietjens; outside on this hill under a thatched roof lies his brother Mark, owner of Groby, who is speechless either through wilfulness or as a result of a stroke he may have suffered on Armistice Day. Around this sickbed are Gunning, a servant of the family and Marie Leonie, Mark’s long time mistress and more recently his wife. To disturb him two visitors arrive: an American woman who has leased the ancestral home, Groby, and who is ostensibly seeking permission to cut down the Great Tree of Groby which is supposedly the tallest cedar in England, and the heir to Groby, Christopher’s son (although he might be the son of another man) who calls himself Mark in the family tradition although his mother, Christopher’s estranged wife Sylvia, calls him Michael. The first part of this story is told through the inner monologues of these characters.

Events start to move in the second part when Sylvia arrives with General Campion who tells her that he will not marry her and make an honest woman of her (he can’t at the moment anyway since she has so far resolutely refused to divorce Christopher and he believes a man must never divorce a woman). Sylvia attempts to go into the house where she encounters Valentine, Christopher’s mistress.

It may sound convoluted but these tensions have built up over three previous books. But FMF doesn’t have make a meal of each character going over everything again. The only one who doesn’t get a say is Christopher himself, who is away from home and only returns right at the end.

So this is a highly formal book, set over an afternoon, full of interior monologue and a little dialogue, with very little action and endless rumination in which we see the convoluted family dynamics from nearly every point of view. It isn’t a page turned unless you have so bought in to these characters that you are desperate to know what will happen next. It is supposed to resolve the family saga which it does to the satisfaction of one of the characters but perhaps not in terms of any of the others.

There are some great lines:
  • Thet cider was arder than a miser’s art or’n ole maid’s tongue. Body it ad. Strength it ad. Stans to reason. Ten year cider. Not a drop was drunk in Lordship’s ouse under ten years in cask.” (B1C1)
  • Her mind, in fact, was like a cupboard, stuffed, packed with the most incongruous materials, tools, vessels and debris. Once the door was opened you never knew what would tumble out or be followed by what.” (B1C1)
  • "He was a man and it is the nature of men to treat women with treachery, lust and meanness.” (B1C1)
  • When the Sovereign died what did the Heir, his concubines, courtiers and sycophants do to the Maintenon of the day? What precautions ought she not to be taking against that wrath to come?” (B1C2)
  • The rich are noted for hardness of heart, and brother will prey upon brother’s widow sooner than on another.” (B1C2)
  • English people of good class do not dress for dinner on Sundays. That is a politeness to God, because theoretically you attend evening service and you do not go to church in the country in evening dress. As a matter of fact you never go to evening service—but it is complimentary to suggest by your dress that you might be visited by the impulse.” (B1C2)
  • “Queer things the Gentry can do to you still if they notice you. It is all very well to say this is a land fit for whatever the word is that stands for simple folk. They have the police and the keepers in their hands and your cottages and livings.” (B1C3)
  • He could not imagine why anyone should dislike Marie Antoinette. Yet very likely she was dislikeable. The French, who were sensible people, had cut her head off, so they presumably disliked her.” (B1C4)
  • No doubt, twenty years of listening to the almost ceaseless but never disagreeable conversation of Marie Léonie had been a liberal education.” (B1C4)
  • days so degenerate that even the young of tom-tits could not restrain their chirpings in face of their appetites." (B1C4)
  • Christ was a sort of an Englishman, and Englishmen did not, as a rule, refuse to do their jobs.” (B1C5)
  • Marriage, if you do not regard it as a sacrament—as, no doubt, it ought to be regarded—was nothing more than a token that a couple intended to stick to each other. Nowadays people—the right people—bothered precious little about anything but that. A constant change of partners was a social nuisance; you could not tell whether you could or couldn’t invite a couple together to a tea—fight. And society existed for social functions. That was why promiscuity was no good. For social functions you had to have an equal number of men and women, or someone got left out of conversations, and so you had to know who, officially in the social sense, went with whom.”(B1C5)
  • Beauty and truth have a way of appearing to be akin” (B2C1)
  • It was as if a man should have jumped out of a frying-pan into—a duckpond.” (B2C1)
  • God is probably—and very rightly—on the side of the stuffy domesticities. Otherwise the world could not continue—the children would not be healthy. And certainly God desired the production of large crops of healthy children.” (B2C2)

August 2019

Ford Madox Ford also wrote The Good Soldier, a superb novel.

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