This book has been on the ‘get on with it’ pile for a while. ‘Get on with it’ pile of books is near my bed so I see it daily and every time I see it I think I am failing miserably at getting on with it. It has books that need to be read, books that have been with me for nearly a year (some) or over a year (most). Quite a few are in hardback and obviously, as I haven’t been getting on with it, they are now in paperback, much lighter and easier to carry around. Serves me right. ‘Getting on with it’ pile is not to be confused with the ‘oh, that book’ stack, which is actually on the bookshelf and comprises of books that I have bought or been given that I am not sure I even want to read. Most of those have been with me for years. And finally, there is a pile by the bed which I am currently ‘reading’ in bed and it is constantly growing, there are currently around 10 books in it but that’s OK. I will, eventually, get through some of them, I hope.
Anyway, The Good Soldier, obviously I’ve picked now to read it because of the fabulous recent BBC adaptation of Parade’s End and sudden interest in Ford Madox Ford although I’d like to think that I didn’t just get on the bandwagon since I’ve had the book for a year. A well read friend recommended it. The reason I didn’t think to read it before was the title – thought it took place in WWI and I’d come across the first sentence before, about it being the saddest story ever. So I was expecting something very depressing (depressing books live in the ‘oh, that book’ pile if there are any) about soldiers and The Good Soldier nearly went into ‘oh, that book pile’. But this is the most wonderful thing about the book, how it plays with assumptions. It does this throughout and it is so fabulously written, it’s intriguing, ambiguous and completely confounds your expectations. It is a short book but it is also a slow book and in that sense, it makes me think that this is the sort of thing Ian McEwan has been striving to write all his life. Only, I can’t seem to get on with McEwan sometimes, I see pretension and not as much beauty in writing as in Ford. As it happens I saw the friend who recommended The Good Soldier last week and told him I was reading it, he was about to go into it in detail and I had to stop him. I didn’t want to know, I wanted to discover for myself. I now really want to read Parade’s End as well. Once some of the current book piles have been cleared, of course.