Book #47: Parade’s End

All right. Here it is. My post about Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End.

This book is part of the reason I’ve taken a mini-hiatus from this blog. See, it was 860 pages long. It was also a pretty slow read because I wasn’t particularly interested in it. Since I wasn’t reading that much and taking forever to finish the book I was on, I didn’t feel like blogging.

Also, spring happened here so I was like, “Eh, I could read or I could frolic outside.” I chose frolicking pretty much every time.

Anyway. Parade’s End is Ford’s four-part piece about an Englishman, Christopher Tietjens, and his life before, during, and after World War I. The book is actually a tetralogy (four related novels), but I read it as one. The separate books – Some Do Not . . . , No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up – , and Last Post – tell of Christopher’s experiences.

The interesting thing about Parade’s End is that although World War I is a huge part of the storyline, it doesn’t focus on the war all that much. Instead it focuses on a different sort of warfare, the sexual war going on between Christopher and his wife, Sylvia. The story of their marriage, told from both sides, is filled with deception, jealousy, and confusion. Both sides blame the other and victimize themselves, so I was never fully sure what the whole story was.

Basically, the story opens with Christopher confronting the problem of his wife’s infidelity. She’s left him for another man and forced him to lie and tell everyone that she’s abroad taking care of her ailing mother. What’s worse, Christopher isn’t even sure if Sylvia’s child, the heir to his estate, is his. Then, however, when his wife, bored of her affair, wants to return home to him (though they agree to a sexless, loveless partnership rather than divorce), meets a young woman that he would like to have an affair with. This, of course, drives Sylvia mad.

And that’s just the first 100 or so pages!

In the background of all this sexual tension and warfare is World War I and the changing political, social, and economic environment of England. All of these elements, thrown together, make a very interesting novel. The war of attrition that Christopher fights in the trenches of France parallels the sexual “war of attrition” going on in his personal life. All this confusion is evident in the writing. There are time jumps and point of view shifts that disorient the readers and, I’m pretty sure, disorient the narrators themselves. This is what makes Parade’s End an interesting read.

Overall, I guess I liked Parade’s End. It was just a very long, tedious read at points. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re reading something so long and detailed though. In the end, although while I was reading it there were points when I just wanted the book to be over, I found Parade’s End really interesting and possibly even a book that I’ll revisit someday.

Rating: ****
Up Next: Middlesex

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