November 7th, 2008

Parade's End: Ford Madox Ford

This isn't an easy book. It's slow, episodic, lavishly detailed. The characters- a set of cultured Edwardians- are obsessed with class and positively creak with repressed emotion. Civilisation- their civilisation- depends on the observation of unwritten rules that the experience of the Great War is about to kick to bits. Only it didn't. Not really. Because the world I grew up in was still very much like this. These are the values- often mystifying to me- that my parents lived by. This is a true picture of England as it was in the first half of the 20th century.

Up until Larkin's Annus Mirabilis of 1963.

The Great War- as yet- is happening off stage. There are 836 pages in this edition and I've read 241. Our hero Edward Tietjens, even though he's in uniform, views the War with aloof detachment- as something to be got through stoically, without passion or partisanship.  He and Valentine Wannop are in love but not- yet- lovers. (I wish they'd get on with it).  She is a pacifist. She reproaches him with his support for the War. He tells her,

"I support it because I have to. Just as you decry it because you have to. They're two different patterns that we see."


Valentine and Tietjens are both still in their 20s. They behave as if crushed to the earth by the wisdom of untold centuries.