This critical evaluation of Ford Madox Ford's "novels of war, which are also novels about peace," is made in a most delightful manner. Based on a thorough knowledge of the novelist, it is enriched by keen perception and delicate taste and is couched in an informal, highly readable style.
Ambrose Gordon, Jr., here analyzes seven novels by Ford that in Gordon's opinion constitute Ford's masterpieces: Parade's End (a tetralogy consisting of Some Do Not, No More Parades, A Man Could Stand Up, and The Last Post), The Marsden Case, No Enemy, and The Good Soldier.
Interested in what these novels have to say, Gordon is equally interested in how they make their comment, and so approaches them through analysis of the fictional methods that Ford employed. Yet he skillfully avoids a common error of critics who become absorbed in technique—loss of contact with the book itself—by providing numerous quotations of sufficient length to indicate the novels' quality. These passages, examined in detail for content and technique, give the reader an understanding of the novel that, though not a substitute for one's own reading of the narratives, is enhanced by the interpretation of a brilliant critic.
Gordon traces the development of the novelist's art in various phases: the characteristic moods and general patterns of his novels, his borrowings from the French, the effects of his association with Conrad, his concept of the novel as fairy tale, his use of scene exteriors and interiors. Gordon's discussion cuts across the seven novels in many aspects but concentrates on one novel, or a group of novels, when his ideas have less general illustration.