Aug 12, 2012

Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

Parade’s End is unlike anything I’ve read before. On so many different levels Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy is etched in my memory; It’s truly a masterpiece. Weeks after I’ve finished, it’s lingered. As I’m out for a walk my mind wanders to it.



It has a rich plot, there are so many nuances. The scenes are often explored from more than one point of view so you get to know the characters on a more intimate level and with each perspective you learn more about either their history or a piece of the plot left out earlier; it’s non-linear.


Christopher Tietjens has the courage to say exactly what he thinks and feels under no obligation to take the nonsense of gossip and society– Let people say what they will about himself; He doesn’t pretend with anyone. He’s a true gentleman, intelligent, and noble but because of misunderstandings and the selfish motives of some of his contemporaries he’s thought of as disreputable.

He’s a mathematician working in statistics for the civil service, with his good friend Vincent Macmaster. Macmaster has good intentions, he truly appreciates and admires Christopher’s friendship and talents but is swayed by a desire to build an identity which would give him recognition in the upper echelons of society. He craves it!


Tietjens sees beyond what people tell him. He’s not intimidated or awed by titles and positions. He doesn’t perform, only voicing his views when he wants to, not at dinner parties to impress but he’s bound himself in a marriage that has scarred him, particularly the realization that his child may not be his. In defense he’s coiled-in his emotions; suppressed them.
It was a sort of parade of circumspection and rightness.
He’s an old soul who feels he should live by the codes of the 18th century and is protective towards the reputation of those he loves or feels obligation to, like his wife the beautiful and brazen Sylvia. It’s his duty to continue in their parade of marriage.



Sylvia is ‘clumsily’ in love, if love is the right word sometimes it seems to be possession or guilt, her determination is uncontrollable. She’s reckless and doesn’t know how to show her love. Reducing herself to stratagems and with Christopher’s grand breadth of knowledge she feels at a disadvantage– something very rare for her.

She describes him as a lump and becomes impatient with him because either she can’t read him and what he’s thinking or she can and is infuriated at his controlled rein on his emotions. Tigerish with a manipulative edge, her one vulnerability seems to be how much she thrives on emotions and impulses. She has an inner rage towards his unerring propriety.


Valentine Wannop has the same boldness of spirit as Sylvia but puts it to a different use. She’s active in promoting woman’s rights and nurtures and encourages. There’s a mutual attraction between her and Christopher, they’re intellectual equals.

That’s not to say Sylvia is less sharp or quick, but their minds are dissimilar, they think in different languages. Valentine understands his fluently. Like Tietjens, she doesn’t play the game of society, she’s frank and genuine.


It was no good anymore, he said to himself. She loved him, he knew, with a deep, and unshakable passion, just as his passion for her was a devouring element that covered his whole mind as the atmosphere envelopes the earth.
He’s actually quite poetic in his thoughts and Valentine re-awakens his sentimentality but he is very honorable and despite his feelings holds back. Christopher can’t divorce Sylvia, no honorable gentleman would put a lady through the rigmarole of the courts and scandal.



He is torn between what he feels is his duty and acting for his own happiness. Amidst this love triangle WWI begins and we witness the kinks of the logistics and the imagery which only a veteran could describe.


Memorable Quotes

Actually, this mist was not silver, or was, perhaps, no longer silver: if you looked at it with the eye of the artist… with the exact eye! It was smirched with bars of purple, of red, of orange, delicate reflections, dark blue shadows from the upper sky where it formed drifts like snow.
Its shell soaring away to an enormous height caught the reflection of the unrisen sun on its base. A shining disc, like a halo in flight… Pretty! A pretty motive for a decoration, tiny pretty planes up on a blue sky amongst shiny, flying haloes! Dragonflies amongst saints.
He loved this country for the run of its hills, the shape of its elm trees, and the way the heather, running uphill to the skyline, meets the blue of the heavens.

7 comments

Caroline Helstone said...

Apparently BBC is going to show it on Fridays. Can't wait to watch it! Btw the period costumes look gorgeous. Though not as exciting as Victorian costumes, of course =)

Katherine Cox said...

@Caroline: It looks like it will be a wonderful production! :) So many great actors as well as the director, I liked her work in Jane Eyre (2006).
I must wait a little longer, the US air date hasn't been announced yet but I'm guessing October/November.

not Bridget said...

So many interesting ideas--even in the first book. So: Sylvia & Love.

Her parents' marriage was not good. Mrs Satterthwaite admitted to being indifferent--a stylish young matron with servants need have little to do with a child; then little Sylvia was sent away to school. Her father was "a good man"--but we know nothing else about him. How long had he been dead?

Drake's first encounter with Sylvia was brutish; "date rape" was not in the language back then. Sylvia learned about passion, drama & pain from him. Her fear she might be pregnant led her to a quick seduction of Tietjens--& marriage. Knowledge of her deceit & her continual taunts that the child he loved might not be his did not inspire the drama she thought she needed. Her casual affairs didn't work, either--so she ran away with a stupid man, thinking to insult Tietjens. Then she realized she was stuck with a stupid brute.

Against Macmaster's advice--hoping to protect his son--Tietjens took her back. She barred him from her bedroom--probably expecting pleas; after all, she was The Beautiful Sylvia, Whom All Men Desired. Or perhaps she hoped he'd kick down the bedroom door. But he didn't play along. We'd been informed that Tietjens didn't like competing. Or maybe, to use another anachronism, he thought that no meant no...

So she tried to get his attention by destroying his reputation. And met his outrageous statements with stunned disbelief. At least he wasn't boring! Sylvia was bright but her education hadn't taught her how to think. (Valentine's idiosyncratic upbringing prepared her to answer him back; Mark thought she was made for his brother.)

Then The War interrupted Sylvia's wrongheaded campaign. When she saw him & Valentine at the soiree, she realized they were in love--but that they had never done a thing about it.

Love? That last day in London, we see Sylvia asking Tietjsns just how he'd been wounded. We hear her surprise that both his middle brothers had died. She wonders why, with his talents & connections, he'd done no better in his career. Mark sees them together & thinks she is sloppily in love with his brother. This possibility leads Chrissie to refuse a London job--better return to France than face Sylvia in Love. How well will she do? Tune in to the next novel.

HBO will probably show Parade's End in 2013--possibly as late as March. Amazon.UK will ship DVD's on October 1st--for those with all-region players....

Karen K. said...

I love Benedict Cumberbatch but not liking him so much as a blond, it really washes him out.

I hope the series will get people to read the book! I still haven't read FMF but The Good Soldier is on my Classics Club to-read list. Maybe I should add Parade's End as well. . . .

Katherine Cox said...

@no-bridget: You mention her fears of being pregnant? That brings a whole new level to her taunting, I thought it was a certainty? That Mrs. Satterthwaite knew, but now... I can't remember anything definite being said. That really is terrible. But of course although she realizes the pain it would give Tietjens she knows so little of real family affection that I suppose she doesn’t realize how wrong it is of her to cause that kind of anguish, just as she clearly doesn’t know how to express love. So that’s what Mark meant by her being ‘clumsily in love’ with Tietjens.-- not knowing how to express it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Sylvia. I was being rather hard on her in my post.

Oh dear, 2013? Well, my comfort until then will be the novels. :)Started No More Parade's this evening.

Katherine Cox said...

@Karen: He is a wonderful actor! So talented.

I'm pretty certain it will, I've already run across a few posts on twitter and tumblr about the books. For me, personally, that's how I heard about Parade's End and many of the Classics I've read and love-- through the adaptations. But I'm so glad in this case I'm reading the books first. :)

Dragonfly Daydreams said...

I'm so glad I put some Ford Maddox Ford on my Classic Club list :-)

Aug 12, 2012

Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford

Parade’s End is unlike anything I’ve read before. On so many different levels Ford Madox Ford’s tetralogy is etched in my memory; It’s truly a masterpiece. Weeks after I’ve finished, it’s lingered. As I’m out for a walk my mind wanders to it.



It has a rich plot, there are so many nuances. The scenes are often explored from more than one point of view so you get to know the characters on a more intimate level and with each perspective you learn more about either their history or a piece of the plot left out earlier; it’s non-linear.


Christopher Tietjens has the courage to say exactly what he thinks and feels under no obligation to take the nonsense of gossip and society– Let people say what they will about himself; He doesn’t pretend with anyone. He’s a true gentleman, intelligent, and noble but because of misunderstandings and the selfish motives of some of his contemporaries he’s thought of as disreputable.

He’s a mathematician working in statistics for the civil service, with his good friend Vincent Macmaster. Macmaster has good intentions, he truly appreciates and admires Christopher’s friendship and talents but is swayed by a desire to build an identity which would give him recognition in the upper echelons of society. He craves it!


Tietjens sees beyond what people tell him. He’s not intimidated or awed by titles and positions. He doesn’t perform, only voicing his views when he wants to, not at dinner parties to impress but he’s bound himself in a marriage that has scarred him, particularly the realization that his child may not be his. In defense he’s coiled-in his emotions; suppressed them.
It was a sort of parade of circumspection and rightness.
He’s an old soul who feels he should live by the codes of the 18th century and is protective towards the reputation of those he loves or feels obligation to, like his wife the beautiful and brazen Sylvia. It’s his duty to continue in their parade of marriage.



Sylvia is ‘clumsily’ in love, if love is the right word sometimes it seems to be possession or guilt, her determination is uncontrollable. She’s reckless and doesn’t know how to show her love. Reducing herself to stratagems and with Christopher’s grand breadth of knowledge she feels at a disadvantage– something very rare for her.

She describes him as a lump and becomes impatient with him because either she can’t read him and what he’s thinking or she can and is infuriated at his controlled rein on his emotions. Tigerish with a manipulative edge, her one vulnerability seems to be how much she thrives on emotions and impulses. She has an inner rage towards his unerring propriety.


Valentine Wannop has the same boldness of spirit as Sylvia but puts it to a different use. She’s active in promoting woman’s rights and nurtures and encourages. There’s a mutual attraction between her and Christopher, they’re intellectual equals.

That’s not to say Sylvia is less sharp or quick, but their minds are dissimilar, they think in different languages. Valentine understands his fluently. Like Tietjens, she doesn’t play the game of society, she’s frank and genuine.


It was no good anymore, he said to himself. She loved him, he knew, with a deep, and unshakable passion, just as his passion for her was a devouring element that covered his whole mind as the atmosphere envelopes the earth.
He’s actually quite poetic in his thoughts and Valentine re-awakens his sentimentality but he is very honorable and despite his feelings holds back. Christopher can’t divorce Sylvia, no honorable gentleman would put a lady through the rigmarole of the courts and scandal.



He is torn between what he feels is his duty and acting for his own happiness. Amidst this love triangle WWI begins and we witness the kinks of the logistics and the imagery which only a veteran could describe.


Memorable Quotes

Actually, this mist was not silver, or was, perhaps, no longer silver: if you looked at it with the eye of the artist… with the exact eye! It was smirched with bars of purple, of red, of orange, delicate reflections, dark blue shadows from the upper sky where it formed drifts like snow.
Its shell soaring away to an enormous height caught the reflection of the unrisen sun on its base. A shining disc, like a halo in flight… Pretty! A pretty motive for a decoration, tiny pretty planes up on a blue sky amongst shiny, flying haloes! Dragonflies amongst saints.
He loved this country for the run of its hills, the shape of its elm trees, and the way the heather, running uphill to the skyline, meets the blue of the heavens.

7 comments:

Caroline Helstone said...

Apparently BBC is going to show it on Fridays. Can't wait to watch it! Btw the period costumes look gorgeous. Though not as exciting as Victorian costumes, of course =)

Katherine Cox said...

@Caroline: It looks like it will be a wonderful production! :) So many great actors as well as the director, I liked her work in Jane Eyre (2006).
I must wait a little longer, the US air date hasn't been announced yet but I'm guessing October/November.

not Bridget said...

So many interesting ideas--even in the first book. So: Sylvia & Love.

Her parents' marriage was not good. Mrs Satterthwaite admitted to being indifferent--a stylish young matron with servants need have little to do with a child; then little Sylvia was sent away to school. Her father was "a good man"--but we know nothing else about him. How long had he been dead?

Drake's first encounter with Sylvia was brutish; "date rape" was not in the language back then. Sylvia learned about passion, drama & pain from him. Her fear she might be pregnant led her to a quick seduction of Tietjens--& marriage. Knowledge of her deceit & her continual taunts that the child he loved might not be his did not inspire the drama she thought she needed. Her casual affairs didn't work, either--so she ran away with a stupid man, thinking to insult Tietjens. Then she realized she was stuck with a stupid brute.

Against Macmaster's advice--hoping to protect his son--Tietjens took her back. She barred him from her bedroom--probably expecting pleas; after all, she was The Beautiful Sylvia, Whom All Men Desired. Or perhaps she hoped he'd kick down the bedroom door. But he didn't play along. We'd been informed that Tietjens didn't like competing. Or maybe, to use another anachronism, he thought that no meant no...

So she tried to get his attention by destroying his reputation. And met his outrageous statements with stunned disbelief. At least he wasn't boring! Sylvia was bright but her education hadn't taught her how to think. (Valentine's idiosyncratic upbringing prepared her to answer him back; Mark thought she was made for his brother.)

Then The War interrupted Sylvia's wrongheaded campaign. When she saw him & Valentine at the soiree, she realized they were in love--but that they had never done a thing about it.

Love? That last day in London, we see Sylvia asking Tietjsns just how he'd been wounded. We hear her surprise that both his middle brothers had died. She wonders why, with his talents & connections, he'd done no better in his career. Mark sees them together & thinks she is sloppily in love with his brother. This possibility leads Chrissie to refuse a London job--better return to France than face Sylvia in Love. How well will she do? Tune in to the next novel.

HBO will probably show Parade's End in 2013--possibly as late as March. Amazon.UK will ship DVD's on October 1st--for those with all-region players....

Karen K. said...

I love Benedict Cumberbatch but not liking him so much as a blond, it really washes him out.

I hope the series will get people to read the book! I still haven't read FMF but The Good Soldier is on my Classics Club to-read list. Maybe I should add Parade's End as well. . . .

Katherine Cox said...

@no-bridget: You mention her fears of being pregnant? That brings a whole new level to her taunting, I thought it was a certainty? That Mrs. Satterthwaite knew, but now... I can't remember anything definite being said. That really is terrible. But of course although she realizes the pain it would give Tietjens she knows so little of real family affection that I suppose she doesn’t realize how wrong it is of her to cause that kind of anguish, just as she clearly doesn’t know how to express love. So that’s what Mark meant by her being ‘clumsily in love’ with Tietjens.-- not knowing how to express it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Sylvia. I was being rather hard on her in my post.

Oh dear, 2013? Well, my comfort until then will be the novels. :)Started No More Parade's this evening.

Katherine Cox said...

@Karen: He is a wonderful actor! So talented.

I'm pretty certain it will, I've already run across a few posts on twitter and tumblr about the books. For me, personally, that's how I heard about Parade's End and many of the Classics I've read and love-- through the adaptations. But I'm so glad in this case I'm reading the books first. :)

Dragonfly Daydreams said...

I'm so glad I put some Ford Maddox Ford on my Classic Club list :-)

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