Parades End: Book 1 - Some Do Not

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In any event, HBO and one other pop culture phenomenon will probably contribute most to resurgence, however fleeting, of Parade's End. Vintage's recently published paperback edition, only slightly kinder to the wrists than the Modern Library hardcover, owes its existence to two very popular words: Downton Abbey.

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In a feverish swell of World War I books and films inspired by the smash series, Ford's epic consideration of Britain's striated class system before, during, and after the conflict has ridden the wave and landed back in the cultural Crock-Pot. We've taken a brief look at the novel's background, and my caveats have surely weeded out the pusillanimous readers out there, so now, even though I've promised once before, we will really dig in to the novel itself.

To be clear on just what Parade's End is about, I have to invoke a tired reference, and one I briefly alluded to earlier. There, it's said and out of the way. The war is there, yes, obviously but the ever-diminishing striations of class distinctions are there on each page. It's not about the war. There is an almost anthropological consideration of varied social classes and types of life living in fear of the international sea change, which occurs in It's an encyclopedic look at British life at its most pivotal point in the barely-dawned twentieth century.

From a more novelistic standpoint, there is no shortage of romance, wit, and a staggering amount of conscious thought. This is where things get really interesting. Consciousness, interiority, and psychological insight were such prevalent concepts and means of character illustration in the twentieth century. Christopher Tietjens is the greatest example of consciousness, disassociative or otherwise, in any twentieth century war novel.

A big claim, but I stand by it. In fact, the closest relative to the consciousness grappled with in Parade's End is oddly nonfiction, and dealing with an entirely different conflict: Michael Herr's Dispatches. There was little certain about the time our complex protagonist, Christopher Tietjens, his outrageously rendered wife, Sylvia more on her later , and the woman he loved and she scorned, Valentine Wannop, lived in.

Accordingly, the reading experience is akin to that which they lived through: haphazard, combative, full of flashes of danger, glimmers of beauty, and all deftly controlled by Mr. This is difficult. As mentioned, there is no throughway; one must progress through the novel and glean what's possible. However, don't lose hope, as there is an excellent reason for this disassociated way of presentation.

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In fact, it's not so much presentation, but thinking and understanding. It's the world seen through Tietjens's eyes -- its losses, occasional gains, privation, romance, and, ultimately, the seismic shifts that occurred in Britain almost daily during this period. Parade's End , though formally challenging, is less of a read than a carriage ride through the ugly parts of the heart and humanity, not to mention the martial cloud perennially brewing above. Nobody behaves very well, and almost everyone does irreversible damage to one another, and often himself or herself in the process.

Though it does have its difficulties and lesser points, there is many a beautiful phrase and a truly staggering display of awareness, on the behalf of Tietjens, which never crosses into self-awareness or gives a glimpse of Ford as puppet-master. For that alone, the book deserves acclaim. That's one more entreaty to be patient when you feel your irritation spike at yet another however-many-pages of military abbreviations and terminology that pushes you closer to putting the book down. Regardless, it's a travesty to avoid it or pass it up in favor of something easier. So this columnist looking to illuminate the importance of this work will do so, and recommends the novel, just not unreservedly.

That should make things more interesting for any reader, though.

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Of particular interest to me, as you may have gathered, was the continual display of Tietjens as a thinker, intellectual, and withdrawn man of the mind. Though the last is somewhat stereotypical, I am hard pressed to think of another character so depicted as thinking, or speculating, until the often academic or pseudo-intellectual characters of post-war authors like Bellow, Roth, and others. One of the greatest instances, and certainly one of the most interesting, of Tietjens's cognitive nature comes nearly two hundred pages into the novel.

It's also a personal favorite. His mind was at rest because there was going to be a way. From the first moment of his reading the paragraph about the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand he had know that, calmly and with assurance. Had he imagined that this country would come in he would not have known a mind at rest.

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. There is Tietjens in a nutshell -- nationalistic, thoughtful, pensive, resigned, and romantic, even. If not toward his wife, one of the most courageously shrewish, bafflingly manipulative female characters ever constructed, he does feel tenderness, from various distances, for Valentine Wannop. The narrative returns to England. Macmaster startles Tietjens who's playing patience in his hotel room, after what has evidently been a fraught day.

The action is then pieced together in retrospect. Tietjens shows Macmaster Sylvia's letter saying she intends to return to him. Macmaster has called on the Rev. Mr Duchemin, but was received by his wife, and is instantly infatuated by her Pre-Raphaelite ambience and elegance. He rejoins Tietjens for a round of golf with General Campion and his brother in law. At the clubhouse they meet a Liberal Cabinet minister. Their group is outraged by the louche conversation of a pair of lower-middle-class men. While they are playing, the game is interrupted by two Suffragettes haranguing the minister.

Some of the men start chasing them, and the chase threatens to become violent, but Tietjens manages to trip up a policeman as if by accident, and the women escape. General Campion grills Tietjens, believing he is having an affair with one of the women, Valentine Wannop. Tietjens dines with the Cabinet Minister, but becomes anxious when he gets back to his room, which is when Macmaster comes in at the start of I.

The next morning Macmaster takes Tietjens to the Duchemins, where he has been invited for one of their celebrated breakfasts.

Some Do Not...

Valentine is also present, helping Mrs Duchemin, who is apprehensive about her husband because he is prone to fits of lunacy. He becomes paranoid that the two guests are doctors coming to take him to an asylum, and destroys the decorum of the occasion, ranting about sex first in Latin, then starting to describe his wedding night. Macmaster saves the day by telling Duchemin's minder how to neutralise him. The episode brings Macmaster and Mrs Duchemin together, and they are soon having an affair.

Tietjens and Valentine recognise each other from their encounter on the golf course. One of the other guests is Valentine's mother, a novelist who lives nearby with her daughter. Mrs Wannop has come hoping Macmaster might be able to review her latest book. But she is delighted to meet Tietjens, since his father had helped her when she became widowed.

She is one of the few writers he admires. She insists that Tietjens come back with them for lunch. Tietjens and Valentine walk back through the countryside. When they're overtaken by Mrs Wannop on her dog-cart, he notices that the horse's strap is about to break, and potentially saves her life by fixing it. The Wannops are sheltering the other Suffragette, Gertie, and worry that the police might be looking for them. So Tietjens agrees to drive with Valentine in the cart to hide Gertie with some of the Wannop's relations.

Cats and Books: The House of Silk, and Parade's End (spoilers)

While he is there Sylvia sends a telegram, which Valentine reads to him. He is so agitated he worries momentarily that he might have had a stroke. They leave at ten on Midsummer night, so as not to be seen, and drive all night. On the way back, Tietjens and Valentine are alone, conversing and arguing in the moonlight, and falling in love, until, in the dawn mist, General Campion crashes his car into them and injures the horse. Part I ends on that scene of carnage.

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Part II begins several years later, in the middle of the war; probably in Tietjens is back in London, breakfasting with Sylvia, who flings her plate of food at him. He has been fighting in France, where he was shell-shocked, and much of his memory has been obliterated.

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"Some Do Not" - the first volume of Ford Madox Ford's highly-regarded tetralogy Parade's End, was originally published in April and has recently been. Parade's End - Part One - Some Do Not [Ford Madox Ford] on Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the month in fiction, nonfiction.

He sees Mrs Wannop regularly — she has moved to London, near his office — and has been helping her write propaganda articles. Sylvia thus suspects he has been having an affair with Valentine, though he has hardly seen her, since she is working as a gym instructor in a girls' school. Macmaster has married Mrs Duchemin Mr Duchemin having died. He holds literary parties that have become celebrated; but they have kept their marriage secret, and Valentine always accompanies her to the parties to keep up appearances.

Sylvia tells Tietjens that the cause of his father's death was the rumours he heard that Tietjens lived on women, and had got Valentine pregnant. The banker, Lord Port Scatho, arrives.

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His nephew, Brownlie, who is infatuated with Sylvia, has unfairly and humiliatingly dishonoured Tietjens' cheques to his army Mess and his club. Christopher reveals that he has been ordered to return to France the following day, and is determined to resign from the club. Tietjens' elder brother, Mark, arrives. The two brothers walk from Gray's Inn to Whitehall , speaking candidly, as Christopher disabuses Mark about the rumours defaming him and Valentine.