Thursday, 7 September 2000

Ford Madox Ford: Some Do Not... (1924)

Edition: Penguin, 1982
Review number: 606

The character of Christopher Tietjens dominates the first novel of Ford's Parade's End sequence about the effects of the First World War as he does all four. His central place is because he represents much of the decent side of the old gentlemanly world destroyed in that conflict.

Strangely enough, in Some Do Not..., no part of the war is portrayed; it is mainly about the relationship between Tietjens and his wife Sylvia. This is what starts to unravel the genteel world in which the novel is set. At the beginning of the novel, Tietjens is travelling to Rye to cross to the continent to bring Sylvia back to him. She has run off with another man, and we soon discover that the paternity of their son (of whom Christopher is extremely fond) is doubtful. Sylvia is distinctly nasty to her decent, forgiving husband (probably because he is like this), and goes to the lengths of spreading rumours that he is secretly supporting a child by a mistress.

The relationship between Christopher and Sylvia Tietjens, and their relationships with those around them are the main themes of Some Do Not.... Since Tietjens has symbolic importance, these relationships are used to show that the seeds of the downfall of Victorian society lay within itself; the destructive war was the immediate but not the fundamental cause.

Despite the importance of the symbolic side of Christopher Tietjens, Ford has made him as real as possible. This is perhaps best seen in the transition between the first and second parts of the novel. This is an offstage period of active service, and the changes this has made to his character are cleverly portrayed.

Depite admiration for Ford's cleverness, it is impossible to read the novel without occasionally feeling it was rather slow; there are some dull patches.

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