I admit I struggled with the first two books: the pace seemed off, the characters unsympathetic, the rituals of the aristocrats odd but I kept thinking, and yet, and yet ... there is something here.
|Our hero at war ...|
Julian Barnes, who wrote the preface for the newly issued Parade's End and a wonderful article in the Guardian, noted that even though there is very little actual sex in the book, it is thoroughly saturated with thoughts about sex.
Ford dealt with the sexual antagonism between male and female in a new way, not obliquely, not superficially. Sex is a worrisome business, sexual feeling is tortuous. "It's woman against man," Tietjens laments, "Now and ever has been." Few books posit the antagonism between the sexes so brutally.
|The alluring Rebecca Hall as Sylvia Tietjens|
I imagine that some of these scenes and the dialogue would be perceived as coarse and vulgar for its time, overly sensual, disturbing.
I spoke of Tietjens' misogyny but it is no match for Sylvia's antipathy towards the male sex and its motivations: '"You went to war when you desired to rape innumerable women ..." she derisively proclaims of men.
General Campion, Tietjens' immediate superior (and godfather) warns Tietjens: "For the morality of these matters is this ... If you have an incomparably beautiful woman on your hands you must occupy yourself solely with her." Tietjens fails to do this ... whether he is overly respectful towards her privacy and standing in society or merely vindictive, his actions seem to push Sylvia further into extreme acts of vengeance.
By the novel's end General Campion is so disgusted by the business between the married couple and its effect on the battalion where Tietjens served, that he sends Tietjens back to the front line and what he says will be a certain death. No more parades he admonishes Tietjens. Shall he survive it? On to Book Three ...
*When I read this passage I could not help thinking of Vaughan Williams' very beautiful melody"The Lark Ascending" that you may listen to here. Williams wrote the composition in 1914 while watching troop ships cross the English Channel at the outbreak of the First World War.
|Sylvia meets Tietjens in Rouen|