The Last Post is a coda or more a tail with semi-autonomous wagging. For some strange reason of his own Ford moves the focus of the tetralogy to Mark the eldest and only surviving sibling of Christopher Tietjens. The other two brothers and a sister were killed in the war. Mark is very ill with T.B. and is in the care of Christopher and Valentine who are living in what toffs of that era called a cottage which today would be regarded as a fine house, with a thatched roof, beams, stairs of irregular rise, that sort of thing. Mark is in bed in a construction adjacent to the building that is open sided, the open air cure. We must remember that at this time the thermometer was regarded by doctors of the older generation as a dubious innovation. The first section of the book is the stream of consciousness of Mark’s French mistress whom he all along has refused to marry even though they have been together for 20 years. As the book opens we learn that he has married her particularly to spite the depredations of Sylvia the demon-wife of Christopher. The house Groby with its famous landmark cedar that is growing into one wall of the house is being let to rich Americans. They want to cut it down to let more light in on that side, a practico-symbolico touch.
Sylvia turns up and there is a denouement. There you have it. Ford in this book descends from the heights of the first three and has a little fun mocking French thrift and a chauvinism which descends to navette de Paris (a turnip), and the mania for varnish. Christopher who is now making a living from dealing in Old Furniture for the Americans although financially scotched by an American Jew middleman. As in practically all books in the English language of that era Jews are regarded as automatically dodgy. Finding them in a plot is like a shot of gophers standing above their holes as the wagon flees from Injuns across the prairie.
Could the book have been left out? I observe the piety of the author’s intent. Ford fecit and the whole is a masterpiece that requires a gentle bathos to culminate.
By the way I read it on line at a very useful site called the Hathi Trust.
The Last Post
Google have it with pages missing. Why? It’s out of copywright. The other three books are on Gutenberg Australia which has books from authors who died up to 1955 as against 1941 everywhere else.
As the centenary year of the Great War approaches and as a tie-in with the BBC mini-series I expect there will be re-printings. Extant editions are out there. In whatever format Parade’s End is one of the best books I’ve read in ages.
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