Over the last several weeks I've been re-reading Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End series.
I've now reached the final book, The Last Post and it is just as disappointing as I remember.
Ford's series follows the pre-war and wartime experiences of Christoper Tietjens, a Yorkshire aristocrat with an unhappy marriage and outdated scruples. He's an amusing, well-drawn character and the books are chock full of amusing social commentary.
The first book, Some Do Not- is a bit long-winded because Ford tends to jump back and forth in time and indulge in lavish description punctuated by lengthy internal monologues.
The next two books - which center on World War I itself - are much better. They are focused, funny but also poignant.
Taken as a trilogy, it's an excellent work, which is why some critics (apparently including Graham Greene) cut the fourth book out of the series.
I agree with that assessment. The Last Post is nominally about what happens to the characters after the war, but it is told from the point of view of Christopher's eldest brother Mark, who has grown so disgusted with the world that he has faked a stroke and now lies mute in bed, moving only his eyes.
He thinks a lot, though, and we get to follow his thoughts, which loop back and forth, and repeat themselves in a very tedious manner. The whole book could have been condensed into a short story, but Ford is indulging himself, introducing the perspectives of Mark's wife, the gamekeeper, handyman, maid, etc.
All of which is painfully detailed and rendered into various dialects.
I simply can't get into it, so I'm quitting early and turning back to one of my favorites, the Sword of Honour trilogy by Evelyn Waugh. I intend to write a lengthy comparison between the two books because they are very similar.
Given my work and family schedule, I've abandoned serious writing for the time being. I've begun a series of pieces for bleedingfool.com that will run on a weekly basis and I'll let you know when they go live.