The Good Soldier may not force you to reevaluate your life or question your morality, but it will prompt you to think about that curious barrier/nexus between reader and story that is the first person narrator. For me, this book's defining feature is its style of narration: non-linear, with the narrator jumping back and forth between earlier and later episodes and then returning to expatiate and fill in details. While this may sound convoluted or annoying, it makes sense when we think about how people tell stories in real life--we get excited, we skip around, we go back to embellish a bit more and most importantly: we wait until the end to lay our last card down.
Some may not like this style of narration and in inexperienced hands it could quickly become a crap-storm. However, Ford is simply (amazingly) that good: the story never escapes his control for a moment, and while Dowell seems to drop details accidentally, Ford precisely governs the moments when he will allow Dowell to reveal vital information. And some of those "slips" are like verbal punches--they have the ability to stun you, to make you reread what you just read because you simply cannot believe what has happened. Only a few books have made me feel as though I'd been slapped in the face, and this is one of them (trust me, it's a good thing).
Now, my other reason for adoring this novel is the narrator himself. The Good Soldier's heart and soul, its "core," so to speak, is its concern with perception. The Modernists were quite interested in epistemology (how we know what we know) and Ford was not an exception. Ford filters the entire story through the consciousness of Dowell, a man who (as some incredibly astute readers have noticed) is dull, wimpy, and unlikable. But we don't initially read The Good Soldier to learn more about Dowell. We read to learn about Edward Ashburnham (the titular hero) and his interactions with his wife Leonora (a powerful female character) and the antics of Dowell's scheming wife Florence. Which brings us to Dowell's most important quality: his unreliability. The analogy of the "goodly apple" prompts Dowell to ask in so many words: "If for nine months I possessed a goodly apple, and only at the end discovered that it was rotten, isn't it true that for nine months I possessed a goodly apple?" Some would say yes, others no, but the analogy is clear enough: the same story will look different through the eyes of any person; some will notice the rottenness from a distance while others will only taste it in their mouths. Dowell, to our most excellent fortune, is one of the latter. As readers we are obliged to look through his eyes, and try our best to understand what "really" took place. Is there a way to know? Not really, and some have called the book cynical in this regard. But the vein of cynicism runs deep in modernist literature, and I think it is fairer to say that TGS is astute and unflinching concerning the realm of objective truth.
Let's talk about pacing. The Good Soldier starts slowly, but gradually gains momentum with the development of character, the strange plot twists and the final dénouement. Towards the end, I had to force myself to slow down and read carefully, rather than plunge ahead and trip over the lines. While the latter may be an acceptable reading pace for a John Grisham novel or one of the later Harry Potter books (Order of the Phoenix, anyone?), failing to miss a few words of Ford's prose could damage the reader's experience. You only get your first time once, as they say, so take care and enjoy!