The Forsyte Saga

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"The Forsyte Saga" (2002) (mini)

In Victorian England, Soames Forsyte, a man from a wealthy and arrogant family, meets a falls in love with Irene Herron, a poor woman. After taking her step-mother's advice, Irene marries Soames. After four years of marriage, Irene is not happy in her marriage because she does not love him. Soames tries to win her affections by giving her the things he believes every woman wants, dresses and jewels. He can not give her the one thing her heart desires, freedom. Out of desperation, he asks his cousin June's fiance, Phil Bosinny, to build him a house in the country. Irene sees the house as a prison. During the construction of the house, Phil and Irene fall in love and have an affair. Phil gives Irene the courage to leave her unhappy marriage and they plan to run away together after the house is built. The affair causes a scandal in the family. When Soames finds out, he sues Phil saying he broke the contract they agreed on for the house. One night, Soames takes advantage of Irene. She tells Phil what has happened and out of anger he goes out to confront Soames. While in search, he gets in an accident and dies. Irene still leaves Soames and finds her own place away from him. Years later, Irene comes in contact with Soames's uncle Jolyon who leaves her money after he dies out of friendship. Jolyon's son, Young Jolyon, is her trustee. Soames falls for a young French girl, Annette, whom he wants to marry. He goes in search for Irene for a divorce but has no current evidence for the divorice. Instead, he decides to try to win her back so he can have an heir. She runs from him and finds friendship and protection in Young Jolyon. Soames decides on a divorice after he finds Irene and Young Jolyon together and Irene tells him she and Young Jolyon are in love. Irene and Jolyon marry and have a son, while Soames marries Annette and has a daughter. Is this family scandal over? Is Irene finally free from Soames? Simply Recipes Home » Store » Books
The Forsyte Saga

Rating: - Sprawling

Family secrets, dirty little problems, and a dash of adultery, scandal and forbidden love. Soap opera? Well, sort of -- it's Nobel Prize Winner John Galsworthy's sprawling family epic "The Forsyte Saga." While it has a distinctly soapy flavor, "Saga" retains its dignity and look at turn-of-the-century mores and society.

The Forsyte family is determinedly regal and hard-nosed, almost to the point of a fault. One staid family member, Soames Forsyte, becomes obsessed with the beautiful but poor Irene, and finally gets her to marry him -- on condition that if their marriage doesn't work, she walks. Well, their marriage doesn't work. Soames is frustrated that Irene shuts him out of her life and her bed -- even more so when he learns that she is in love with sexy, arty architect Bosinney, who is building them a new house.
Soames rapes Irene and ruins Bosinney. His marriage falls into ruins, and Bosinney is killed in a car accident. So Irene leaves permanently, living in an apartment by herself. Then Soames announces that he wants to marry a pretty French girl, Annette, and Irene weds Soames' cousin. But the problems of the older generation get inherited by the younger one -- Soames's daughter falls madly in love with Irene's son, but their parents' secret pasts doom their love.
Three novels ("A Man of Property," "In Chancery," and "To Let"), connected with two short stories ("Indian Summer of a Forsyte" and "Awakening") -- it's a pretty big story, sprawling over three generations and four decades. It's a bit soapy, with all the scandal and family weirdness, but the dignified writing keeps it from seeming sordid.
It's a credit to Galsworthy that he can communicate so much without ever getting into his characters' heads. He displays emotion in undemonstrative people like Irene through little mannerisms and twitches. At the same time, he can give us heartrending looks into aging patriarch Old Jolyon's lonely mind. His writing is very nineteenth century, dignified and with plenty of furniture/clothing details. It's pretty dense, but all right once you get used to it.

Galsworthy was a solid supporter of women's rights, and you can see in Irene and Soames' relationship -- Soames, who sees his wife as another piece of property, and the determined Irene who only wants her own happiness, but can't afford to live on her own. Their respective kids Jon and Fleur are nice but kind of boring beside their darker, more intense parents.

For a look at the social shifts that helped define the twentieth century, take a look at the "Forsyte Saga." Or if you just want to soak in a tale of family woe, love, hate and dark secrets, "Saga" still works. 2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Fine feather, February 21, 2005
Reviewer:

A.J. (Maryland) - See all my reviews


What's a nice book like this doing in a century like the twentieth? In some ways "The Forsyte Saga" is the last of a literary species, that which saw its pinnacle with Anthony Trollope's Victorian chronicles of the middle class and exhausted itself as George Eliot pushed the genre so far past its limits that it had nothing else to do but yield to modernism. Galsworthy, however, does not veer from the traditional style. His saga of a fictional family, intended to represent the English upper middle class (as they are repeatedly and emphatically described), is a compilation of three novels and two short interludes, the entirety completed in 1922, the narrative covering the waning Victorian era and the societal changes that occurred throughout the Edwardian era and the first World War.


Thorny and extensive as the Forsyte family tree is, Galsworthy concentrates mainly on a few selected characters and one story line to guide the saga. It begins with a party showing the Forsytes "in full plumage" as they celebrate the engagement of June, the granddaughter of "Old" Jolyon Forsyte, the family's current living patriarch, to the architect Philip Bosinney, who has been hired by old Jolyon's nephew, Soames Forsyte, a solicitor, to design a new house for him and his wife Irene. The problem is that Irene is bored with her marriage to Soames and has an affair with Bosinney and then (much later) with "Young" Jolyon, old Jolyon's son and Soames's cousin.

Irene's infidelity leads to her separation from Soames, who mostly wants a son to continue his lineage and implores her to return. Her final rejection of him enables a divorce and gives him the opportunity to marry a pretty French girl named Annette, but he never relinquishes his love for Irene, and her subsequent marriage to young Jolyon causes a rift between the two cousins, exacerbated by the fact that old Jolyon had bought the house that Soames had contracted from Bosinney. Soames and Annette have a daughter named Fleur, from whom he decides to keep his former marriage a secret, which presents a complication when Fleur accidentally meets and falls in love with Jon, the son of young Jolyon and Irene.

Galsworthy rescues the story from becoming a trite soap opera by using the particular Forsyte mentality as the supporting theme. According to young Jolyon, who is not as concerned with money as most Forsytes are, a Forsyte has "a sense of property"; that is, the Forsytes define themselves by their possessions--houses, land, commodities, wives. Soames, the exemplary Forsyte, demonstrates this by being doomed to live a lucrative but loveless life; he is not as pathetic as he is merely typical of his class. The Forsytes compete with each other and become jealous over trifles and perceived superiorities, but, fearful of scandals, they refrain from anything that could bring public disgrace upon the family name.
When examined in the context of the contemporary cultural revolution, the saga assumes another dimension. There is a wonderful paragraph in which Soames and Annette witness the funeral procession of Queen Victoria in 1901 and Galsworthy summarizes the "transmuting influence" of the sixty-four years of her reign, from coaches to motor-cars, the rise of the upper middle class. In the concluding chapter, Soames further contemplates the Forsytian transition at the death of his youngest uncle, which marks the passing of the influential generation of Forsytes that included his own father and old Jolyon. Descended from farmers, a family of merchants, lawyers, realtors, and publishers is coming full circle back to farming and gradually splintering into other families. Eventually, only the name remains.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:
Who said the rich had it all?, October 1, 2004

Reviewer:

K. Quirke "quirkie" (Woronora Heights, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews

This is a great soap opera sprawling a number of generations from the 1800's to the changing times of the 1920's & 30's. Through this novel we can see the changes that took place in society where money was no object. There is love, lust, adultery, death, birth and friendship. We find in this novel that those with money during this early times were not suffering with the problems of monetary poverty but that of emotional poverty. There are standards to uphold and mistakes are made and status can suffer.

You will love this novel, it is a classic and certainly better than any mini series.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:


Sprawling "Saga", September 4, 2004
Reviewer:

E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews

Family secrets, dirty little problems, and a dash of adultery, scandal and forbidden love. Soap opera? Well, sort of -- it's Nobel Prize Winner John Galsworthy's sprawling family epic "The Forsyte Saga." While it has a distinctly soapy flavor, "Saga" retains its dignity and look at turn-of-the-century mores and society.
The Forsyte family is determinedly regal and hard-nosed, almost to the point of a fault. One staid family member, Soames Forsyte, becomes obsessed with the beautiful but poor Irene, and finally gets her to marry him -- on condition that if their marriage doesn't work, she walks. Well, their marriage doesn't work. Soames is frustrated that Irene shuts him out of her life and her bed -- even more so when he learns that she is in love with sexy, arty architect Bosinney, who is building them a new house.
Soames rapes Irene and ruins Bosinney. His marriage falls into ruins, and Bosinney is killed in a car accident. So Irene leaves permanently, living in an apartment by herself. Then Soames announces that he wants to marry a pretty French girl, Annette, and Irene weds Soames' cousin. But the problems of the older generation get inherited by the younger one -- Soames's daughter falls madly in love with Irene's son, but their parents' secret pasts doom their love.

Three novels ("A Man of Property," "In Chancery," and "To Let"), connected with two short stories ("Indian Summer of a Forsyte" and "Awakening") -- it's a pretty big story, sprawling over three generations and four decades. It's a bit soapy, with all the scandal and family weirdness, but the dignified writing keeps it from seeming sordid.

It's a credit to Galsworthy that he can communicate so much without ever getting into his characters' heads. He displays emotion in undemonstrative people like Irene through little mannerisms and twitches. At the same time, he can give us heartrending looks into aging patriarch Old Jolyon's lonely mind. His writing is very nineteenth century, dignified and with plenty of furniture/clothing details. It's pretty dense, but all right once you get used to it.
Galsworthy was a solid supporter of women's rights, and you can see in Irene and Soames' relationship -- Soames, who sees his wife as another piece of property, and the determined Irene who only wants her own happiness, but can't afford to live on her own. Their respective kids Jon and Fleur are nice but kind of boring beside their darker, more intense parents.
For a look at the social shifts that helped define the twentieth century, take a look at the "Forsyte Saga." Or if you just want to soak in a tale of family woe, love, hate and dark secrets, "Saga" still works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:


A saga indeed, August 15, 2004
Reviewer:

kasthu (Lynchburg, VA United States) - See all my reviews

A magnificent sage about a family at the end of the Victorian period. Following several generations of this family as they

cavort through society, Galsworthy is a master of storytelling. Although this book is long, you won't be bored, because the action is faced-paced and exciting; Galsworthy can read his characters like a book, so to speak, and presents the Forsyte family as they really are. While Galsworthy postdated the Realism movement in literature, his style is very much reminiscent of those authors in that he depicts everything as it really is: no makeup, no glossing over the dirty facts of life.

At the heart of this big, beautiful book are three novels, plus two smaller stories in between. The Man of Property, In Chancery, and To Let discuss the major aspects of the Forsyte Saga- staring with Jolyon Forsyte, the patriarch of the family, then Soames and Irene Forsyte in the 1880's, and leading up to the 1920's. The two interludes, Indian Summer of a Forsyte and Awakening are smaller, but no less important parts of this tragicomic saga of a family as it rises and falls with the times.
I haven't seen the film production, but I can't wait to see it, if it is in fact as good as I've heard it to be.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:


Not Just a Victorian Relic, June 22, 2004
Reviewer:

W. Kaplan "calyndula" (Wynnewood, PA United States) - See all my reviews

It has been decades since I last lost myself in The Forsyte Saga, and this time around, I was amazed at the quality of the writing, its delicacy, its nuance, its depth of feeling and sympathy for an era that was long-gone even at the time of its first writing.
John Galsworthy's tale of an upper-class English family spanned three novels and two "interludes," all of which make up what we think of as the "saga." Each is a look at the Forsytes, whose family god is property, as they live and die during England's Victorian days up to and including its waning powers after World War I.

The story of Soames Forsyte, desperately and tragically in love with his wife, the beautiful Irene, forms the backdrop. Although Soames is supposed to be the enemy--cold, forbidding, and capable of raping his own wife to claim his "rights as a husband," nevertheless, I have always felt sorry for him, especially in this reading. Would he have been a different man if Irene could have loved him back? Would he have softened, become more human, more able to feel happiness? In later books, he is loved back by his only daughter Fleur (by his second wife), but by then he is too set in his ways to change.

And Irene...the modern-day Helen of Troy. The beauty who breaks men's hearts without even knowing it...could she help being so terribly cold to Soames? With her warm, loving nature, could she possibly have found it in herself to love her exact opposite? That dilemma continues through the generations to culminate in a truly intense tragedy involving Irene's only son and Soames' only daughter.
I am so glad to have revisited this book once again and seeing it with new eyes. It is so much more than a mere melodrama, and the quality of Galsworthy's writing is much more talented than I had ever realized. The Forsyte Saga should be included among the masterpieces of a certain era. It has the universal truth and staying power that is deserving of status as a true classic.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:


Savory and a delicious read, May 19, 2004
Reviewer:

Veronica Bennett (Wilmington, Ca United States) - See all my reviews

Mr. Galsworthy serves up the Forsyte Saga as a sumptuous meal of rich descriptions and savory characters in delightful, bite-size pieces. It is a long read, however, because of such rich character development, these people and their personalities become a subliminal attachment to the reader's circle of friends and acquaintances. Its okay if one is unable to read continuously, because one knows their secrets and stories will keep, and every bit of gossip and story will be saved for the next installment. Galsworthy's story literally leaves the reader hungering for the rest of the story.

Why? Galsworthy brillantly reveals the strengths and weaknesses of each of the primary players. While he exposes Soames arrogance and pride, he also reveals Soames confusion, denial, and disbelief, thereby humanising the otherwise 'man of property.' When Irene suggests to Soames the option of dissolving their marriage before they have married, that is, if she is unhappy, one is prompted to read on, carefully, for the clues that explain and support how this might occur.

Indeed, this is an oldie... but like a fabulous dessert, it is worth the wait.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful:


Edge of your seat read, March 25, 2004

Reviewer: A reader

The Forsyte Saga will keep you on the edge of your seat! I couldn't put this down until I was finished with it. I had seen part of the PBS Masterpiece Theater on it (how I heard about it), but still did not expect what came next!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:


The best novel I have read in years, March 19, 2004
Reviewer:

MoonGoddessAnna (Bronx, NY United States) - See all my reviews


I have read most of the great novels and i find this to be far superior to many considered part of the essential western

canon. The psychology, subtlety of narrative and memorable characters (Old Jolyon being my favorite in a book chock full of interesting characters) are all above and beyond most novels i have read. There is something wonderful about the scale of the novel and I would often find myself weeping while reading this- people often create their own tragedies and those moments are worth reading about. Simply perfect.


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful:


Forsyte Saga - a well awarded but oft forgotten classic, February 10, 2004

Reviewer:

Brianne Dahlin (Shawnee, KS) - See all my reviews

I'll make this short and to the point. I'm quite the avid reader, but usually I don't enjoy books of this nature, opting for fantasy and sci-fi escapism instead. This story is just beautifully told though. The subtleties of the characters and the twisting lives of the Forsyte family are fascinating and makes this one helluva a page turner. I was hooked immediately. I honestly believe that people of all ages will love this book, and I urge you to give it a shot! I know sometimes that novels taking place in this particular era can seem daunting for those of us who crave more "Adventure! Action!" type books, but there is no lack of excitement here!

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful:


The first of the great British family sagas, August 29, 2003
Reviewer:

flipsy - See all my reviews

Galsworthy was the first to borrow the term "saga" from the Nordic epic poems to apply to a lengthy novelistic study of a family: the trilogy, his masterpiece, influenced more writers in this century than probably can be counted (most eminently Robert Graves and -- in THE YEARS -- Virginia Woolf). Although it very quickly went out of fashion among the modernist writers of his time, THE FORSYTE SAGA has remained a popular hit, inspiring no less than two famous BBC mini-series. And it's the real deal: I can think of few novel cycles that are as satisfying or as eminently readable, much less that are as minutely crafted. (The continuing themes of possesion and death cycle throughout the saga in such fascinating ways that it is almost impossible to believe Galsworthy wrote the first novel, THE MAN OF PROPERTY, without intending to build a trilogy out of it.) The best edition in print seems to be the Oxford World's Classics edition in that it comes with an indispensable family tree.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful:
Read It And Weep..., August 19, 2003
Reviewer:

"missfinn" (Grand Prairie, TX) - See all my reviews


This body of works has moved me unlike any other. I have re-read the Forsyte Saga over and over again. Each time, I am
brought to tears. Sadness over Irene's situation and then by the end, for Soames, who wanted nothing more than to love her and lavish upon her all that he could. When Irene and Young Jolyon marry, you want all the best for them, even knowing the pain Soames feels. Throughout the entire history of this family, you share their joys, sorrows and even a little bit of laughter. You just can't help loving Aunts Ann, Julia & Hester. You'll never regret the reading of these books. It took me 4 yrs. of searching thrift stores in order to have all 3 hardbacks. I've never had more fun searching for something!
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Long but interesting, August 5, 2003

Reviewer: A reader

I got interested in reading this book after viewing the Masterpiece Theater showing of the Forsyte Saga. It was interesting to compare the movie's interpretation of the book, and it gave a little more insight into the motivations of each of the characters. Overall a good book.


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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

The Forsyte Saga- a forgotten classic, July 22, 2003

Reviewer:

Claire Cahoon (Columbus, OH) - See all my reviews


This novel is filled not only with wonderful social commentary on Victorian society (a la Edith Wharton), but is also seasoned

with beautifully written, insightful, and heartbreaking character studies. Galsworthy breaks into his characters, exposing their inner fragilties, cruelties, and amazing vulnerabilities. I haven't read a novel this engrossing, or one so exquisitely crafted in a long time.


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful:


The book is great but the edition is an embarrasment, July 6, 2003

Reviewer: A reader

... for Oxford University Press. There are quite a few annoying typos. I can see how the new Forsyte by the name Scames or the unlisted French word "ficbe" came about as a result of faulty character recognition, but how Soames, born in 1855, got to be thirty-eight in in 1885, is beyond me. Don't they have proof-readers anymore?
By all means read the book--you may find out how a lot of later works of literature derive from it--but not in this edition.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful:


The denizens of a 19th century superpower -the, June 19, 2003
Reviewer:

"sonadm" (Fremont, CA USA) - See all my reviews


I read the Forsyte saga while I was in college - and was instantly hooked. John Galsworthy wormholes you into a different

world and time, but as the essence and humanity of his characters unfold, they are extremely familiar even in todays world. What is it about a grand passion that weakens a man of formidable integrity,rigid morals and conservative politics? Irenes forced subjugation to the marital bed leaves pangs, but her beauty is a sinister seduction to all who encounter it, so one falls short of empathy with her... A booming economy, a strong parliament, living in the lap of luxury in the worlds premier city of the time.. can you say AMERICA today? And yet,

are we not prisoners of our societal mores? Soames and Irene were

both prisoners in a marriage - Irenes captivity was more obvious,

but he was no less a prisoner - trapped in a passion -shared by

most men - looked at her he really could not see why she did

not return his feelings, and was terrified of losing her, because he was scared of being lonely. Montague and Winifred, Jolyon and Helen - all of them kind of in the same boat. And in the end, the man with the strongest character committed the biggest crime. Or did he? Did Jolyon and Irene not commit a larger crime when they wilfully transferred the feud down to a

generation? Soames and his daughter in the end came to terms with

their life much better than the more "likeable" characters. John Galsworthy and all his books on the Forsytes read like a treatise on marriage, relationships and a life in society that we must all live in. Ostracism was terrible at the time - it could really ruin lives, and it can even today. He writes about it in its true light and heinousness. I love this series and the

ensuing trilogy - The White Monkey, The Silver Spoon and Swan Song. It gives me great pleasure to post this review. For a decade almost, John Galsworthy was a staple of my reading "diet".

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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful:


No wonder Galsworthy won!, December 31, 2002
Reviewer:

dikybabe "admeyer" (Houston, TX United States) - See all my reviews


What an infinite study of character, the Forsyte character, men of ownership, of possession, of material things!
I waited for the PBS presentation with patient enthusiasm, and was not disappointed. But knowing that video/movies can

only do so much for a text, I unearthed my own private copy of Galworthy's book, one inherited from my aunt, and started the discovery by print.


I have been so overcome by Galsworthy's skill as a wordsmith, and so fascinated by his social commentary on this class of people, that I have broken away from the novel time and time again and done further research into Galsworthy and his own commentaries of his work, particularly on the Forsytes. From his wife, Ada's preface, through his intro, to his chosen dedications, I am enchanted. I feel remiss to not have read him before this time, but so grateful to have an old copy and to now enrich my life with these characters.
While not disappointed by the TV rendering, I am glad to know Soames, Irene, Old Jolyon, Young Jolyon, June, as Galsworthy painted them. I am glad to see their physical makeup to be different than those of the actors and actresses in the PBS series, and to feel I know them much more completely now.
I have a personal love of British lit and am so pleased to find such great storytelling in an older text. The judges were so right in awarding prizes to Galsworthy.
The Forsyte Saga is not so foreign in time and portrayal. Materialism still reigns and seduces and corrupts. Class one-up- manship still deludes. Self-importance and shallow values still prevail. Feet of clay forever are feet of clay.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:

A brilliant novel, November 9, 2002
Reviewer:

Mary Poppins "bookworm221" (USA) - See all my reviews


I finished three-quarters of this entire book in less than a week; the first novel of the three in less than two days. That's

how good "The Forsyte Saga" is. Galsworthy's writing style is incredible; it's no wonder that this is the novel that won him the Nobel Prize. The story and characters are so captivating that it just drives you onward and onward until the end. The Forsytes themselves are an intriguing lot--especially poor Soames. There's an instinct for the reader to dislike him, and yet Galsworthy shows that he has true human feelings, just like anyone else. His love for Irene and his passionate desire to be loved back is heartbreaking. The morals that Galsworthy incorporates makes the book complete, making it a true monument of literature.


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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful:


A Nobel saga, December 14, 2001
Reviewer:

Wordsworth - See all my reviews

The writing evident in this epic is masterful and engaging: it is even and substantive and elegant. The rich irony about the

lengths that men strive to acquire property in all its forms and then find their acquisitions useless, meaningless and certainly not worth the price. Galworthy was focused upon property in so many different varieties: the sense of possession that men had of their wives in his time amid archaic laws about divorce; the building of a home that ends in unexpected expense in chancery; the elusive value of works of art; the subtleties of property from family crests, clubs, colleges and occupational status and cuts of mutton to the blatant futility of fighting over land in South Africa during the Boer War -- it's all shallow and empty materialism in the end. The property is never worth the cost of the trouble to acquire it. Young people slave to gather possessions only to regret in old age that they have traded so much of life away to gain them and must undergo the painful rigors of its redistribution through wills after death. Galsworthy seemed to me like a sort of British Tolstoy writing in England for property reform. Because when property is involved, men tend to objectify about it and in the course of things they tend to lose their sense of humanity. This troublesome pattern of life seems to repeat itself often like a lesson men never learn -- as the objectifying I-It relationship of Martin Buber replaces the humane I-Thou. Yes, it's a long novel but when the writing is this compelling in its style and substance, you can luxuriate in the beauty and wisdom of the words. Every character is finely and individually drawn like a character in a Velasquez portrait of a large family. You'll regret this novel isn't longer when it ends. Galsworthy's work earned him a Nobel Prize -- it's easy to see the astonishing depth and range and virtuosity that the Nobel judges found in his writing. Don't pass up the chance to bask in this epic saga of Galsworthy. It's easily one of the top ten novels ever written in the English language -- it's really that good.

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12 of 23 people found the following review helpful:


Simply soap opera - but a good one, September 12, 2001
Reviewer:

Jesse Monteagudo "book nook" (Plantation, Florida USA) - See all my reviews

I got hooked on John Galsworthy's Forsyte novels when I saw the BBC TV series in 1969. At that time I sympathized with Irene and Bossinney and hated Soames for what he did to them. Now that I am older I can relate to the Forsytes more and see Irene as a selfish woman who wrecked an entire family - primarily Soames, June, Old Jolyon and her own son, Jon - and whose only redeeming feature was her beauty. And I find it incredible that Galsworthy won the Nobel Prize when so many greater writers - Tolstoy, Twain and Proust, just to name a few - were ignored. Still, as soap opera, "The Forsyte Saga" is fun to read, especially when followed by Gaslworthy's "Modern Comedy" and "The End of the Chapter" and even Suleika Dawson's vastly inferior "The Forsytes". And that is not too shabby.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful:


Interesting story, what!, August 31, 2001
Reviewer:

"dlite1212" (Ocala, FL USA) - See all my reviews

I found it a little slow at first and was not used to reading 'proper english'. I found that there is a big difference between

English and American/Ozarkien, which is what I speak. But once I got used to it I enjoyed it very much. I was surprised, at first, because even the commentary was written in 'proper english' until I realized that the author was living in that age and was writing as he spoke. The saga takes place at the turn of the century, England. The people are very real and very English. I feel I learned very much about that time and that country. I have since read the next vol (The Modern Comedy) and am now into the final vol. (End of the Chapter). I'm sure I would enjoy them even more if I knew their slang, etc. and many refs to their history. Good reading.

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3 of 25 people found the following review helpful:


everybody just reads the first novel (and that's a shame), April 30, 2000
Reviewer:

Philip Greenspun (Cambridge, MA USA) - See all my reviews


The 1933 Scribner's edition of this classic trilogy is worthwhile because of the preface by Ada Galsworthy, the author's wife. Combined with the dedication (from John to Ada), it paints an inspiring picture of a marriage between two creative minds who respected each other's talents. The trilogy itself is an inspiring artifact of a life spent working hard. Galsworthy finished the first book, Man of Property in 1906, at the age of 39. He put the project aside for something like 12 years and then finished the last two novels when in his mid-50s. Most people only read the first book but the last two deepened my appreciation for the first and for Galsworthy's talent.


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2 of 27 people found the following review helpful:


enough with the exclamation points already!, April 21, 1999

Reviewer: A reader

mr. galsworhy may have written a fine solid substantial novel, byt by heaven mr. anthony trollope who lived and wrote over fifty years before was a much more modern writer and didn't qualify every goddam sentence with an exclamation mark. (!) very dated stuff. who knows, maybe one day i'll get past all those damn exclamation marks.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful:

ONE OF THE FORGOTTEN GREATS, September 13, 1998

Reviewer: A reader

Upon the release of ML's 100 greatest English-lanuage novels of this century, it was to my great sadness to find "The Forsyte Saga" missing from the list. It seemed to confirm what I'd feared for the last several years: even critics have left this spectacular collection behind.

Perhaps it is the fact that of the book's length that frightens off so many readers: at 800+ pages it doesn't exactly make for easy beach reading. Keep in mind, however, that the book is comprised not only of three separate novels but also of connecting interludes.
If you want to read truly great literature of such a standard that earned John Galsworthy a Nobel Prize for Literature, you need look no further than "The Forsyte Saga."
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful:


WHO NEEDS HAPPINESS WHEN ONE CAN HAVE APPEARANCES?, September 7, 1998

Reviewer: A reader



Re: THE MAN OF PROPERTY
Step into the world of upper middleclass London of the late Victorian era, staunchly embodied in the several brothers Forsyte, their sisters, children, inlaws and grandchildren. It's a world motivated by keeping up appearances and exercising the strictest control over expression of one's emotions -- that is, if one is to preserve one's status as a proper member of the upper middleclass. Indeed, the only safe emotion is curiosity about how much others have paid for their possessions and whether they are to be congratulated or envied for acquiring something for nothing, or shall they be sneered at and ridiculed for having paid more. The Forsytes are a commercial bunch, everything boils down to financial value for them -- even relationships bear price tags.
Old Jolyon is patriarch of the Forsyte clan. Unlike his brothers, he is now scornful of that middleclass ethos they so highly value, often to their detriment. Old Jolyon has lived long enough to regret his deference to appearances, which had cost him his relationship with his only son.

The author's indictment against the stern, uncharitable principles cherished by the British upper middleclass is peppered throughout the narration, the characters always replacing any thoughts toward generosity with sound justification (read: excuse) for niggardly self interest. We are used to categorizing characters as victims, villains and heroes. However, in this story it can be argued that everyone is a victim; there are no real heroes or real villains. Because of his unsympathetic nature, cousin Soames might appear a villain, but truly he is as tragic a figure as Mr. Bosinney (the fiance of June, Old Jolyon's granddaughter) who is in love with the tragically beautiful Irene, Soames's wife. Although the reader is generously privy to the thoughts and feelings of the members of the clan, including disagreeable inlaws, it is noteworthy that the reader is only aware of the two tragic characters, Bosinney and Irene, as they are observed by others. The author never allows the reader to trespass directly into their souls to expose all therein. Fortunately for us, these two wear their hearts on their sleeves and others are thereby enabled to read volumes simply by taking advantage of brief observations. We see the reactions of Irene and Bosinney, never their internal motivations.

The title of this book begs the question, exactly who is the man of property or to which man of property does the title refer -- and what exactly is the property that is referenced. Ultimately cousin Soames is the man specifically identified in the title, and surely the property particularly stressed is his unyielding wife, the incomparable Irene. Irene is so much the sophisticated lady, so beguiling in appearance and manner, I am reminded of Jane Austen's "dear Jane Fairfax" ("Emma") who, like dear Irene, has no money of her own and therefore is compelled to select between the lesser of two (or more) quite unattractive situations. For certainly, when one's station is so reduced, being without the means to _choose_ between this pleasant possibility and that pleasant circumstance, one simply must _decide_ which evil will produce the least harm. In The Man of Property, everyone is selecting -- sometimes their choices backfire and then they must decide the next step. June happily _chose_ to become engaged to marry Bosinney, but later she has to _decide_ how best to keep him or even whether she is at all capable of keeping him.
Bosinney also brings to mind another brooding young man from literature -- Mr. Ladislaw of George Eliot's "Middlemarch", who also was tragically in love with another man's wife. Indeed, when reading the description of Bosinney's high cheek bones, casual manners and the intensity of his emotions, one might be tempted to cast the actor Rufus Sewell in that role; for Sewell's portrayal of Ladislaw was quite memorable in the Masterpiece Theatre television adaptation of "Middlemarch", another story about keeping up appearances and making happy choices or miserable decisions.

The Man of Property moves along very quickly. The author's descriptions of the lifestyle and environment of that time are quite detailed. But for the selfish and unpleasant people who populate this world, the sensitive reader might easily drift into this other time and other place, which for this reader is the mark of a truly rich literary experience.

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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful:


One of the best books I've ever read, July 19, 1998

Reviewer: A reader

This is a must-read! Galsworthy's writing is outstanding. Also read the sequel to the Saga -- "A Modern Comedy."
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful:


The only thing better than the story is the writing., April 1, 1998

Reviewer: A reader


Galsworthy gives his readers a view into the transition between the Victorian culture and the Modern through characters

who seem to come alive under his masterful writing. Three generations of Forsythe tenacity keep things lively as they watch their world change. I recommend this book for people interested in Victorian/Modern culture and the historical novel. I thouroughly enjoyed this book.


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"No matter how smart you are, you spend most of your day being an idiot."

John Galsworthy (1867-1933) is best known for his Forsyte Saga, a series of six novels which trace the story of a typically English upper-class family from Victorian days to the nineteen-twenties-presenting their reactions to great events which, in effect, spell the doom of all they stand for, including World War I, the growth of Socialism, the General Strike of 1926. Galsworthy had shown himself, in his early The Island Pharisees, to be critical of the old standards-the philistinism, decadence, dullness, atrophy of feeling which characterised the so-called 'ruling class'. The Forsyte Saga, in trying to view this dying class dispassionately -with occasional irony-nevertheless seems to develop a sympathy for the hero of The Man of Property, Soames Forsyte, the epitome of the money-seeking class which Galsworthy is supposed to detest. Galsworthy, in fact, is himself drawn into the family of Forsytes, becomes involved with its fortunes, and what starts off as a work of social criticism ends in acceptance of the very principles it attacks. This work is still widely read, though it is not greatly esteemed by the modern critics. It came into its own as a television serial in the 19605.



In 1922 there appeared an important work in prose which (inevitably sometimes sounds like verse. This was Ulysses, by the Irishman James Joyce (1882-1941), a novel of enormous length dealing with the event of a single day in the life of a single town-the author's native Dublin Joyce had previously published some charming but not outstandin| verse, a volume of short stories called Dubliners, and a striking auto biographical novel-Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The hero o this novel-Stephen Dedalus-appears again in Ulysses, this time sub ordinated in a secondary role: the hero is a Hungarian Jew, long-settlec in Dublin, called Leopold Bloom. The novel has no real plot. Like thi Greek hero whose name provides the title, Bloom wanders from place tc place, but has very un-heroic adventures, and finally meets Stephen, whc then takes on the role of a sort of spiritual son. After this the book ends But the eight hundred pages are not filled with padding; never was ; novel written in conciser prose. We are allowed to enter the minds of thi chief characters, are presented with their thoughts and feelings in a con tinuous stream (the technique is called 'interior monologue'). The bool is mostly a never-ending stream of Bloom's half-articulate impression of the day, but Joyce prevents the book from being nothing but that, b; imposing on it a very rigid form. Each chapter corresponds to an episodi in Homer's Odyssey and has a distinct style of its own; for instance, in thi Maternity Hospital scene the prose imitates all the English literary style from Beowulf to Carlyle and beyond, symbolising the growth of the foetu in the womb in its steady movement through time. The skill of the bool is amazing, and when we pick up a novel by Arnold Bennett or Hugh Walpole after reading Ulysses we find it hard to be impressed by ways of writing which seem dull, unaware, half-asleep. Ulysses is the most carefully- written novel of the twentieth century.

The Forsyte Saga initially centres on Soames Forsyte - a successful solicitor living in London with his beautiful wife Irene. A pillar of the late Victorian upper middle class, materially wealthy, his appears to be a golden existence endowed with all the necessary possessions for a 'Man of Property' but beneath this very proper exterior lies a core of unhappiness and brutal relationships. When The Forsyte Saga was shown on television in 1967 it was hugely successful. The nation was gripped by the masterful visual telling of the Forsyte family's troubled story and adapted its activities to suit the next transmission. The Forsyte Saga comprising The Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let, is here produced by Wordsworth for the first time in a single volume.





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