Tuesday, May 1, 2012
BTW: I hear those of you out there chuckling as you think -- dummy, get a Kindle or E-reader. Eh. I liked the heft of the thing -- it reminded me of reading Michener, Dickens, Dumas, Tolstoy, or Cooper. When I'm done, I know I have accomplished something. What? I dunno, but something. :-)
The Forsyte Saga, emphasis on “saga,” by John Galsworthy, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932, follows the lives of the Forsyte family [what was your first clue?] for three generations. Even though there is lots of family in this noveau riche clan, Galsworthy focuses on Soames and Jolyon [I had to keep saying Jo Lion, Jo Lion, Jo Lion, in my head for that name to stick -- for some reason I wanted to call him Joe Lynn as if he was a character in Li‘l Abner], two first cousins, and their wives and their problems, then the children and their problems, and then, of course, the problems of the time [money, property, propriety, manners, money, money, scandal, property] to create a compelling and witty novel about members of the “class” in their last throes of comfort.
The story begins in 1886, when the Forsytes assemble at Old Jolyon’s to celebrate the engagement of his granddaughter, and ends in 1920, when the clan gathers once again to bless the marriage of his great-grand niece. With the setting of England consistent as background, Galsworthy examines the effect of “Beauty in the lives of men“ [which controls their actions in his humble opinion], instead of on the many transitions that England went through in those forty years.
Quite funny in places, this British satire takes the time to analyze the history while telling the story, and Galsworthy is quite good at being --- clever. From the obsequious and oily Soames to his thrice married golden boy cousin Jolyon, Galsworthy pokes fun at all of them.
Note: Thankfully, Galsworthy includes a family tree in the front of the novel -- I referenced it many times. This flipping to the chart reminded me of when I taught Wuthering Heights and the students couldn't get the characters straight --- I finally provided them with a family tree. WH is child's play compared to this family. Just sayin'.