Tuesday, May 1, 2012

878 Pages

That’s how long the last book I read is --- when I picked up the tome from the public library, I thought -- dang, is this guy the British Dostoyevsky?  Only Russians, in their long winters, seem so --- verbose. After I read about two hundred pages, I discovered that the book is actually three plus two "Interludes." Duh. Totally reined in by the first book, I determined to finish it -- and in spite of my late nights, and now cramped hands from holding the huge thing, I have completed the saga.

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'.


  1. Galsworthy makes Dickens look short. Hadn't read it in years and years - but I just might have gotten inspired.

  2. I remember when this came out as a series on PBS way back when.....I laughted because I too had to work on the pronunciation of Jolyon....(I know a friend of a friend named Jolynne) It sounds marvelous, I do want to feel the heft of the book. I find that the bigger books it is better to get in hardback (found that out the hard way after I purchased Fall of Giants) :-)

  3. The books you review always end up on my list! I'm currently working my way through Anna Karenina.I love the classics