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The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
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The Forsyte Saga

by John Galsworthy

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2,036364,711 (4.15)2 / 314
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Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
About 40 years after watching the 1960s British television production, I finally have read this trilogy. I didn’t even remember the plot(s) properly. And I would never pretend to appreciate in depth the literary aspects. But the writing is a delight, the characters complex and fascinating. Just outstanding. ( )
1 vote NinieB | Aug 2, 2018 |
This version of The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy is over 800 pages and consists of 3 books; A Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let as well as 2 short interludes; Indian Summer and Awakening. This is a family saga about money, morals and class at the beginning of the 20th century. The Forsytes are an upper-middle class family that have good expectations of improving their status. While the main focus of the story is on the disintegration of the marriage between Soames Forsyte and his wife, Irene, and the interactions between these two and their families, there are other plots involving this multi-generational family that revolve around the expansion of their wealth and the price paid for this obtainment.

I have to admit that by the third book I was quite tired of reading about Soames and Irene as well as their overdone “soap opera” plot. While Soames’ journey through life was difficult, I didn’t feel much sympathy for him as I found him quite pompous and rigid. At the same time, I found his wife, Irene too cold and distant to ever feel that I knew her so I couldn’t generate much interest in her story either. In the later books, I did like both Fleur and Jon, but it was easy to see what was going to happen with this relationship so I was never emotionally invested in their story.

Galsworthy spreads his story over a large canvas that includes all the various members of this family and we learn a little about each member over the course of the three books and many different sub-plots are developed along the way. Personally I much preferred these sub-plots that featured the other Forsytes and while I grew tired of some of the characters I can certainly attest to the appeal of this story with it’s descriptions of wealthy English lifestyles and conventional society morals at the turn on the century. ( )
1 vote DeltaQueen50 | Jul 11, 2018 |
I am so blown away by this book that I am almost speechless. What wonderful writing, and what a deft balance of plot line and character portrayal. Few authors get both perfect, but I think Galsworthy has. I was intimidated by the size of this novel, but it reads so well that the pages fly by you and the read is done before you ever want to let go.

Soames Forsyte is one of the least likable yet most pitiable characters I have ever encountered. He is smug and arrogant and driven by money and property, and yet he is so a victim of who he is, who he has been raised to be, and in the end it is himself he hurts the most. I have seldom felt more genuine affection and admiration for any character as that I felt for Old and Young Jolyon. Each so remarkable in his own way and able to make me smile as if I were sitting in his presence and knew him. And then there is Irene. What a complicated and interesting woman! I swung across the pendulum on my feelings for Irene. At moments I blamed her, chastised her, cried for her and loved her. What makes the book so meaningful, to me, is the depth of the souls Galsworthy presents for our dissection and how beautifully human and flawed they all are.

I want to drone on about this book, but I do not want to give away anything for those who might decide to read it, and it would be so hard to discuss anything salient without divulging the secrets that lurk at the heart of the novel. Suffice it to say, I would recommend this highly to anyone who enjoys reading about people who might have lived, indeed might still live dressed up in different garb and lured by money more than by love.

If I were to compare Galsworthy's writing to anyone, it would be Edith Wharton. Both understood what it was to be in the upper-class and what it was to want to be there, the sacrifices sometimes extracted for that climb, and the hollowness of money when it comes to possess you more than you possess it. ( )
1 vote phantomswife | Jul 6, 2018 |
Match found in the German National Library.
  glsottawa | Apr 4, 2018 |
The last book of 2017 is the one and only book of the year that reaches the lofty heights of the 90%+ rating needed to enter Arukiyomi’s Hall of Fame. And deservedly so. This study of a Victorian family was one of the best portraits of generations that I have ever set eyes on.

From start to finish, the writing is excellent. At times, it is utterly sublime. I don’t think I will ever forget the passage at the end of The Indian Summer of a Forsyte. If you are looking for writing that will move you to tears with its beauty, try that out.

But the writing is so much more than that. Galsworthy has given us a quintessential study of the Victorian age as the sun begins to set on empire and the values that formed it. The characters of each generation are vividly brought to life, and through them, you live in another age.

At the pinnacle of Galsworthy’s achievement sits the character of Soames Forsyte. Rarely have I felt so many different emotions for a character over the course of a novel. He is at once repellent and yet also so very human I couldn’t help avoid the realisation that he was, at least in some aspects, every one of us.

One of the most memorable things about this book is that my wife and I read it to each other over the course of more than a year. We lived the saga together and shared our thoughts. This was a perfect book to read along with someone else because there’s just so much to reflect on and enjoy.

And while Galsworthy writes beautiful descriptions and detailed characters, he also makes sure you are satisfied for plot. As Soames dominates much of the proceedings, there are plenty of others who populate the novel whose sub-plots keep you occupied.

This is a majesterial novel which perfectly captures the spirit of the age it focusses on and does so in the most engaging way possible. ( )
2 vote arukiyomi | Mar 9, 2018 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Galsworthy, Johnprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tuulio, TyyniTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Williams, FredNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
book I: the man of property: "...You will answer/ The slaves are ours...." ~ merchant of venice
book II: in chancery: "Two households both alike in dignity, [...] From ancient grudge break to new mutiny." ~ romeo and juliet
book III: to let: "From out the fatal loins of those two foes/ A pair of star-crossed lovers take their life." ~ romeo and juliet
interlude: indian summer of a forsyte: "And summer's lease hath all too short a date." ~ Shakespeare
Dedication
book I: the man of property: TO EDWARD GARNETT
indian summer of a forsyte: TO ANDRE CHEVRILLON
book II: in chancery: TO JESSIE AND JOSEPH CONRAD
book III: to let: TO CHARLES SCRIBNER
To MY WIFE I DEDICATE THE FORSYTE SAGA IN ITS ENTIRETY, BELIEVING IT TO BE OF ALL MY WORK THE LEAST UNWORTHY OF ONE WITHOUT WHOSE ENCOURAGEMENT, SYMPATHY AND CRITICISM I COULD NEVER HAVE BECOME EVEN SUCH A WRITER AS I AM
First words
Those privileged to be present at a family festival of the Forsytes have seen that charming and instructive sight--an upper middle-class family in full plumage.
Quotations
Other eyes besides the eyes of June and of Soames has seen "those two" (as Euphemia had already begun to call them) coming from the conservatory; other eyes had noticed the look on Bosinney's face.// There are moments when Nature reveals the passion hidden beneath the careless calm of her ordinary moods--violent spring flashing white on almond-blossom through the purple clouds; a snowy, moonlit peak, with its single star, soaring up to the passionate blue; or against the flames of sunset, an old yew-tree standing dark guardian of some fiery secret.// There are moments, too, when in a picture-gallery, a work, noted by a casual spectator as "...Titian-remarkably fine," breaks through the defenses of some Forsyte better lunched perhaps than his fellows, and holds him spellbound in a kind of ecstasy. There are things, he feels--there are things here which--well, there are things. Something unreasoning, unreasonable, is upon him; when he tries to define it with the precision of a practical man, it eludes him, slips away, as the glow of a wine he has drunk is slipping away, leaving him cross, and conscious of his liver. He feels that he has been extravagant, prodigal of something; virtue has gone out of him. He did not desire this glimpse of what lay under the three stars of his catalogue. God forbid that he should know anything about the forces of Nature! God forbid that he should admit for a moment that there are such things! Once admit that, and where was he? One paid a shilling for entrance, and another for the programme.// The look which June had seen, which other Forsytes had seen, was like the sudden flashing of a candle through a hole in some imaginary canvas, behind which it was being moved--the sudden flaming out of a vague, erratic glow, shadowy and enticing. It brought home to onlookers the consciousness that dangerous forces were at work. For a moment they all noticed it with pleasure, with interest, then felt they must not notice it at all.// It supplied, however, the reason of June's coming so late and disappearing again without dancing, without even shaking hands with her lover. She was ill, it was said, and no wonder.// But here they looked at each other guiltily. They had no desire to spread scandal, no desire to be ill-natured. Who would have? And to outsiders no word was breathed, unwritten law keeping them silent.// Then came the news that June had gone to the seaside with old Jolyon. He had carried her off to Broadstairs, for which place there was just then a feeling. Yarmouth having lost caste, in spite of Nicholas, and no Forsyte going to the sea without intending to have to an air for his money such as would render him bilious in a week. That fatally arstocratic tendency of the first Forsyte to drink Madeira had left his descendants undoubtedly accessible.// So June went to the sea. The family awaited developments; there was nothing else to do.// But how far--how far had "those two" gone? How far were they going to go? Could they really be going at all? Nothing could surely come of it, for neither of them had any money. At the most a flirtation, ending, as all such attachments should, at the proper time. (book I: the man of property: part II: chapter IX: evening at richmond)
Of all those whom this strange rumour about Bosinney and Mrs Soames reached, James was the most affected. He had long forgotten how he had hovered, lanky and pale, in side whiskers of chestnut hue, round Emily, in the days of his own courtship. He had long forgotten the small house in the purlieus of Mayfair, where he had spent the early days of his married life, or rather, he had long forgotten the early days, not the small house,--a Forsyte never forgot a house--he had afterwards sold it at a clear profit of four hundred pounds.// He had long forgotten those days with their hopes and fears and doubts about the prudence of the match (for Emily, though pretty, had nothing, and he himself at the time was making a bare thousand a year), and that strange, irresistable attraction which had drawn him on, till he felt he must die if he could not marry the girl with the fair hair, looped so neatly back, the fair arms emerging from a skin-tight bodice, the fair form decorously shielded by a cage of really stupendous circumference.// James had passed through the fire, but he had passed also through the river of years which washes out the fire; he had experienced the saddest experience of all--forgetfulness of what it was like to be in love. Forgotten! Forgotten so long, that he had forgotten even that he had forgotten.// And now this rumour had come upon him, this rumour about his son's wife; very vague, a shadow dodging among the palpable, straightforward appearances of things, unreal, unintelligible as a ghost, but carrying with it, like a ghost, inexplicable terror.// He tried to bring it home to his mind, but it was no more use than trying to apply to himself one of those tragedies he read of daily in his evening paper. He simply could not. There could be nothing in it. It was all their nonsense. She didn't get on with Soames as well as she might, but she was a good little thing--a good little thing!// Like the not inconsiderable majority of men, James relished a nice little bit of scandal, and would say, in a matter-of-fact tone, licking his lips, "Yes, yes--she and young Dyson; they tell me they're living at Monte Carlo!" But the significance of an affair of this sort--of its past, its present, or its future--had never struck him. What it meant, what torture and raptures had gone to its construction, what slow, overmastering fate had lurked within the facts, very naked, sometimes sordid, but generally spicy, presented to his gaze. He was not in the habit of blaming, praising, drawing deductions, or generalizing at all about such things; he simply listened rather greedily, and repeated what he was told, finding considerable benefit from the practice, as from the consumption of a sherryand bitters before a meal.// Now, however, that such a thing--or rather the rumour, the breath of it--had never come near him personally, he felt as in a fog, which filled his mouth full of a bad, thick flavour, and made it difficult to draw breath.// A scandal! A possible scandal!// To repeat this word to himself thus was the only way in which he could focus or make it thinkable. He had forgotten the sensations necessary for understanding the progress, fate, or meaning of any such business; he simply could no longer grasp the possibilities of people running any risk for the sake of passion.// Amongst all those persons of his aquaintance, who went into the City day after day and did their business there, whatever it was, and in their leisure moments bought shares, and houses, and ate dinners, and played games, as he was told, it would have seemed to him ridiculous to suppose that there were any who would run risks for the sake of anything so recondite, so figurative, as passion.// Passion! He seemed, indeed, to have heard of it, and rules such as "A young man and young woman ought never to be trusted together" were fixed in his mind as the parallels of latitude are fixed of a map (for all Forsytes, when it comes to "bed-rock" matters of fact, have quite a fine taste in realism); but as to anything else--well, he could only appreciate it all through the catch-word "scandal."// Ah! but there was no truth in it--could not be. He was not afraid; she was really a good little thing. But there it was when you got a thing like that really into your mind. And James was of a nervous temperament--one of those men whom things will not leave alone, who suffer tortures from anticipation and indecision. For fear of letting something slip that he might otherwise secure, he was physically unable to make up his mind until absolutely certain that, by not making it up, he would suffer loss.// In life, however, there were many occasions when the business of making up his mind did not even rest with himself, and this was one of them. (book I: the man of property: part II: chapter IV: james goes to see for himself)
Nothing in the world is more sure to upset a Forsyte than the discovery that something on which he has stipulated to spend a certain sum has cost more. And this is reasonable, for upon the accuracy of his estimates the whole policy of his life is ordered. If he cannot rely on definite values of property, his compass is amiss; he is adrift upon bitter waters without a helm. (book I: the man of property: part II: chapter XIII: perfection of the house)
For all men of great age, even for all Forsytes, life has had bitter experiences. The passer-by, who sees them wrapped in cloaks of custom, wealth, and comfort, would never suspect that such black shadows had fallen on their roads. (book I: the man of property: part III: chapter VIII: bosinney's departure)
When a man is very old and quite out of the running, he loves to feel secure from the rivalries of youth, for he would still be first in the heart of beauty. (indian summer of a forsyte: I)
Last words
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Disambiguation notice
The Forsyte Saga, Volumes 1 to 3 - The Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let - and two interludes - Indian Summer of a Forsyte and Awakening
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0192838628, Paperback)

The three novels which make up The Forsyte Saga chronicle the ebbing social power of the commercial upper-middle class Forsyte family between 1886 and 1920. Galsworthy's masterly narrative examines not only their fortunes but also the wider developments within society, particularly the changing position of women. This is the only critical edition of the work available, with Notes that explain contemporary artistic and literary allusions and define the slang of the time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:04:51 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

The three novels which make up The Forsyte Saga chronicle the ebbing social power of the commercial upper-middle class Forsyte family between 1886 and 1920. This, the only critical edition of Galsworthy's popular masterpiece, contains detailed notes which are vital to the saga, explaining particularly the contemporary artistic and literary allusions, and slang of the time.… (more)

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