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John Galsworthy

Sometime Mike had a sub-forum called "have you read" but I can't find it, so will just put this here.

How many of you have read Galsworthy and specifically The Forsyte Saga?  Still one of the most memorable drama series on television, I think.  

But I am thinking of the books.  The other day I was talking to someone with rather similar taste to mine in reading, and she said she had read The Forsyte Saga recently. or at least Man of Property.  She said it was the sort of book you just had to keep reading and was wonderful in its ability to humanise people who the reader might expect to have no sympathy with.  The main character like this was Soames, a man who can in his frustration rape his wife, and yet a character that the reader still feels empathy with.  Galsworthy allows the reader to get into the minds of his characters and understand them.

I remember reading Man of Property when I was 17 - it is one of only two books that I recall reading long into the night to finish.  I was in a hostel but in my own room by that stage, and I just kept reading till 5am, it was so riveting.

Have any of you read this?  And were you as favourably impressed as I and my friend were?  

Cheers, Caro.

Caro, I havenít read it yet, but The Forsyte Saga is on my TBR.


Sorry I can't help out on this one as I haven't read any Galsworthy, but he was a much respected at a time when there were many very fine novelists around, and I can't help feeling that The Forsyte Saga would be well worth reading. the "saga" itself consists of three novels - The Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let, and the threads are taken up again in a further trilogy Galsworthy called A Modern Comedy (Penguin publish this second trilogy under the title The Forsyte Saga, Volume 2). The second trilogy consists of The White Monkey, The Silver Spoon, and Swan Song.

Galsworthy wrote another trilogy of novels based on the Cherrills, who are, apparently, cousins of the Forsytes. Thse novels are Maid in Waiting, Flowering Wilderness and Over the River. Penguin publish these three in a single volume entitled - yes, you've guessed it - The Forsyte Saga, Volume 3.

If you get round to any of these, do please let us know what you thought of them. I'd be quite keen to read at least the first of these trilogies.

I've read the second trilogy - The Modern Comedy - but not the first. I was a bit underwhelmed by it to be honest. It seemed oddly sketchy and vague, with a sense of "everything up in the air", though I couldn't quite put my finger on what caused this impression.

I was a reading a fair bit of 1920s stuff at the time, and it struck me how much more definite and vivid books like Vile Bodies and Mrs Dalloway were by comparison (to be fair, I suppose Galsworthy was roughly a generation older than Waugh and Woolf).

I don't know if there is a problem with posts, but the reply I put on earlier hasn't yet appeared. I have read all three trilogies, and, apart from a few reservations, I enjoyed them. If my earlier post doesn't appear, I will give a fuller response tomorrow.

OK - so the witty and perceptive piece (as good a critique of Galsworthy as you will ever come across!) has disappeared into the ether. Sorry, but you will now just have to content yourselves with this evening's much more pedestrian version. What a treat the earlier offering would have been...

I did read right through the whole series about three or four years ago, having bought a boxed set from 'The Book People'. Galsworthy became my comfort reading over an entire six-month period. Looked on as comfort reading, it certainly hit the spot: a bit like endless bowls of porridge with copious amounts of Golden Syrup (apologies for the desecration to Himadri and any other Scots), providing lots a nourishment but also a certain amount of guilt allied to the high sugar content.

There are three sets of trilogies, the first two forming the main Forsyte story and the third being the story of some Forsyte cousins, the Cherrells.
The opening set covers the fortunes of the Forsyte clan in the period from the end of the 19th century until the period immediately before World War 1, and the story is probably fairly familiar from the two major TV adaptations that have been screened. The first volume, 'The Man of Property', sets the scene, with the marriage of Soames Forsyte to Irene, and the story continues, in 'In Chancery' and 'To Let'. He is entranced by her beauty and culture, she feels under pressure to marry for money. Irene become one of Soame's properties, the other being the mansion he plans to build for her. Sadly, Irene falls in love with the architect engaged in this project and seeks to detach herself from a marriage that has always been loveless on her side. This situation leads to the famous episode of the marital rape, something which must have been controversial in its day.

The second set of novels. 'The White Monkey', 'The Silver Spoon' and 'Swan Song', continues the story with the next generation of Forsytes, most notably Soames' daughter (from his second marriage), Fleur. The period covered extends from the aftermath of the First World War through the Great Depression and the General Strike and gives some attention to the sufferings of those members of society not protected by the material comforts of the Forsytes.

The third trilogy, consisting of 'Maid in Waiting', 'Flowering Wilderness' and 'Over the River', deals with a slightly different world to the of the Forsytes. The Cherralls are cousins, but from a slightly elevated stratum of society, being landed gentry, with a spinkling of bishops and senior military men. Galsworthy is a great pains initially to tell us that their family name is Charwell, pronounced Cherrell, but ever after refers to them as Cherrell, which seems slightly odd. Possibly this lack of attention to detail may be linked to Galsworthy's declining health: he died in 1933, shortly after these three novels were published, suffering from senile dementia.

In many ways, I found the final three novels more intriguing than the more familiar Forsyte series. The moral compass seems further removed from my own than that of the earlier books. Just as an example, one character, a scion of the Cherrell clan, has been captured by bandits in Darfur and forcibly converted to Islam. I think most of us today would not feel too shocked if a friend who had had a terrorist gun pointed at his head had made this decision, and might be very admiring of them if, on their return home, they tried to live up to the requirements of their enforced conversion. Not so in this case: a conversion on principle would have been fine, it was almost what was expected of eccentric Englishmen abroad, but saving your skin in these circumstances put you right beyond the pale, since it might give Johnny Foreigner the idea that the jolly old stiff upper lip might tremble now and again.

Galsworthy writes well, and presents interesting characters involved in situations which still have meaning a century or so later. He is rather more radical than his present reputation might suggest, certainly not always presenting the establishment point of view. As for the TV adaptations, the earlier BBC one was, I thought, excellent, but I found the more recent ITV to be so poorly cast that I only managed to watch one episode.

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