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God Is an Englishman (Swann Saga, #1)
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God Is an Englishman (The Swann Saga #1)

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,736 ratings  ·  131 reviews
This bestselling novel set in the ruthless world of Victorian commerce follows the fortunes of Adam Swann, a scion of an Army family and veteran of campaigns in the Crimea and in India, in his quest to found his own financial dynasty. His struggle to succeed and his conquest of Henrietta, the spirited daughter of a rich manufacturer, drive a richly woven tale that takes th ...more
Paperback, 695 pages
Published January 9th 2006 by Da Capo Press (first published January 1970)
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Pride and Prejudice by Jane AustenLittle Women by Louisa May AlcottJane Eyre by Charlotte BrontëSense and Sensibility by Jane AustenEmma by Jane Austen
Novels of Domestic Life
62nd out of 335 books — 77 voters
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Novels about Business People
9th out of 71 books — 22 voters

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Community Reviews

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Apr 06, 2013 Laura rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 3Ms, Kim, Jeannette and Misfit
Recommended to Laura by: Hayes
Just arrived from USA through BM.

This is the first volume of the Swann Family Saga series in the period of 1857 to 1866.

After returning from the wars in the Crimea and India, Adam Swann decided to leave the army and started his own business - "Swann-on-Wheels". The company's name was suggested by Henrietta Rawlinson, daughter of a local mill owner, who will become his beloved wife.

Their life will change drastically after a train crash. By coincidence or not, the Swann's family just met the famou
God is an Englishman is historical fiction written in the 1970s about the Victorian era. I’ve always had a soft spot for this era, and only turned to historical fiction once I grew tired of re-reading my favorite classics of the period. Finally, I've found something that satisfies what I’ve been searching for ever since, something that goes beyond an individual or two who happen to be living in a Victorian setting.

This is different. It takes account of the sweeping social and economic turmoil o
This is the first of a Saga and I am already looking forward to reading the next one. The story surrounds Adam Swann, a former Army Officer in the East India Company (mercenaries). He has become disillusioned with the colonial military life and the exploitation of weaker rulers. The military has been a family tradition for multiple generations. He returns to England with a string of rubies that literally befall him in battle. The rubies provide the reassurance of capital.
The story moves on to hi
Vicki Seldon
I loved this book on so many levels. I will be writing a more detailed review later but if you love family sagas, if you love English novels, if you just like a good "read read" peopled with multi-faceted characters, this is the book for you! I had heard of Delderfield but that's all and I don not know why he is not better-known or read on both sides of the pond!
Reagan Ramsey
i feel like i uncovered a gem in this book--i get the sense it was the 1970s equivalent of the da vinci code (without all the quasi spiritual nonsense of course). though it got a bit tedious in parts, overall it was very engaging and fun to read.

it follows Adam Swann and his inimitable wife, Henrietta, starting from their (a little too) serendipitous meeting to their joint management of business, home and family. in parts it functioned like a leadership book, in that it teaches how to empower an
It took me time to get into the book but once I did, I really enjoyed it. Good historical fiction with likeable characters and a great plot. Just sometimes too many details and explanations could have been edited. I like a long book, but over 700 pages is a bit too long.
I will certainly read the sequel, even though it's just as long.
I was not sure what to expect of this book, but when I received it and saw how large it was, I was certainly surprised. I was further surprised by how engrossing a book it actually was. Giving a plot outline really doesn't convey how good of a book this is, but I'll go ahead and try anyway.
God Is an Englishman tells the story of Adam Swann and his rise to prominence in London in the 1860's. His story begins when he makes the decision to end his career as a soldier and begin his life as a busines
It is a generalization to be sure, but today's literary novelists work with a much smaller scope than those of the past. The books are generally shorter, with a focus on fewer characters and on a less complex story. There are great exceptions, like Chabon's Kavalier and Klay, but overall, the focus is more on the intense examination of character.

The big writers of the 19th century, from Melville to Trollope to Tolstoy wrote giant novels with epic lists of characters and stories long enough to su
Rebecca Huston
I had read this one decades ago, but once I had discovered that it had been reprinted, and it was affordable on the Nook, I went for it. Happily this one turned out to be very enjoyable, and full of the sort of things that I like in a historical novel -- lots of detail, interesting people and an engaging story. Those who like their family sagas to be big and meaty, this would be a good fit. Four stars overall, and happily recommended.

For the longer review, please go here:
Jana Ulrich
Great historical novel about choices that we all still must make about where to go from where life lands us, how best to use our talent and experience to grow, what role we will assign our ethics and how we will allow those personal values to mark the other choices we make. The novel follows an ex-soldier and veteran of the Crimea and the mutiny in India as he chooses his future and those who will play a role in it. We learn, along the way, a whole lot about English geography (I had to keep a ma ...more
Shamefully, I couldn't get past about 350 pages. It was laborious for me to read this, even though my friend kept telling me,"the ending is so good!"
Seriously, I rarely discard a book before I have finished it. I felt I was generous with all the time it took for me to read half of the book. It was so verbose, I just got itchy with frustration.
I really began to enjoy this historical novel after the first 400 pages, but it really was worth the effort, even if it took me nearly a month to finish! An interesting story, very well written, wonderful characters and a period that is fascinating (1860s). Just a bit too much detail about the workings of the haulage firm.
Hans Doreleyers
Entertaining novel about England in the start of the Industrial Revolution

Delderfield contrasts England's rail with the traditional horse wagon method of transporting goods and people. He does this by following entrepreneur Adam Swan as he builds an empire of wagons which transport goods across the entire United Kingdom. As usual, his development of the main characters in the story is sublime, showing their weaknesses and strengths, and how human endurance and perseverance c a n conquer all. His
A rollickin' good time: proper British brain candy, a la the Forsythe Saga.
I liked all of the info about England in the throes of the early of the Industrial Age, specifically the impact of the railroad on society and commerce. (Although, the minute details of the haulage lines got a little tiresome.) Adam is a "new man" for the age, comparmentalizing his wartime experiences and turning his back on Swann family tradition by becoming --GASP!--a tradesman. But the twist is, he has a social conscie
I love long multi-generational novels. This was a little too detailed in the main character's business - which I hope will be remedied in the 2 sequels.
See my review of To Serve Them All My Days. Same rule applies. An enjoyable tale of making good and raising a family, with many side stories. Read twice over a 30 year span. Jacket blurbs liken the author to Galsworthy and I think Bennett. IMO he does not aspire to write as well as either nor to plumb character as deeply. Fun to read if you like success stories set in the English countryside. There are two sequels that I think fall off a little. If you really like this one, try them also.
Andrew Hoffman
Historical fiction, 1860's English story of a soldier who quits the military to start a hauling business during the second industrial revolution, just as trains are taking over. It is a remarkably told tale of family, entrepreneurship, character and meeting life's challenges. More subtle than other similar books I've read, I did not find it to be a "page turner" except in a few passages. But the story was compelling enough to lodge itself into my imagination and haunt my daily contemplations of ...more
I can't actually say why I had never read this book. I was 'aware' of it of course and for some reason I was always off put by it. Not sure what I thought it was about....but I was most assuredly wrong. I picked it up on a 'Daily Deal' at Amazon for next to nothing and when I found myself between books decided to give it a go. Quite a surprise it proved to be. An 'historical fiction' selection dealing with a period I enjoy reading about, a family/generational type story that I also am fond of, i ...more
I’m not sure how I ended up with a copy of God Is An Englishman on my Kindle...I’d never heard of the book or the author, R.F. Delderfield. God Is An Englishman is the first in a trilogy and was published in 1970. The second book in the trilogy, Theirs was the Kingdom, was published the year of the author’s death, in 1972 and the final book, Give Us This Day, was published after his death, in 1973.

God Is An Englishman is set in 19th Century England during the Industrial Revolution. The world is
What a brilliant writer, and I had no idea "Carry On" was based on one of his books. Therefore I could not stop with "God is an Englishman" I have just ordered the other two books in the SAGA.

Young Veteran returns from India, disillusioned with military life and the war in India. However, during his last battle, lady luck bestows a gift, a small fortune on him. The Veteran determines to no more waring, resigns his commission and goes into trade. However, he sees "good" in people, and he himself
Joyce Lagow
Set in mid-19th century England, as the Industrial Revolution has taken firm hold. Adam Swann, following family tradition, is a former soldier, an officer in the East India Company’s army. Disillusioned with Army life after the Crimea and the Sepoy rebellion, he resigns his commission, returning to England in possession of a necklace he accidentally recovered from the battle at Jhansi; he is determined to make a career in commerce, with the necklace providing his starting capital. A fortunate en ...more
Another reviewer (maybe here on Goodreads?) writes that there was a time in the 1970s when you couldn't get on a New York City subway car without seeing someone reading "God Is an Englishman." I'm trying to figure out why R.F. Delderfield has vanished so completely from popular consciousness since then. Great characters, strong plots, vivid writing: Why are his works considered "genre" period fiction instead of classics?

I'm thinking it might have to do with psychology. I loved Delderfield's char
Loved this one!! I am so grateful to my Classics Bookclub for forcing me to read it. Set in the mid 1800's (Donna recommended the book due to we are reading Dickens this year, and the book centers on his era and reform), God Is An Englishman is the story of Adam Swann, an army officer fresh off the boat from India, who is ready to make his mark in trade. Since industry is booming, he has to discover what need isn't being met for the public, and how he can best fulfill it. I enjoyed that this nov ...more
I picked up the sequel (Theirs Was The Kingdom) as an inexpensive read for my Nook, being fond of English literature in general, but quickly realized that I had read this one, the first in the saga, back in high school or college as I remembered the characters. So I hunted this down to read it again and have not been disappointed. The author has a knack for making his characters interesting and relating them to the times in which they live which is unparalleled, IMO, to most any author you might ...more
Laurie Riley
Loving this so far. Also outside of my self-prescribed reading time period but I'm liking it. One reviewer has compared this book, which is the first of a series of three, to Thackery and Dickens. I'd say Thackery, yes. Dickens, not quite so much. But it's a great and interesting story about an English, mid-Victorian era entrepreneur. Since I'm going ot England in about 2 weeks, I'm trying to keep up with the back and forth throughout the countryside.

I had to pick this book up as well as its two
Karen Richards
The language of this book was excellent (which I'm guessing is why it was suggested to me.) And that's really the best thing I can say about reading this book. It was all about the wagon industry in 18th century England. I really liked the characters in it, but I wish it focused more on developing them instead of the business.
Some parts were fascinating but it went wayyy too long and bogged down in detail. I didn't want to start a delivery company but if you do, this is a "how-to". The writer's pretty liberal, I'm not sure English folk thought like that back in the day concerning mixed marriages, etc. Overall, a good read, but just too long.
Wendy Roberts
So named because it takes place in Victorian England, just as England is solidifying its vast empire and at the peak of the industrial revolution.
Characters well realized. Dislike his dialogue...always feels contrived in order to make a larger point. Interesting timeframe...probably will read next in series.
I'm actually RE-reading this book - read it the first time in the mid-1980's, when it really helped me in an unexpected way. I just thought I would be able to enjoy one of those rich multi-volume family novels but this was much more. It gave me insight into my father (who began his own business when I was a child) and eventually my husband (who took over the business in the late 1980's) and the power struggle that inevitably resulted, even though my husband was the heir-of-choice. (Although I mu ...more
Read this years ago, enjoyed this and the rest of the series and whenever I am asked what I would recommend as a great novel. Delderfield springs to mind. Such evocative stories of an era that was changing at a rapid pace. Fantastic.
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Ronald Frederick Delderfield (12 February 1912 – 24 June 1972) was a popular English novelist and dramatist, many of whose works have been adapted for television and are still widely read.

Several of Delderfield's historical novels and series involve young men who return from war and lead lives in England that allow the author to portray the sweep of English history and delve deeply into social his
More about R.F. Delderfield...

Other Books in the Series

The Swann Saga (3 books)
  • Theirs Was the Kingdom (Swann Saga, #2)
  • Give Us This Day (Swann Saga, #3)
To Serve Them All My Days Theirs Was the Kingdom (Swann Saga, #2) Give Us This Day (Swann Saga, #3) The Green Gauntlet Long Summer Day

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