David Lentz's Reviews > The Forsyte Saga

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy
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Jun 21, 11


The writing evident in this epic is masterful and engaging: it is even and substantive and elegant. The rich irony about the lengths that men strive to acquire property in all its forms and then find their acquisitions useless, meaningless and certainly not worth the price. Galworthy was focused upon property in so many different varieties: the sense of possession that men had of their wives in his time amid archaic laws about divorce; the building of a home that ends in unexpected expense in chancery; the elusive value of works of art; the subtleties of property from family crests, clubs, colleges and occupational status and cuts of mutton to the blatant futility of fighting over land in South Africa during the Boer War -- it's all shallow and empty materialism in the end. The property is never worth the cost of the trouble to acquire it. Young people slave to gather possessions only to regret in old age that they have traded so much of life away to gain them and must undergo the painful rigors of its redistribution through wills after death. Galsworthy seemed to me like a sort of British Tolstoy writing in England for property reform. Because when property is involved, men tend to objectify about it and in the course of things they tend to lose their sense of humanity. This troublesome pattern of life seems to repeat itself often like a lesson men never learn -- as the objectifying I-It relationship of Martin Buber replaces the humane I-Thou. Yes, it's a long novel but when the writing is this compelling in its style and substance, you can luxuriate in the beauty and wisdom of the words. Every character is finely and individually drawn like a character in a Velasquez portrait of a large family. You may regret that this edition isn't longer when it ends but fortunately there is more of his work in which to indulge. Galsworthy's work earned him a Nobel Prize -- it's easy to see the astonishing depth and range and virtuosity that the Nobel judges found in his writing. Don't pass up the chance to bask in this epic saga of Galsworthy. It's easily one of the top ten novels ever written in the English language -- it's really that good.
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