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John Galsworthy, a Nobel Prize-winning author, chronicles the ebbing social power of the commercial upper-middle-class Forsyte family through three generations, beginning in Victorian London during the 1880s and ending in the early 1920s.

872 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1922

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About the author

John Galsworthy

1,447 books403 followers
Literary career of English novelist and playwright John Galsworthy, who used John Sinjohn as a pseudonym, spanned the Victorian, Edwardian and Georgian eras.

In addition to his prolific literary status, Galsworthy was also a renowned social activist. He was an outspoken advocate for the women's suffrage movement, prison reform and animal rights. Galsworthy was the president of PEN, an organization that sought to promote international cooperation through literature.

John Galsworthy was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1932 "for his distinguished art of narration which takes its highest form in The Forsyte Saga."

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 960 reviews
April 12, 2023
The first time I read this book I was going up the Amazon. I had just crossed the Atlantic with three friends on a yacht and got off in Fortaleza, Brazil. I thought this would be my one and only chance to see the Amazon so I stuffed a backpack full of the necesssaries, abandoned the rest and got a bus to Belem at the mouth of the Amazon.

A month later having explored Belem, Santarem and a few other small places I found myself in Manaus, 1,000 miles up the Amazon. It took me a few weeks to sort out a guide I could afford as I didn't want to join a tourist party and although previously my travels had been on my own, I wanted to leave the towns, the river boats, roads and really penetrate the jungle and obviously I couldn't do that on my own. I was lucky enough to find an Indian who had been a tour guide but was now returning to his village on a lake several hundred miles away. He spoke English, Portuguese and Xingu and was happy, for a smallish fee, to take me along.

And this is where the Forsyte Saga comes in. Travelling by small boat, bus, river boats and sometimes walking miles to reach another place on the red laterite road to get to another tributary and another boat, several days later we reached the village. During that journey there had been long periods of just waiting while trees were chopped down to bypass huge potholes - ones big enough to have 6' Victoria Regina water lilies floating in them - and I read the only book I brought, the 800+ page Forsyte Saga. Despite it being a big book, it wasn't really heavy as the pages were tissue thin. Which was good, because as I read them I ripped them out and used them. Tissue indeed!

Later in the village, which was floating houses and ones built on stilts, about 40 altogether, spread out around a lake that took a motorboat over two hours to go around, I was shown the local variant of toilet tissue. It was a largish, quite thick leaf whose furriness made it very soft and when crushed it released a very soothing, slightly scented liquid, a natural body lotion. I did learn the name in Xingu but never in English. I wish I could remember what it was because it was so much nicer than any toilet tissue I have ever used and I would grow it in pots in the bathroom.

So 5-stars to the Forsyte Saga for a brilliant story and being so damn useful in a time of great need.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.6k followers
May 18, 2022
The Forsyte Saga (The Forsyte Chronicles #1-3), John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga, first published under that title in 1922, is a series of three novels and two interludes published between 1906 and 1921 by Nobel Prize–winning British author John Galsworthy.

They chronicle the vicissitudes of the leading members of a large commercial upper-middle-class English family, similar to Galsworthy's own. Only a few generations removed from their farmer ancestors, the family members are keenly aware of their status as "new money".

The main character, Soames Forsyte, sees himself as a "man of property" by virtue of his ability to accumulate material possessions – but this does not succeed in bringing him pleasure.

The Forsyte saga, John Galsworthy. ‏‫‬‭Leipzig‏‫‬‭: Bernhard Tauchnitz‏‫‬‭, 1938 ‏‫‬‭= 1317.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و چهارم ماه آوریل سال1975میلادی

عنوان: داستانهای خانواده فورسایت؛ نویسنده: جان گالزورثی؛ موضوع داستانهای نویسندگان بریتانیا - سده20م

نویسنده زندگی سه نسل از یک خانواده ‌ی پرتوان «ویکتوریایی» را به تصویر می‌کشند؛ خانواده‌ ای که در ظاهر، قوی و متکبر بوده، و اعتماد به نفس بالایی دارند ولی در زیر این سطح ظاهری، از هسته‌ ای بدخیم، از روابط ناشاد و بی‌رحمانه، که سرشار از تنش و حسادت است، رنج می‌برند؛ فورسایت‌ها قبیله‌ای هستند که به تازگی به ثروت و موفقیت در حرفه و دنیای تجارت رسیده و مشتاقانه به دنبال افزایش ثروت هستند؛ در این رمان نشان داده می‌شود که این تمایل به لحاظ اخلاقی اشتباه است و با بخش‌های پر جوش و خروشی که در آن توصیف شخصیت‌ها و پیشینه آن‌ها آمده، در حال مقابله با ثروت است؛ «جان گالزورثی» برای آفرینش این شاهکار ادبی موفق به دریافت «جایزه نوبل ادبیات در سال1932میلادی» شدند

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 08/04/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 27/02/1401هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.).
483 reviews296 followers
April 28, 2010
This is a titanic masterpiece of a multi-generational story of a fictional English family that spans the Victorian, Edwardian, and post-World War I eras. For the first one-hundred pages or so, I found myself having to frequently refer to the Forsyte family genealogical chart; however, by the end of the book I knew all of the characters and their place in the family intimately. Like all families, Galsworthy has created a world of very real and human characters in the Forsyte family; a family bound as much by their name, and at times even their dysfunction. Many of the novel's characters exhibit the full range of emotion and feeling, including: love, greed, hatred, passion, jealousy, lust, truth, honesty, betrayal, and so forth; it is all there within this family - The Forsytes. Once started, I could not put this book down easily; it is that compelling. I fully understand why John Galsworthy was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1932. For those who love novels of and about England, The Forsyte Saga is a must read.
Profile Image for Antigone.
500 reviews741 followers
April 28, 2016
Galsworthy's classic is probably best approached in mid-life, when the truth begins to dawn that an Age, like Keats' joy, is only really sighted as it's waving good-bye. When youth is something we begin to refer to as an attribute we once possessed. When loss begins to carry as much outraging weight as the pursuit of an aim, or a dream, or a station. There is a quality of consciousness we enter into as we mature that is informed by resignation and grief, and it is this perspective to which Galsworthy's tale will resonate. His issues are safety and fortification, ownership and identification, the remorseless march of Time and the amorphous nature of achievement. That life is what one makes of it and can be nothing more is not, I think, a view that can be fully appreciated by those who are new to the struggle with acceptance. All this to say The Forsyte Saga will prove a passable book to one who has yet to encounter his first grey hair. And to one who has stumbled across a few? May prove to be a good deal more.

Composed as a trilogy connected by two short stories, the saga of the Forsyte family is a lengthy work taking place in Britain at the tail end of the Victorian Age. Central as a tent post here is the character of Soames Forsyte, a man of property, whose restricted vision of life imbues him with the rock-hard stability his extended family requires to keep their affairs in order. Such resolute capitalistic practicality will not, however, assist him in understanding his distant and devastatingly beautiful wife, Irene. Her restlessness in their union is becoming so pronounced that he's decided to build her a magnificent house, conveniently located far from town, where she may, like his artwork, be more privately and fittingly displayed. This works out about as well as one imagines it might, and produces the conflict in which Galsworthy's larger themes are ground.

The first hundred pages are a slog; there's no way around that. But the story blossoms in both drama and depth as the stakes mount and reputations writhe. There's none of Austen's light touch here, or Woolf's magnetic stream-of-consciousness. This is a traditional voice cached in a traditional structure...and thoroughly appropriate for its fin de siècle explorations, to my eye. If you've got a little time, and perhaps more than a little existential fatigue, here's a solid choice of treatment.

Profile Image for Jola.
180 reviews248 followers
May 3, 2020
THE FORSYTES REVISITED
OR
SIPPING CHICKEN SOUP AND SMELLING WARM STRAWBERRIES


Rereading the book which you once loved, might be risky. On the one hand, you may repeat a delightful experience. On the other hand, the colours of butterflies, that you felt in your stomach years ago, might have faded away.

I was aware of this jeopardy when I decided to reread ‘The Forsyte Saga‘ by John Galsworthy. Because of the pandemic, I was yearning for something already tested, something which will let me forget about reality. The thing I needed was a total immersion into a fictional word.

I read ‘The Forsyte Saga‘ for the first time many years ago, when I was 15 to be exact. It was a revelation. I remember my best friend Ania asked me for a book recommendation and without hesitation, I advised her to read the book by Galsworthy which I had just finished. Unfortunately, this recommendation turned out to be a complete failure: Ania hated the book. She found it annoyingly boring. Beware of that if I ever start persuading you to read anything. 😊

The Forsyte Family tree
The Forsyte family tree.

What has changed in my reaction to this novel over the years? The most striking difference is the way I see the characters.

In the past, I perceived Soames as a monster and Irene as a harmed victim. Now I don’t see them in black and white only anymore. Soames is a repelling character indeed but I felt a glimpse of empathy this time. And although Galsworthy compares Irene to an angel and seems to have a crush on her himself, I had some slight reservations this time.

Another difference, the most obvious one: the language. It was the first time I read this novel in English. The Polish translation was lovely but this time I had a closer connection with Galsworthy’s prose.

The ‘Forsyte Saga‘ is a soothingly traditional novel – I didn’t feel apt for literary experiments this time - but one thing struck me: the original way Galsworthy depicts the relationship between Bosinney and Irene. They are never alone, even when they think there’s nobody watching them, they are being observed. We gather the information about them from details scattered all over the story, from observations made by other characters. Nevertheless, it’s one of the subtlest love stories I have ever read.

The way Galsworthy portrays the world already gone is moving. He doesn’t pay attention to details as intensely as Zola but the way he depicts the fleeting spirit of the past is beautiful. I loved the lyrical parts, spiced with melancholy and enlighted with a spark of irony.

Galsworthy’s comments about art are remarkable. He must have been a connoisseur. So many traces to follow! For example, it was intriguing to look up the works of art he mentions describing Irene, and to compare them with my impressions.

Titian’s ‘Heavenly Love’
Titian’s ‘Heavenly Love’, detail.

’In shape and colouring, in its soft persuasive passivity, its sensuous purity, this woman’s face reminded him of Titian’s ‘Heavenly Love’, a reproduction of which hung over the sideboard in his dining-room.’ I love this passage, although my mental image of Irene is a bit different from Titian's painting. But it’s nothing compared to the shock I felt when I saw Irene in photos from the TV series 'The Forsyte Saga' (2002-2003).

'The Forsyte Saga'

I wonder why Galsworthy’s frequent descriptions of Irene’s divine golden hair, contrasting with her dark eyes, were completely ignored. With all due respect, Gina McKee looks like an antithesis of Irene.

Another thing I adore in this saga is the way Galsworthy depicts nature and if I had to pinpoint the things I enjoyed the most, this would be on top of the list. Some of these descriptions stayed within me for years. All senses of the reader are involved, smell included: we even dreamily sniff ‘air mysteriously scented with warm strawberries’.

And last, but not least: London. I think Galsworthy painted with words one of the most impressive literary portraits of the city. I enjoyed these passages a lot and wished there were even more. If I ever travel to London again, a pilgrimage following the 'Forsyte trail' is a must. As Galsworthy gives even the exact addresses, it’s going to be easy.

London, Piccadilly Circus, c.1900.
London, Piccadilly Circus, c.1900.

My complaints are just a few: some characters definitely deserved more attention from the author than they actually received - but then we would have a two thousand pages long monstrosity of a novel. For instance, I wish the portraits of a picturesque throng of Soames’ elderly aunts were more profound. I loved the way Galsworthy presented unforgettable Juley but the others kept in the shadow. Besides, I struggled with the beginning of the third volume. I found this part of the saga weaker, irritating at times, and was even considering quitting but I'm glad I finished. Generally speaking, the first volume, in my opinion, was the most enthralling. And the last grievance: I'm not a huge fan of coincidental meetings in novel plots and there were quite a few.

I used to reread a lot when I was a child. I tended to finish a book and then turn to the first page at once and start again from scratch. I think I revisited ‘Anne of the Green Gables‘ the most frequently. At present, with so many books waiting impatiently to be discovered and so little time, rereading is not my priority but hopefully, it will change. ‘The Forsyte Saga‘ is a strong argument for.

Anne Fadiman wrote in her foreword to ‘Rereadings‘: ’If a book read when young is a lover, that same book, reread later on, is a friend. […] This may sound like a demotion, but after all, it is old friends, not lovers, to whom you are most likely to turn when you need comfort. Fatigue, grief, and illness call for familiarity, not innovation. In bed with the flu, you do not say, “Hey, I’ve never tried Afghan food! Let’s order some takeout, and heavy on the turmeric!” You crave chicken soup.’ ‘The Forsyte Saga‘ was this kind of chicken soup for me. Maybe a bit lukewarm at times but pleasantly comforting. I’m longing for another helping already.
Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 410 books674 followers
May 9, 2013
Ako ste u prilici odgledajte novu verziju BBC-jeve serije snimljene po ovom romanu, pre nekoliko godina... sjajno je urađenja...
Profile Image for Werner.
Author 3 books579 followers
January 26, 2020
Note, Jan. 26, 2020: I just edited this review to insert an accidentally omitted word in one place.

As a kid growing up, my home town only could receive three TV stations (ABC, CBS, NBC). Our part of Iowa got a PBS station in 1968, and one of the first programs I was able to see on it was the BBC miniseries The Forsyte Saga (https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0061253/ ), starring Eric Porter and Nyree Dawn Porter, who had the same last name but weren't related. (I highly recommend that version, and not the wretched 2002-03 remake, of which I saw very little, but enough that I didn't want to see more.) Watching this inspired me, while it was still running, to read the hardcover omnibus edition published by Charles Scribner's Sons (with prefaces by the author and by his widow, Ada Galsworthy), which includes The Man of Property (1906), the bridging story "Indian Summer of a Forsyte," In Chancery (1920), the bridging story "Awakening," and To Let (1921). Though I didn't know it at the time, this was only part of the larger corpus of Galsworthy's Forsyte Chronicles, which included two more trilogies (I was surprised that the miniseries actually included the first of those, A Modern Comedy) and other material. He also wrote a lot of non-Forsyte-related short fiction and plays; but besides this trilogy, I've never read any more of his work except for his outstanding story "Quality."

This is a multi-generational (there are significant characters representing three generations) family saga, beginning in 1886 and continuing on to the years following World War I, focusing on the upper-middle class Forsyte family, fictional embodiments of the high-Victorian/Edwardian affluent, Galsworthy's own native milieu. (The inside of the front and back covers has a Forsyte family tree.) I'm currently reading a Jane Austen novel, and there are similarities and differences in their literary visions and approaches. Both write pretty much exclusively about their own moneyed class, with very little attention to servants or employees; both have written what could be called novels of manners, in a Realist mode, and both have a concern with domestic life, courtship and marriages (happy and otherwise). And neither have much use for the obsession with amassing and increasing property that too often was the ruling principle of life in their circles. But there are also differences, beyond the obvious ones occasioned by a significant gap of time between their writings, and by the differences in perspective between a male and a female writer (most obvious in that Galsworthy's major viewpoint characters, Soames and Young Jolyon, are male).

Galsworthy tends to be more critical of British upper-crust society and to view it as more monolithic and constraining. He also doesn't have Austen's strong moral and spiritual grounding, which isn't ostentatiously paraded in her novels but which quietly undergirds them. He was the product of a generation which had largely lost its religious faith (Young Jolyon's one awkward attempt at religious conversation with his young adult son is revealing) and replaced it mostly with a now-unrivaled open faith in money, which the author found wanting. Galsworthy's own faith is mostly in the refining influence of culture and art, and in romantic Love --but the latter often tends to be misinterpreted as sexual infatuation, and even in these novels, people tend to be hurt (and not only by confining social mores) as a result of other's fanatical service to that deity. His own life experiences also play an enormous part in shaping this trilogy. The enormous socio-cultural upheaval in England during the course of time covered in the novels, operating like a flood sweeping away the whole social and economic foundations of the Forsyte's entire social poition and way of life, is very much a theme here. But the author, as his preface and places in the text reveal, is a somewhat ambivalent chronicler of the changes; he's not sure they're tending to something unqualifiedly better, which gives the work a bittersweet quality.

The real strengths of the tale here lie in Galsworthy's enormous power to create very lifelike, well-realized and vibrant characters who command our interest, and to weave compelling stories about them. His style is finely crafted, intelligent and with a good vocabulary but not overly convoluted, and he can often write scenes with real emotional power. (In one place, one critic has commented that his "prose becomes almost too poignant to bear," and I agree!) He can also make highly effective use of symbolism. (I would fault him at one point for showing his medical ignorance --his day job was as a lawyer, not a physician-- to structure a supposed moral dilemma which had already been obviated by advancing medical techniques; but that's a quibble.) His career was crowned with the Nobel Prize for Literature; and on his showing here, I'd consider it deserved.
Profile Image for Abby.
203 reviews81 followers
September 14, 2013
“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.”

There you have it. Nine hundred pages of delicious soap opera wrapped around sly commentary on the acquisitiveness and striving of the British upper-middle classes around the turn of the twentieth century. The Forsytes aren't landed aristocracy like Lord Grantham of Downton Abbey. They're only a couple of generations removed from farmers. But they've been successful in trade, in publishing, at the bar, and they live in ongepotchket Victorian splendor, faithfully served by retainers and housemaids, in London and its environs.

Galsworthy was himself the product of a wealthy family and trained as a barrister before traveling abroad, meeting Joseph Conrad and envisioning a different life. He fell in love with the wife of his cousin, an army major, and married her after a ten-year affair and her eventual divorce. He was among the first writers to deal with social class in his work and to challenge the mores and ideals reinforced by the Victorian writers who preceded him. Notably, but not surprisingly given his personal life, he defied the standard view of women as property and defended their right to leave unhappy marriages.

“'I don't know what makes you think I have any influence,' said Jolyon; 'but if I have I'm bound to use it in the direction of what I think is her happiness. I am what they call a “feminist,” I believe...I'm against any woman living with any man whom she definitely dislikes. It appears to me rotten.'”

It is the unhappily married woman referred to here around whom much of The Forsyte Saga revolves. Irene (I-reen-ee), disastrously married to a “man of property,” is the antithesis of a Forsyte. She represents beauty and art and passion and free will. Before reluctantly marrying Soames Forsyte, she extracted a promise that he would let her go if it didn't work out. His failure to do so drives the story and a multi-generational family estrangement. While Galsworthy thoroughly develops the other primary characters, Irene is a beautiful cipher at the center of the novel. We never get her point of view; we see her through the eyes of others and can only infer her thoughts and feelings.

The Forsyte Saga features a huge cast of characters but the family tree that accompanies most editions is needed only at the beginning. To Galsworthy's credit, we quickly get to know the main characters and the chorus of peripheral relatives that swirl around them. There are births, deaths, betrayals, couplings, uncouplings, recouplings, and generational upheaval, all conveyed in deft, eminently readable prose, a short 900 pages. This is a sumptuous wallow of a book with redeeming social value.

Profile Image for Siria.
1,796 reviews1,308 followers
June 5, 2007
The Man of Property

The Man of Property is the first book in what would eventually turn out to be the nine volume Forsyte Saga, the work for which Galsworthy is chiefly remembered. It was made into a TV series not so long ago, which is how I'd heard of it, but I hadn't read it until I picked it up to read in an airport recently in order to pass the time thanks to interminable flight delays. It really did quite nicely.

The writing is very much of its time - 1906 - and for those who are not used to late Victorian or early Edwardian prose, I think it could prove a little tough going at times. I grew up devouring books from that period, so as far as I was concerned, it was a very comfortable read. Galsworthy does veer a little towards what would be considered sentimentalism nowadays, but he avoids the overt mawkishness which now makes quite a substantial amount of the literature of that period nigh on unreadable - for me, at any rate.

The double focus of the book - on the Forsyte family, and on the marriage between Soames and Irene Forsyte - is interesting, and I think helps to reinforce what Galsworthy was trying to get at: the futility of acquiring money and material goods while neglecting the things which truly matter in life. The Forsyte family is drawn well, though at times it felt as if he was using too many examples for the reader to follow easily. The fact that there are ten Forsyte siblings, many of whom have children of their own, means that you really have to get the genealogy straight in your head before you can read on very far.

His depiction of the marriage of Soames and Irene was, I think, the most successful part of the novel. The levels of complexity he displays here are very impressive - both of them possess sympathetic qualities and repulsive ones. Despite Soames' rape of his wife, he shows such a complete inability to understand her, try as he might, that all my revulsion was mixed with pity; while Irene's state, though saddening, was tempered by her inability to break out of that wall of stone which seems to surround her personality.

There's really enough of a hook in this that I've got the next two volumes in the series lined up to read soon. If you've got any sort of interest in this period of history, I really would recommend these books.

In Chancery

Perhaps a little slower moving than the first book, and the plot moves in a way which is familiar and predictable in its Victorian-ness in a way which is very reassuring to me; especially since nineteenth century novels are my version of comfort reading. Although the resolution - Irene marrying young Jolyon; Soames marrying Annette - is obvious from very near the beginning of the novel, Galsworthy sketches out the movements of the novel with assurance and elegance. Thematically, the novel hangs well with the rest of the series, and is a wonderful sketch of a particular strata of English society around the turn of the last century.

To Let

I didn't like this one quite so much as the preceding two. Galsworthy follows the same formula as in the first two books - the tragedy of an unsuitable relationship, and how it can damage an entire family - with an added Romeo and Juliet style twist. However, I never really came to feel for Fleur and Jon the way I did for the characters of the preceding generations of Forsytes. Soames, Irene, and Young Jolyon still continued to be the characters I wanted to see more of. Still the same rambling, elegant Victorian-stye prose that I love, though.

I don't know if I would particularly recommend this as a book on its own; still, as a part of the series as a whole, its probably a good idea to read it, if only because it rounds out the characters' stories for you to a large extent.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews516 followers
November 23, 2019
Fin de siècle art of the first and finest magnitude; I am floored. I must gaze a while longer upon this blue 💎 diamond before I can try to give it justice by writing a thorough review.

So much comes out of this, including novel treatments of love, art, marriage and the English bourgeousie, as well as what was apparently then (pub. 1918, and set 1880 on) a feminist viewpoint: a woman is not subjugated to her husband upon marriage, he cannot thereafter "have her" whenever he wants.

Really, and unexpectedly, extraordinary.
Profile Image for nastya .
419 reviews258 followers
April 10, 2021
The star rating and review are for the first book - The man of property.

So this series is another blast from the past. I remember taking this 1000 pages book in my teenage years (in Russian translation) while going on vacation with my family for a week and devouring it in the first 5 days. And wanting to go back home where another 1000 page book (I suspect I’ve read 6 novels in the cycle) was waiting for me (yeah, thank Zeus for eReaders, my whole childhood was a constant dilemma of how many books to pack with me).

So I eagerly picked this book up for a reread. And was disappointed. This book had almost no plot outside of the love triangle (and don’t worry, I have a lot of thoughts about it) and the legal case of Soames vs Architect. And we’ve got glimpses of young Jolyon who’ll become much more important in later books if I’m not mistaken. That’s all. We have plenty of characters but they are not developed at all. The main ones are the sides of the triangle - Soames, his wife Irene and to a lesser extent the aforementioned architect. There’s also an architect's fiancée but she is in the background. Also we have started exploring the father-son relationship of Jolyons.

And my biggest problem is that the love triangle just doesn’t work. Now I will be harsh about Irene.
We’ve never seen Irene trying to be a kind wife. We’ve only seen her despising Soames.
He thinks of her as a property. But how is she better? She married him knowing she doesn’t love him and using him to escape her home situation. Then we found out about their agreement of him letting her go if marriage doesn’t work. But has she ever tried to make it work? I haven’t seen it.
And considering that she married him for money the agreement really sounds to me “ let me be your wife until I find someone better and who can support me and then let me go”. How it makes her better than Soames? She regards him as a loan in a bank until she gets on her feet.

And of course I couldn’t stop comparing this love triangle to Tolstoy’s. The triangle is very similar to Anna-Karenin-Vronskiy. And as much as I have problems with Leo, I thought his triangle was so much superior.
Because Tolstoy placed us in Anna's head, we saw her emotions, struggles with being a faithful wife and good mother, and falling in love. Galsworthy decided to place us in Soames’ head for whatever reason and make Irene a distant mysterious beautiful statue that never emotes. Until she is hysterical. So it makes it hard to connect and understand her.

And maybe Galsworthy understood that because in the eleventh hour this boring passive nonviolent man decided to rape his wife:

Had he been right to yield to his overmastering hunger of the night before, and break down the resistance which he had suffered now too long from this woman who was his lawful and solemnly constituted helpmate? He was strangely haunted by the recollection of her face, from before which, to soothe her, he had tried to pull her hands—of her terrible smothered sobbing, the like of which he had never heard, and still seemed to hear; and he was still haunted by the odd, intolerable feeling of remorse and shame he had felt, as he stood looking at her by the flame of the single candle, before silently slinking away.

They had roused in him a fierce jealousy, which, with the peculiar perversion of this instinct, had turned to fiercer desire. Without the incentive of Mrs. MacAnder's words he might never have done what he had done. Without their incentive and the accident of finding his wife's door for once unlocked, which had enabled him to steal upon her asleep.

It came out of left field and to me it was never more than a plot device to make Soames irredeemable and Irene sympathetic because that was the time she left him. It felt manipulative and heavy handed. And I really despise using rape as a plot device.

What I liked: the ending had some energy to it at last, although it was way too melodramatic. And the potential of the relationships of Old Jolyon and his son and granddaughter June. I wish we got more of their interactions.

Perhaps at one point I will continue with the story and change my opinion but for now sadly I did not like it very much.
Profile Image for Sara.
Author 1 book489 followers
April 8, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Laura.
6,872 reviews556 followers
May 17, 2012
What a splendid family saga written by John Galsworthy.

The book covers the period between 1886 and 1920 and tells the story of the Forsyte's and their struggle to have the most successful life at that time.

This volume is composed by three books: The Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let.

The first book describes the life of Soames Forsyte and his wife Irene. However, this marriage will have a lot of troublesome issues along the whole narrative. This will led to dramatic consequences for all Forsytes.

It's a pity that this big fat family saga ended even if this book has more than 700 pages.
Profile Image for  ~Geektastic~.
233 reviews150 followers
January 13, 2016

I found The Forsyte Saga on the shelf of my local library a couple of years ago and it has been a decided favorite of mine ever since. While “saga” is not the first word to come to mind when thinking about the British upper middle class in the later days of Victoria, it is apt. The story is a multigenerational examination of family and tradition in a time of transition, and it examines the various institutions and ideas that were under the most pressure to change as the British Empire declined from its former glory. As a microcosm of the English nouveau riche at the turn of the century, the Forsytes are affected by the great changes ushered in at that time: shifting attitudes about marriage, new concepts in art and literature, the breakdown of strict class distinctions, the impact of the first World War, and new ideas concerning the importance of ownership and acquisition, to name a few.

Starting at the end of my list, the Forsytes are nothing if not acquisitive; there is a reason the first of the three volumes is called “A Man of Property.” Ownership is a defining feature of the upper middle class, since it is their money and property rather than blood and birth that has established their niche in society. The Forsytes, though representative of their kind, are not homogeneous and there are dissenters within the ranks.

Old Jolyon, the patriarch of the clan, appears as stolid and respectable as any English gentleman behind his cloud of cigar smoke, but beneath the surface is a restlessness and love of beauty that is belied by his club dinners, calling cards and investments in the four-percents. His son is also called Jolyon (known as Young Jolyon or Jo) and he is a variation of his father, only stripped of his respectability and bared to the derision of the world after leaving his first wife for love and the life of an artist. The third generation of Old Jolyon’s direct line, his granddaughter June, is even further separated from the priorities of her grandfather’s generation. The contrast of the generations operates throughout the various branches of the family, from Old Jolyon’s brothers and sisters on down the line to their grandchildren, but it is definitely the Jolyon branch of the family that encouraged my interest and sympathy the most.

On the opposite side of the family is James, a bit of a sad-sack miser, and his son Soames. While Soames is set up in contrast to the soft-hearted Jolyon and his side of the family, he still manages to attract a sympathetic glance from time to time, if only because he seems to be blind to the fact that owning something does not preclude happiness. Unfortunately, it is Soames’ beautiful wife Irene that must be subjected to Soames’ most extreme quest to possess and causes him to act in ways that make him, in simpler terms than it deserves, the villain.

The spirit of conflict that threads its way through the three volumes is embodied by Irene. She is the wild beauty that sweeps through the ordered, somewhat stifled existence of the Forsytes and changes everything. Looking at Irene, it would not seem possible that she could be the tempest that uproots so many; she is quiet and reserved, rarely revealing what is roiling beneath her cool exterior. At first, I was tempted to dislike Irene as much as I disliked Soames, . But some things cannot be controlled, and love is first among them- something Galsworthy takes pains to show. According to Wikipedia, Galsworthy had an affair with a married woman, which contributed to his portrayal of Irene, who is both a representative of the new ideas emerging in the Edwardian era, and of Beauty with a capital “B,” which fascinates Old Jolyon and Jo as much as it does the obsessive Soames. Irene eventually wins her freedom from Soames, at great cost, but her effect on the family never truly dissipates, but rather becomes the foundation of further conflict in the next generation. The sins of the father are visited upon the son (or daughter, as the case may be).

The grand themes of social change and class consciousness are interesting in themselves, but it is the characters that make The Forsyte Saga live and breathe. The maiden Aunts that preside over the affairs of the family are funny and sad, as is the reclusive Timothy. Jo is the picture of the black sheep, with his notions of happiness for its own sake, in stark contrast to his family’s overall philosophy. His daughter June is enthusiatic and intractable in her pursuit of justice and equality, which manages to make her alternately admirable and frustrating. There are a host of other characters: Winifred and her good-for-nothing husband Dartie; Swithin, the determined bachelor; the romantic and tragic Bosinney; the younger generation of Forsytes, Holly and Jolly, who are made to rethink the world in the advent of WWI; the honorable but unfortunate Jon. My favorite, in all honesty, is Old Jolyon. Despite his initial rejection of his son’s life choices, he proves himself to have a big, warm heart and the ability to see past the surface concerns that interest his brothers and sisters so much.

The Forsyte Saga is a story of family, of love and loss, of change and the amazing ability for some things to stay the same. There are multiple love stories, some no more than brief entanglements, others that shake the foundation of the family (and even some intermarriage amongst the cousins). Galsworthy presents this family epic with a combination of laughter and compassion, and while it can be said that the Forsytes are representatives of a type, they are also fantastically idiosyncratic as individuals. The drama is tempered by the everyday actions of meals, board meetings and various discussions of finance, but they enrich the tale rather than oppress it.
I have read this immense novel, or collection of three novels and two “interludes,” twice now. I’m sure, if I pick it up again anytime soon, that there will be even more to see and enjoy. The beauty of the story is that it is so rich with detail, both of its time and of the individuals that populate it.

Profile Image for Libros Prestados.
426 reviews790 followers
March 15, 2016
Videoreseña del libro: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpoAr...

Si hay que darle 5 estrellas a una novela se le dan y punto. Se las merece. Y eso que argumentalmente no es nada del otro mundo, incluso podríamos decir que es un culebrón, con varios clichés y giros de guión que te puedes esperar. Pero no importa, porque lo importante es cómo se cuenta, no tanto el qué.

En cierto sentido me recuerda a la serie "Downton Abbey", que es un culebrón disfrazado de serie de época, pero se diferencian en que si bien ambas hablan de una familia pudiente y los cambios suscitados en Gran Bretaña a principios del siglo XX (aunque "La saga de los Forsyte" es más victoriana, añadiendo el final del siglo XIX), "La saga de los Forsyte" es mucho más un comentario social de la época y una crítica a ciertos aspectos de la misma. Por ejemplo, a la idea de la mujer, y en concreto de la mujer casada, como propiedad de su marido. Galbraith es feminista en su visión de las relaciones de pareja: tu mujer no es tu propiedad, las personas no son propiedad de nadie. Y fijarse en eso, en el sentido y derecho de la propiedad ingleses y su transformación a finales del siglo XIX, principios del XX, le permite hablar sobre la burguesía y su función como base del Imperio británico.

Es más, utiliza a una familia en concreto, los Forsyte, para hablar de esa clase social que sería motor del comercio británico y del capitalismo tal y como lo conocemos. De hecho, es irónico ver cómo tras las luchas sociales del siglo XX, las opiniones de los neoliberales actuales tienen más que ver con las de dueños capitalistas del siglo XIX que con los de mediados del XX. Y el gran acierto de Galbraith es precisamente esa familia y su descripción. Es increíble el talento del autor para dar todo ese volúmen de información, nombrar a tantos miembros de la familia, y que nunca te pierdas. Y la verdadera maestría de Galbraith se muestra en cómo puede describir tan bien las dinámicas familiares: los pequeños roces, costumbres y cotilleos dentro de una misma familia. Esa es la gran fuerza de esta novela (que consta de cinco libros, en realidad), junto con la perspicacia del autor para describir las emociones de las personas y su desarrollo psicológico. Sin mencionar, por supuesto, la capacidad para describir paisajes y utilizarlos como una forma más de ambientar las emociones de dichos personajes. Personajes, por cierto, que pese a su numerosidad, son memorables, como James "a mí nadie me cuenta nada" Forsyte, Jolyon Padre "el Filósofo", June "la de las causas perdidas" Forsyte, Irene "la que hizo una vez una mala elección y lo paga por el resto de su vida" Forsyte o el personaje que más detesté: Soames Forsyte. Soames es el retrato perfecto del "nice guy", del tipo imposible de amar por su egoísmo que se pregunta siempre por qué no le aman. Y lo más fascinante es que Galbraith ni siquiera lo describe o lo utiliza como un villano, incluso a veces parece tenerle compasión, pero es que Soames es detestable.

En resumen, un culebrón de época brillantemente escrito que, si bien puede no sorprender por su trama, sí lo hará por describir con exactitud y humanidad una época y una clase social claves para entender el mundo moderno.
Profile Image for David Lentz.
Author 17 books311 followers
June 21, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Edita.
1,303 reviews393 followers
July 16, 2020
Well, there was in life something which upset all your care and plans--something which made men and women dance to its pipes. And he lay staring from deep-sunk eyes into the darkness where the unaccountable held sway. You thought you had hold of life,
but it slipped away behind you, took you by the scruff of the neck, forced you here and forced you there, and then, likely as not, squeezed life out of you! It took the very stars like that, he shouldn't wonder, rubbed their noses together and flung them apart; it had never done playing its pranks.
*
Some things go too deep to be forgotten.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
569 reviews3,943 followers
April 5, 2015
Esta familia y cada uno de sus miembros se van a quedar conmigo durante mucho tiempo...
Profile Image for Masteatro.
456 reviews80 followers
August 14, 2021
El final de la época victoriana y el principio de la Eduardiana vistas a través de los ojos de tres generaciones de una familia de clase media alta: Los Forsyte. Pese a encontrarnos ante un clásico escrito por un premio nobel de literatura, que nadie espere encontrase una prosa densa o envarada: la saga de los Forsyte se lee con ligereza y deleite puesto que las descripciones del clima y el paisaje acompañan admirablemente al devenir de los distintos personajes. Una historia interesante y muy bien escrita que hará las delicias de los amantes de la época victoriana y el costumbrismo.
Profile Image for Bekka.
1,306 reviews13 followers
March 6, 2012
One of the greatest works of literature, there's a reason why Mr. Galsworthy won the Nobel Prize for Literature for this work. An epic saga of a single extended family which spans several generations, Galsworthy creates characters that are human and fallible, noble, kind and cruel. The story is deeply moving, funny, infuriating and completely compelling. This is a huge work, but, as with all great novels, the better it is, the more you want it to continue on and on. This one does! The Saga comprises of three novels and two "interludes" or short stories between the novels. The first interlude of the saga, "Indian Summer of a Forsyte," is one of the most beautiful and poignant works I have ever read.

In addition to this first work, Galsworthy continued the story of the Forsytes for another two complete epics, creating nine novels in all. He also created a series of short stories to fill in elements of the characters backstories.

If you intend to embark on this wonderful journey into the heart of middle class Brits at turn of the 20th century, I recommend the Oxford University Press edition, which has an extensive glossary included. Galsworthy includes a large amount of slang of the period, and this edition explains those terms. Its available at the Madison Library District for patron use.
Profile Image for Fiona Robson.
517 reviews10 followers
May 24, 2013
“The Forsyte Saga, first published under that name in 1922, is a series of three novels and two interludes (intervening episodes) published between 1906 and 1921 by Nobel Prize-winning English author John Galsworthy. They chronicle the vicissitudes of the leading members of an upper middle-class British family, similar to Galsworthy's own.[1] Only a few generations removed from their farmer ancestors, the family members are keenly aware of their status as "new money". The main character, Soames Forsyte, sees himself as a "man of property" by virtue of his ability to accumulate material possessions—but this does not succeed in bringing him pleasure.”

I read this book as it was on the list of “1001 Books you Must Read Before you Die”. Trust me …. You really do not need to read this one at all. I cannot think of a single positive thing to say about this book at all. It just rambled on and on and on. One of the most boring books I have ever had the misfortune to open at all. I only finished it because I am so anally retentive about finishing books!

Profile Image for La gata lectora.
287 reviews264 followers
July 26, 2022
¿Son los conflictos familiares hereditarios? ¿Son los problemas humanos producto de su época o universales? ¿Cómo afectan los secretos del pasado a las nuevas generaciones?

Tremenda saga familiar. Novela de personajes a través de los cuáles se nos presentan los férreos principios morales victorianos en Inglaterra y su paulatina decadencia hasta la muerte de la Reina Victoria.

Seguimos principalmente a dos ramas de la familia Forsyte, primos entre sí, y los enredos sentimentales que tienen. A través de sus personajes se nos presentan dos formas opuestas de ver la vida, una más conservadora y otra más liberal, que inevitablemente se unen y chocan entre sí.

Aunque largo está escrito de forma muy ligera, con una gran construcción de personajes, manteniendo el interés en los sucesos, describiendo de forma muy elegante las situaciones y haciendo que te emociones en muchas partes de la historia. El cierre es además estupendo.

Me ha cautivado de principio a fin. Va directo a mis libros favoritos.
(5/5) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Profile Image for Nevena.
Author 3 books169 followers
October 15, 2018
Ето това вече е шедьовър. Всъщност не всички части - някои са по-слаби (частта с последното поколение не ме впечатли, героите не бяха плътни и убедителни), но примерно онази със смъртта на Джолиън старши е не за пет, а за 10 звезди. Този роман, заедно с "Война и мир", са любимите на майка ми, а тя е изчела доста. Прочела е "Сага за Форсайтови" през 20-те си години, сега е на 90. И когато изчетох частта със смъртта на Джолиън старши, така се развълнувах, че за пръв път си записах няколко цитата и отидох при нея. Само като й споменах коя книга чета, тя ми каза, че една част я впечатлила особено и тя е... смъртта на Джолиън Старши, разбира се. Пропуснах да спомена, че майка ми страда от деменция. И въпреки това мозъкът й отказва да изтрие тази книга. Ето това е истинското изкуство.
Profile Image for Inna.
626 reviews137 followers
March 27, 2021
Громіздке і дещо нудне читання. Навіть якщо ви одразу зробите над собою зусилля і почнете запам’ятовувати хто кому хто, то згодом усвідомите, що то було намарно, бо багато членів родини Форсайтів грають в сюжеті роль масовки.
Прокайфувати від історії мені не вдалося, але історичний аспект ціную.
Profile Image for Donna.
Author 1 book42 followers
April 22, 2012
Drat. I see I lost the slip of paper where I write page numbers and the little notes for the book report. There are a few numbers scrawled on the inside back cover; page 785 has cricket, 808 the fixed idea, and there's a giant dog-ear folded from the bottom of the page. That would be a chapter I want to read again. I put off finishing it too. The book was left untouched at page 830 for an entire month. Didn't want to finish it. I had been through too much with them, especially the unloveable Soames, and the houses; Robin Hill and Timothy's.

"His heart made a faint demonstration within him while he stood in full south sunlight on the newly whitened doorstep of that little houses where four Forsytes had once lived, and now but one dwelt on like a winter fly; the house into which Soames had come and out of which he had gone times without number, divested of, or burdened with, fardels of family gossip; the house of the 'old people' of another century, another age."

That house.

The passage of time is strong in this book and Galsworthy's precision and wit so timeless, I can recognize in Soame's misgivings about motor cars my own dizzy suspicions cellphones. Whether it's the 19th or 20th century that's turning, things only seem to go faster. This is not going back on the shelf. I'm tucking this dogeared beast under the bedside table so I can reread all my favourite parts.

Profile Image for Steve.
362 reviews1 follower
Read
April 10, 2023
This tale examines the Victorian Forsyte family, ten brothers and sisters and their offspring, spanning the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, most granted the knack for long living. The Forsyte Saga is three stories: A Man of Property, In Chancery and To Let. The publisher fortunately included a detailed family tree, which minimized my confusion through the unfolding action involving so many family members, some given only the briefest mention.

We’re offered a great understanding of Forsyte sensibility with Mr. Galsworthy’s description of one brother, Timothy, who later dies a centenarian.
The baby of the family, a publisher by profession, he had some years before, when business was at full tide, scented out the stagnation which, indeed, had not yet come, but which ultimately, as all agreed, was bound to set in, and, selling his share in a firm engaged mainly in the production of religious books, had invested the quite conspicuous proceeds in three per cent. consols. By this act he had at once assumed an isolated position, no other Forsyte being content with less than four per cent. for his money; and this isolation had slowly and surely undermined a spirit perhaps better than commonly endowed with caution.
Investing at three or four percent interest? Why I never let my funds out for less than six, and then only for the sturdiest of credits! How times have changed.

Through these pages there’s delicious family gossip of the kind that inspires a reason to rise in the morning for many, me included. At one gathering of seven siblings, Mr. Galsworthy noted “though each one of them knew for a fact that he or she never talked scandal, each of one of them also knew that the other six did; all were therefore angry and at a loss.” No wonder the author won a Nobel Prize.

A Man of Property principally details the affairs of two family lines, the brothers Old Jolyon and James. For the record, I sympathized most with the Jolyon line. Old Jolyon’s granddaughter, June, is engaged to Philip Bosinney, a young architect. James’ son, Soames, hires Bosinney to build a home on the outskirts of London, Robin Hill, in Surrey. The talented architect and Soames’ wife, Irene, become intimates, creating an uncomfortable stir for the family, surely a rarity for those that have ever taken a solemn wedding vow – don’t most marriages live up to the popular mythology of a lifetime of unrequited happiness, husband, wife, and children all, despite my personal misplaced cynicism? Soames exacts retribution but one that produces little ultimate satisfaction. The popular adage goes that revenge is a dish best served cold; Soames delivers it lukewarm, which I considered a big mistake. On a lighter note, Balthasar, the dog, occupies a few happy pages. I dream of owning a dog named Balty, for Samuel Pepys’ brother-in-law, Balthasar de St Michel. A shame Mr. Galsworthy didn’t follow suit.

In Chancery turns at length with the developments of Forsyte v. Forsyte and Forsyte. The long dead relationship between Soames and Irene, seventeen years in all, reaches a finale with the assistance of Claud Polteed, owner of an agency in West End that “ministered to the virtues of the wealthier classes,” and the legal representation of Linkman and Laver in Budge Row. In those days a spouse was considered property under the law and divorce had to be brought for cause, like infidelity. Traces of this medieval doctrine persist in our country to this day, interestingly. Old Jolyon labelled Soames a “man of property.” Soames treated his estranged wife accordingly. I disliked Soames because he offered no emotional sustenance to his intimate relationships, nor did he try. He was a collector. Mr. Galsworthy gives Soames his just desert, though. Soames immediately remarries a young French woman, he intent on having a son. That new spouse, Annette, gives birth through a near-death experience, one that makes further pregnancies impossible, to a girl named Fleur. Simultaneously, Soames’ father, James, dies, though not before Soames whispers a lie that the new child is a boy. Irene and Young Jolyon wed. They, too, have a child, a son, also named Jolyon, called Jon. On the canine front, Balthasar enters the big eternal doghouse. He was a good dog who led a good life, dying at age eighteen. Would that all fictional dogs live the same.

Will Jon and Fleur wed, defying the feud that stews through all three stories or will the grudge survive? To Let answers this question. Fleur and Jon are unaware of the family intrigue when they meet as young adults and develop a passion that defies unrevealed history. Fleur is especially intent on Jon, ignoring the propositions of a keen suitor, Michael Mont, heir of a ninth baronet. Both ultimately learn the truth and a decision must be made. Meanwhile, Soames’ second wife, Annette, finds companionship with the Belgian, Prosper Profond. Soames has learned nothing through the years about how to be a better person, reflected in the behavior of his wives. The book ends observing Soames’ “melancholy craving in his heart.” What did Soames do to deserve anything else? We reap as we sow, no?

My concern with this volume is that Mr. Galsworthy depicts a closed loop, one that dwells exclusively on the wealthy. The narrative is closed even further because most of the interactions occur among family members, whether spouses, aunts, uncles, grandparents or cousins. The hired staffers are mentioned only in passing, for example. What kind of lives did they lead? While broader social and political themes are introduced into the story, there is no insight offered into the daily concerns that affect the masses. Maybe that’s because Mr. Galsworthy intended to offer a work that provided readers something to ponder other than their immediate miseries. Then again, perhaps I’m being too harsh – isn’t that inward focus characteristic of our current era? This commentary aside, Mr. Galsworthy is a good storyteller and I was amused at times with his subtle wit.
Profile Image for Suvi.
848 reviews135 followers
February 6, 2014
The family saga of Forsytes, who at the beginning smell an intruder amongst them (Bosinney the architect, engaged to June), examines how the far-reaching consequences of a certain love affair molds each person and generation in its own way.

The solicitor Soames considers his wife Irene as his property, the way you do with beautiful paintings that you parade in front of others. The couple's marriage suffers from Irene's indifference, which Soames of course doesn't understand, because he doesn't see the desire to be free lurking behind her eyes. The elder Jolyon feels lonely and tries to patch things up with his son with the same name, who separated himself from the Forsyte family by leaving his wife and marrying another woman. The younger Jolyon seems different from the rest of the Forsytes, since he doesn't consider life as a matter of business.

People are mostly cold and selfish, but nature continues its peaceful existence. London and its surroundings are mostly described through nature: lovers embraced by the stunning fragrance of flowers, starry sky spread above the buildings on an evening of dancing, Robin Hill's lush environment etc. The eternal essence of nature makes you hope that the Forsytes would finally realise what's really important in life, but of course their practical blindness cannot be cured with beauty.

The atmosphere of the novels is delicate and lingering. Galsworthy describes perceptively the family's intertwining to the changes of the society, from the Victorian era to the energetic and modern 1920s. Old-fashioned ideals are dusted, but certain people peristently grab into the narrow-minded perception of the priorities of humanity. At first you want to feel sorry for Soames, but after a certain event it's impossible. He has been brought up in a certain kind of way in a certain kind of society, but you still want to slap him, real hard, and shake him up so that he would wake up into the reality.

In a long saga like this, some members of the family are naturally lost, but the desire to possess and taking care of own interests remain. Forgiveness, blindness, aging, women's rights... There are a lot of themes, but they form into a balanced bigger picture. A few years ago I saw the newer 21st century miniseries, but after reading this I'm no longer entirely sure that it was actually as good as I remember it to be. How can anyone capture Galsworthy's melancholic family saga into the frames of television or film?

I could endlessly try to define the effect this had on me, but I still wouldn't be able to put my feelings into words. After the last page I feel distressed, sad, relieved, wistful. Despite the many flaws the characters had it's extremely difficult to say goodbye after so many weeks of spending time with them. I can always read the whole thing again, but it will not be like it was the first time.
Profile Image for Janet.
144 reviews59 followers
September 6, 2012
This was a five star read for me until suddenly it wasn’t.

Chronicling three generations of an upper middle class British family it presents a lustrous portrait of the Victorian era bookended by personal restraint and societal constraints. At the center of it all is the hapless Soames Forsyth with his formidable commitment to the creation and perpetuation of familial wealth and position. Ultimately, this is an 850 page treatise on respectability set in quicksand.

Soames’ unreciprocated passion for his wife is disguised by a milieu that regards wives as chattel; unable to possess her, legally he still ‘owns’ her. It is this unrequited passion and his refusal to let go that reverberates across two generations. A product of his time he does not have the emotional dexterity to step into the modern age with its shifting attitudes towards women, materialism, love and art. As Galsworthy points out in his preface, the tragedy of Soames is that he is unlovable but self-aware enough to realize it though powerless to change.

So why four stars? Irene. Inciter of innumerable passions and first wife of Soames, she is completely lifeless on the page. We are treated to thirty years of a beauty that never tarnishes but we fail to ever see her put one foot in front of the other. For the novel to fully work we need to see more than her epidermis.
Profile Image for Paula.
69 reviews13 followers
December 30, 2009
Finally finished! Took a year of picking it up, putting it down, etc. but with my new work-out routine finally finished this care of my Kindle. This was recommended to me by Mike, and considering the number of books he recommends, I had to get it and at least attempt it!

The book tells the tale of several generations of Forsytes; their failures, their successes, their families, their relationships, their thoughts, their worries and dreams. The saga contains multiple love relationships, some doomed, others a tremendous success, still others, happily, never come to fruition.

Although the character of Soames Forsyte is the easiest to dislike, by the end of the book I felt a strange sadness for him; he never realized what he did wrong, or why it was wrong. He continues to go through life bitter, feeling victimized, and jealous of others, yet saddened at how the women in his life treated him.

He deserved to have someone come up to him, smack him upside the head, explain what he did and why it was wrong, then set him straight, not live in ignorance of his wrong. As he said, however, it was the life into which he was born, the way he was taught to think, the person he was raised to be. Sad, ultimately, that he did as he was born to do, and no better.
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