David's Reviews > The Man of Property

The Man of Property by John Galsworthy
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's review
Jan 07, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: read-in-2008

** spoiler alert **
February is one of the best months for reading. I don’t care about the Superbowl; the Oscars are a snoozefest, so there’s plenty of time to hit the books. Every year I try to revisit one of the longer “classics” during February. This year’s choice is Galsworthy’s “The Forsyte Saga”.

Galsworthy wrote a total of nine novels about the Forsyte family, collectively referred to as “The Forsyte Chronicles”. The entire series is normally grouped into three trilogies: “The Forsyte Saga”, “A Modern Comedy”, and “End of the Chapter”. I’ll be happy to make it through the first trilogy: “The Man of Property”, “In Chancery”, and “To Let”, though my boxed set does contain novels 4-6 as well, in case I should get ambitious. I don’t know if anyone ever makes it through the entire set of nine novels – it doesn’t help that the action in books 4 and 5 drags considerably.

Like most readers of my generation, I first discovered the Forsytes courtesy of the BBC’s 26-part serialization of the first six novels, first broadcast in the late 1960’s as “The Forsyte Saga” (there is a slight discrepancy between the BBC’s nomenclature and that of Galsworthy). Here is a link:

A newer production of the saga aired on several PBS stations two or three seasons ago, but in my heart nobody will replace the originals. There can be no Irene other than Nyree Dawn Porter (the recent production’s Irene wasn’t even a blonde, for crying out loud); Margaret Tyzack *is* Winifred; Fleur can only be played by Susan Hampshire, and only Eric Porter is capable of embodying the ‘now you love him, now you hate him’, tortured “man of property”, Soames Forsyte.

About 100 pages into the first book, it’s amazing how vividly it all comes back to me. The piano piece that Irene plays when Soames first meets her? Chopin’s waltz in C# minor. Seeing the Forsyte Saga was what gave me the perseverance to learn to play this particular waltz properly myself, much to the amazement of my piano teacher.

So I surrender myself to the pleasure of re-acquainting myself with all of these characters, rediscovering their quirks and foibles, as Book 1 moves towards its shocking climax – that unforgettable rape scene where Soames, the man of property, exercises his conjugal rights over an unwilling Irene, thereby setting the stage for the story which unfolds down the generations.

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message 1: by Gail (new)

Gail Couldn't agree more about the two versions of "The Forsyte Saga" on public t.v. Although the second Soames (the one with the red hair) was perfectly acceptable to me as the somewhat tortured "hero", there is no way on God's green earth that the second Irene was believable. One of the major points of the books was Irene's complete desirability. While I'm not a man, I sure couldn't see that second girl as the apex of attractiveness (not beauty, necessarily). Also, the great Tyzack was incomparable as Winifred. By the way, if you have a chance, do check out "Cousin Bette", also from public t.v. Tyzack plays Bette and it is truly a tour de force. Most impressive. And in a comic role, try renting out or even buying "Flickers" in which she plays the somewhat reluctant financier and love interest to Bob Hoskins aspiring silent movie producer. Hysterical and informative.
On another note entirely, I noticed you've read "Connections" by Burke. May I recommend "The Ax-Maker's Gift" by the same author? Well-researched and much more serious than the "Connecitons" books, but still quite entertaining.

David Gail:

Yes! I remember seeing Margaret Tyzack in "Cousin Bette" as well. Sometime in the 1970's, I think.

I just finished Book 2 of the series ("In Chancery"), which is the one where Montie absconds to Argentina with Winifred's pearls and a dancer, and can still visualize Tyzack just inhabiting the role to perfection.

So it's on to Book 3, and the doomed romance between Fleur and Jon. I *love* these books.

Thanks for the Burke recommendation, which I will definitely check out.

message 3: by C. (new) - rated it 4 stars

C. Would you say it's worth reading the rest of the trilogy, if not the whole saga? I just finished the first, and while I enjoyed it a lot, I'm not sure that I want to be embarking on an epic nine-book quest right now, or even a three-book one.

David Choupette:

I think the first trilogy is definitely worth finishing. It's only in the second trilogy that he starts to flag. But "In Chancery" and "To Let" are just as good as "the Man of Property" - you should go for it!



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