As soon as I finished this 800-plus-page book, I wanted to flip it over and began again, that’s how much I loved The Forsyte Saga. Beginning in the Victorian era and spanning three decades, Galsworthy interweaves three generations of a prominent family, from the apex of their wealth and social standing through their slide into the 20th century.
Two sides of the family tree come to be divided by Irene, a beautiful and enigmatic woman, a literal and figurative representation of Beauty. She has the misfortune to marry Soames Forsyte, a “man of property” whose passion comes from the possession of beautiful things, be it art, architecture or a wife. Driven by his possessiveness, Soames sets out to build Irene the finest cage, a country house to marvel all others, thereby setting in motion a series of scandals that will rock the Forsyte family from its staid foundation.
The Forsyte Saga is not a story of big events and dramatic fireworks. Its strength comes from its characters, who emerge from the page full-blooded and very contemporary. This includes Soames, a character the author manages to keep interesting by avoiding to cast him purely as the villain. Galsworthy’s prose is as rich and colorful as his characters, tinged with a wry sense of humor; the language is utterly readable, propelling you from one chapter to the next.
“Indian Summer of a Forsyte,” the interlude chapter between Book I and II of The Forsyte Saga (there are three books in all), focuses on Soames’ uncle Jolyon, and is one of the most beautiful and touching stories I have ever read. The Forsyte Saga is a book I very much look forward to reading again.