World’s Classics: The Forsyte Saga

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy is not on the “Reading List” but it is one of my favorite books. I remember how my mom gave it to me one day, saying that it was worth reading. At that time I was just a teenager and could not really understand all the twists of destiny in the characters’ lives, so I have re-read the book several times over the years. Each time I have found what I was looking for; this story about a family in British society in 20th century has become more than just a narrative to me, it is as if I am looking in on different life situations through somebody else’s eyes…

In the three parts of the novel we meet different generations of the Forsyte family. There are old and young Forsytes. The story takes place in Britain, in the beginning of the 20th century (1900-1920). The main character is Soames Forsyte, “a man of property”: his life purpose is to increase his family’s fortune. Soames is a classic businessman: he values money and comfort, but when it comes to personal relations and feelings, he is frozen inside. This leads to an unhappy marriage, aggravated by the fact that he considers his wife a “possession” and is unable to express his feelings and win her heart.

Irene, Soames’s wife, also suffers in this union: she tries to get accustomed to her husband but is torn apart between fear and sometimes disgust: she dreads the moments of privacy in marriage. One can surely ask: why marry when there are no feelings for each other? Irene did not have much choice: she had little personal income and was unable to work (since it was unusual for those times), and so the only way of supporting herself was to get married. True love will find its way to her, but it proves to be a challenge for her and the family.

In the third part of the book, Galsworthy introduces to us the children of the main characters. Jon and Fleur are both struggling to find their way in life, they are excited by the new ideas of the 20th century and eager to try it all – like the majority of young people in their time. They might repeat some of their parents’ mistakes, but those experiences, however painful, will help them learn the valuable lessons of life…

The Forsyte Saga is a wonderful handbook of human relationships, and the author raises several important issues: What is a marriage without love? What is a life without purpose? Is money the only thing that matters? How do generations change through time? For those who would like to take a look at the upper-middle-class of British society and plunge into the secrets of a family, this book is the right choice.

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2 responses to “World’s Classics: The Forsyte Saga

  1. i`ve just finished this book.. i can say only one thin, i really fell in love wth it 🙂

  2. anninatroxler

    Saw the BBC series twice (yes! twice), but the book seemed somewhat boring. I’ll try again. Thanks!

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