The Forsyte Saga
The Forsyte Saga is a series of three novels and two interludes published between 1906 and 1921 by John Galsworthy. They chronicle the vicissitudes of the leading members of an upper-middle-class British
family. 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 Man of Property (1906)
In this first novel of the Forsyte Saga, after introducing us
to the impressive array of Forsytes headed by the formidable Aunt Ann,
Galsworthy moves into the main action of the saga by detailing Soames
Forsyte's desire to own things, including his beautiful wife, Irene
Forsyte (née Heron). He is jealous of her friendships and wants her to
be his alone. He concocts a plan to move her to the country, to Robin
Hill and a house he has himself had built, away from everyone she knows
and cares about. She resists his grasping intentions and falls in love
with the architect Philip Bosinney who has been engaged by Soames to
build the house. However, Bosinney is the fiancé of her friend June
Forsyte, the daughter of Soames's cousin Jolyon. There is no happy
ending: Irene leaves Soames after he forces himself upon her, and
Bosinney dies under the wheels of a cab after being driven frantic by
the news of Irene's rape by Soames.
Indian Summer of a Forsyte (1918)
In a short interlude after The Man of Property, Galsworthy
delves into the newfound friendship between Irene and Old Jolyon Forsyte
(June's grandfather, and by now the owner of the house Soames had
built). This attachment gives Old Jolyon pleasure, but exhausts his
strength. He leaves Irene money in his will with Young Jolyon, his son,
as trustee. In the end Old Jolyon dies under an ancient oak tree in the
garden of the Robin Hill house.
In Chancery (1920)
The marital discord of both Soames and his sister Winifred is the
subject of the second novel, the title being a reference to the Court of Chancery,
which deals with domestic issues. They take steps to divorce their
spouses, Irene, and Montague Dartie respectively. However, while Soames
tells his sister to brave the consequences of going to court, he is not
willing to go through a divorce himself. Instead he stalks and hounds
Irene, following her abroad, and asking her to have his child, which is
his father's wish. Ultimately, Soames remarries, wedding Annette, the
young daughter of a French Soho restaurant owner. With his new wife, he
has his only child, Fleur Forsyte.
As for Irene, she is left the sum of £15,000 after Old Jolyon's
death. His son, Young Jolyon Forsyte, also Soames's cousin, takes care
of Irene's finances. When she first leaves Soames, he offers his
support. At the time of the death of Young Jolyon's son Jolly in the
South African War, Irene has developed a strong friendship with Jolyon.
Then, Soames confronts Young Jolyon and Irene at Robin Hill accusing
them (falsely) of having an affair. Young Jolyon and Irene assert that
they have had an affair since Soames has it in his mind already. That
gives Soames the evidence he needs for divorce proceedings. That
confrontation sparks an affair between Young Jolyon and Irene.
The subject of the second interlude is the naive and exuberant
lifestyle of eight-year-old Jon Forsyte. He loves and is loved by his
parents. He has an idyllic youth, his every desire indulged.
To Let (1921)
This novel concludes the Forsyte Saga. Second cousins Fleur and Jon
Forsyte meet and fall in love, ignorant of their parents' past troubles,
indiscretions and misdeeds. Once Soames, Jolyon, and Irene discover
their romance, they forbid their children to see each other again.
Jolyon warns his son that once he dies, there will be no one to protect
Irene from her ex-husband. Jon is torn between the past and his present
love for Fleur. Despite her feelings for Jon, Fleur has a very suitable
suitor, Michael Mont, heir to a baronetcy.
Should they marry, Fleur would elevate the status of her family from
"nouveau riche" to the aristocratic upper class. The title derives from
Soames' reflections as he breaks up the house in which his Uncle
Timothy, recently deceased in 1920 at age 101 and the last of the older
generation of Forsytes, had lived a recluse, hoarding his life like