The Forsyte Saga Volume 1
Publisher: Assembled Stories
Date: January 2010
Duration: 4 hours 37 minutes
"A compelling drama and... merciless scrutiny of a newly-monied upper middle class family at the turn of the twentieth century, ‘The Forsyte Saga’ has a sumptuous range of characters; Soames, he of the ‘perpetual sniff’; Old Jolyon, ‘typifying the essential individualism born in the Briton’; the sensuous Bosinney with ‘an air as if he did not quite know on which side his bread was buttered’; Young Jolyon, the free thinker; and, of course, the sexually alluring and impenetrable Irene, catalyst for much dissension within the clan. The Forsytes believe they will live forever, but the unrelenting, imperturbable façade slowly begins to crumble as Aunt Ann, the oldest Forsyte ever, is interred in the family tomb at the end of this first volume.
The author makes his presence and opinion felt with beautifully subtle pinpricks of wit which leave one in no doubt what he thought of the accumulation of wealth and property, which typified the materialistic Victorian psyche, at the expense of sensitivity and freedom. As in ‘The Dark Flower’ [also published by Assembled Stories], Galsworthy demonstrates a fundamental understanding of hidden sexual currents and their ability to change our destinies.If you have enjoyed ‘The Forsyte Saga’ on television in the past you will be familiar with this engrossing story; if not, prepare to be completely captivated and engaged by one of the best tales ever told.
"Soames Forsyte is a wealthy... man of property. He has investments, owns a prestigious new house, paintings, a delicate rosewood table and a beautiful wife, Irene, who does not love him. Immensely well narrated by Peter Joyce, with nine more volumes promised during 2010. Family sagas, from Icelandic to Aga, have diverted readers for centuries, but the Forsytes remain the brand leaders. Since the first of its three volumes and two ""interludes"" was published in 1906 there have been various film and TV adaptations but inevitably, with attention spans ever decreasing, the orotundity of Galsworthy's prose has fallen out of fashion. This makes him an obvious choice for audio, along with Scott, Dickens and Proust. Let the reader disentangle all those adverbial subclauses. All you have to do is listen and try to remember who of the 10 original Forsytes – six brothers and four sisters – is who. The clever thing about this edition is that it comes in small, easily digestible portions. Peter Joyce, whose rhetorical resonance is perfect for his subject, has divided the saga into nine volumes...... is it still worth reading? The fact that I, a famously impatient consumer of books, with one finger permanently poised above the fast-forward button, listened to Vol 1 twice before moving on to Vol 2, says it all. Yes, of course it's slow – everything in 1886 (apart from the post) took longer. Mrs Soames Forsyte, the beautiful, unfathomable Irene, might have spent at least 10 minutes just pulling on those exquisite pale grey French kid gloves we first encounter her wearing at Old Jolyon's party to celebrate the engagement of his granddaughter June, Irene's best friend, to Bosinney, a young architect. Soames employs boho Bosinney, with his disconcertingly inattentive sherry-coloured eyes, to build his new house, Irene falls in love with him and leaves home after a terrible . . . no, not another word, listen for yourselves. It was the dialogue that had me constantly rewinding. Here's the coachman, after driving June and Bosinney to the theatre, telling the butler: ""I don't know what to make of 'im. Looks to me for all the world like an 'alf-tamed leopard."" And an exchange between two Forsytes on Irene's provenance:Roger: What was her father?Nicholas: A professor, so they tell me.Roger: There's no money in that.Nicholas: They say her mother's father was cement – [Roger's face brightens] – but he went bankrupt.Roger: Hmph. She's got a foreign look. Soames will have trouble with her, you mark my words. He'll have trouble.
And so he does, plenty big trouble, but that's why it hooks you. Those hard-nosed, materialistic, money-obsessed Jolyons, Swithins, Archibalds and Eustaces aren't Strachey's eminent Victorians, but their lives are eminently and endlessly fascinating.