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Thread: Forsyte Saga

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    Forsyte Saga

    This has long been my favorite amoung Victorian literature and I just realized that he wrote two more trilogies about the Forsytes. I've read the second series of books but have been reluctant to start the last series, I just don't know if it can be the same without Soames. Has anyone read the complete saga?

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    Hi, there!
    Don't know if you'll see this reply, since it comes so long after your original question. Let me just say that I've read all 3 trilogies. Like you, I was greatly saddened by Soames' death at the end of SWAN SONG, and it took me some time to approach END OF THE CHAPTER. But once I did, I was glad I had. No, it's not as powerful as the two earlier trilogies, but it has merit. The main character is Dinny Charwell (pronounced CHERRELL), who's Michael Mont's first cousin. Dinny turns out to be, arguably, the most likable female character in all these chronicles. She's lively and humorous (unlike Irene) and innately unselfish (unlike Fleur). The trilogy picks up in 1928, two years after Soames' death, and runs into the 1930's. You'll see a lot of Sir Lawrence Mont and his marvelously eccentric wife, Lady Emily. You'll see more of the Reverend Hilary Cherrell, Michael's clergyman uncle from SWAN SONG. You'll see Michael himself and a wiser, more mature Fleur. You'll see Christopher Mont----Soames' grandson!---who's an interesting kid. And Marjorie's wonderful grandfather, the Marquess of
    Shropshire, as much fun as ever. And Wilfrid Desert, the cynical poet from THE WHITE MONKEY, who's in love with Dinny but who comes back from the East with a major skeleton in his cupboard. My advice is, give END OF THE CHAPTER a shot. There are lyrical descriptions of nature, especially in connection with Dinny's ancestral home; there's the Dinny-Wilfrid love story; and there's even a plot involving Dinny's sister, married to a sado-masochistic aristocrat! Never a dull moment. Not as good as the Forsyte chronicles, but still it's a page turner.


    a more matuyre Fleur,

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    I don't think I'm done mourning Soames yet, I may gather the strength to move on with that story without him but I think the loss is still a little too raw. And I'm kind of joking when I say that but seriously, I don't think I'm ready.

    Do we see much of Jon or Irene in the last trilogy?

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    No, unfortunately Jon and Irene don't appear in the last trilogy at all. The implication is that Fleur has 'moved on.' She now has a daughter Catherine, along with her son Christopher ('Kit'), and she seems to have settled down into domesticity. Certainly she has become a much better wife. Notwithstanding, there are real hints of unhappiness in the aftermath of her affair. It's stated that Michael no longer feels so tied to her but is now 'a free agent in his own home." Implying that while he forgives Fleur for what she did, things will never be the same. And in one passage, Dinny's sister remarks 'Fleur always strikes me as knowing so exactly what she wants,' to which Dinny counters, 'She gets it as a rule, but there've been exceptions. I doubt if she ever really wanted Michael.' So while Jon doesn't actually make an appearance, his presence still is felt.
    This sounds like a soap opera, doesn't it? But a very well-written one!
    I know how you feel about Soames. Wasn't he a wonderful character? So maigned and misunderstood. Even now, I can't reread his death scene without getting all choked up!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Sue
    No, unfortunately Jon and Irene don't appear in the last trilogy at all.
    I didn't have anything against Jon but I never did care for Irene so I don't consider it unfortunate that she isn't mentioned in this one. I suppose Irene loses a lot of her relevance without Soames, which is as it should be. I never saw why men seemed to be so taken with her, I thought she was flat, cold and hard. I guess you could make the arguement that that's what she was from Soames point of view but even with young Joylon, she never appeared to really care for him all that much, there never was much passion with her. Now, Soames...there was passion, even though it was misguided and blind and out of control at times but at least he expressed emotion from time to time which is more than you could say for Irene.

    I know how you feel about Soames. Wasn't he a wonderful character? So maigned and misunderstood. Even now, I can't reread his death scene without getting all choked up!
    He was an amazing character, so complex and real and powerful and as edgy a character as you ever see in Victorian literature. I knew his death was coming, it's hard to miss it when the chapter is called "Swan Song" and the closer I got, the slower I read to the point where I actually stopped reading for awhile because I knew the next few pages would describe his death but I finally gathered the strength to read it and I cried like a baby. And what added insult to injury was the loss of his beloved art collection, that was almost as hard to take as his death.

  6. #6
    I can't recommend the thrid trilogy; Galsworthy's style becomes oversimplified, and many themes are repeated that were handled better elsewhere. I've never thought of these as anything more than po-boilers. Definitely not really part of the Forsythe Saga, except for the sake of advertising blurbs on the cover.

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    I thought even the second series was a step down from the original but I did eventually get into it. I never took to Fleur, I was very bitter about the way she treated Soames, I so wanted him to have that person that loved him unconditionally, he had that with his parents and sister but I wanted his daughter to adore him and instead she just seemed to tolerate and manipulate him. And Michael never had much of a personality so it was hard for me to get involved in a story with those two as the main characters. I was worried for a moment that Soames was going to be merely a sideline character but once he was more prominently featured, I was able to settle down and enjoy it.

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    I agree with you about Irene. Never cared for her. As to her "suffering," I can't really empathize. Because yes, she was at a disadvantage, being coerced so young into a loveless marriage. Notwithstanding, I find her subsequent actions hard to take. Any sensible person in her position would have tried at least to LIKE Soames. That she found him downright repulsive----and made her aversion painfully clear---is inexcusable. They may have been mismatched but hey, the poor fella adored her! He was faithful, he was devoted, he forgave her whatever wrong she did him. And make no mistake about it, Irene FREQUENTLY did him wrong. She took a bad situation---their marriage---- and only made it worse. She remained under Soames' roof, all the while hating him but accepting the material benefits of being a 'Forsyte.' She had her pretty dresses and her jewels. Parasitically she lived off him for years, yet gave back nothing in return. Rather, she tormented the man. She refused him sex, she humiliated him before family and friends. And then when she had the chance, she took a lover, flaunting her affair in Soames' face!

    Sorry, Mr. Galsworthy, but I can't warm up to your "embodiment of Beauty." To me, Irene is absolutely TOXIC! Her mistreatment of Soames led, of course, to the infamous rape, which in turn led to her lover's death. And Bosinney wasn't her only victim, either. Consider what, in later years, this woman went on to do.

    Long after her divorce from Soames, she continued to hate him. She was relentlessly unforgiving. And her opposition to the Jon-Fleur union? A selfish response. Irene simply couldn't stomach the painful memories that would resurface, should HER son marry Soames's daughter. A truly loving mother would have put Jon's happiness first....but not Irene. Not weak, hypocritical, self-serving Irene. I maintain that ultimately, she killed BOTH her husbands. First Jolyon, who keeled over after doing Irene's dirty work in terminating their son's engagement. And secondly Soames, who died 6 years later as the culmination of events caused by that same undying enmity. Not to mention the other characters whose happiness, in one way or another, this woman blighted. Count the victims here, why don't we? June---Jon---Fleur----Michael----even the American wife,Anne. The list goes on and on.

    That's why I agree with you about Irene. Don't like the ***** at all. Heart and soul I am, and always have been, pro-Soames. Because whatever his faults, the man was so damned decent, really. He had trouble expressing himself and, as Galsworthy put it, "there was no magnet in his make-up." But he loved deeply and he stuck by his convictions. An honest man. And look at how much he cared for his daughter! Some readers maintain that Fleur humanized Soames....but in my opinion, she brought out a dormant greatness in her father that had always been there.

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    You said it sister! I could not have said it better myself! You hit Irene right on the head. I often wondered if Galsworthy wanted us to like her, he made her so cold and unsympathetic. I had read somewhere that he never spoke through her, everything that goes on in her head, everything that happens to her is seen through the eyes of other people and that was intentional on his part. I'd never noticed that until it was pointed out to me and perhaps that's why she seems to cold, we never know what goes on in that cold, vapid, selfish head of hers. She seems to inspire such devotion in those that meet her can't for the life of me see why.

    The marital rape thing is such a touchy subject. It was a bad thing, Soames did a bad, bad thing and I hate saying the word 'but' here...but...anything I say is going to sound like I excuse that action and I honestly don't but the times were different then, Soames had people telling him he should assert his marital rights, he made a very poor choice, it was the one chink in his armour but you do see what brought him to that point and you do see that deep down, he realized he overstepped his boundries and regretted it. He kept telling himself that he was well within his rights as a husband, that the law couldn't and wouldn't do anything about it but you could also tell he felt a great deal of remorse.

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    I agree with you about the rape. Yes, of course it was a terribly wrong act. It was the worst thing that Soames ever did. However it was also a crime of passion, the sort of thing that the law recognizes as "extenuating circumstance." Because what Irene did to her husband, prior to and leading up to it, was sheer psychological abuse. She rejected him, humiliated him on a daily basis. And for someone like Soames, normally so self-restrained, sooner or later something had to give. Why did the horrible woman continue to live under his roof? She could and should have left with Bosinney, long before! Had she done that there would have been no rape, and Bosinney might not have died...

    It IS surprising how much men love Irene, isn't it? Go figure.

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    And she never seemed to give him a chance, she didn't love him when they married and I know she felt pressured, but marrying for love was more of an exception than a rule at the time, she certainly wasn't alone in marrying a man she didn't love but I think most women made an honest attempt to settle into some kind of life with their husbands and took their duties as a wife very seriously and I'm not just talking about sexual duties here, I'm talking about respect and honesty and joining their lives and hopes and dreams with another person but I don't believe there was ever a time when she made any effort to do that with Soames or had any intention to try. She hated and resented him from day one, Soames had absolutely no chance to win her love.

    It is shocking how men fell under her spell so quickly and completely, I certainly can't figure out why.

    Did you ever see the miniseries they did fairly recently, with Damian Lewis as Soames and some woman with horse teeth and dark hair as Irene?

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    Yes, I saw the recent miniseries. I didn't like it much. The script writers seemed to feel the need to REWRITE major chunks of the Saga, and that annoyed me. What Galsworthy wrote, back in the day, was such great stuff. It certainly didn't need any revision! And in my opinion they miscast Irene. That actress you mention, the one with the buck teeth and the squint, didn't look right for the part. She was too old, too plain and (inappropriately) dark-haired, as opposed to Galsworthy's description of a golden-haired beauty. And while I enjoyed Damian Lewis' portrayal of Soames, I thought that he too had been miscast. Great actor, but way too charismatic! Soames, after all, is supposed to be a repressed individual, neat and self-contained but NOT a hunk. ("There was no magnet in his make up...") Whereas Damian Lewis oozed raw sex appeal, a fact that made Irene's rejection of him all the more unbelievable.

    However, I loved the old black & white miniseries, made back in the 60's. Did you ever see that? If not, you really ought to. It's out now on DVD. It's a much more faithful adaptation, with memorable actors in all the roles. Eric Porter really brought Soames to life. He had just the right air of reserve; he was dry and taciturn as the character is meant to be. And Nyree Dawn Porter, who played Irene, likewise did a wonderful job. Not an easy character to portray, but she (the actress) pulled it off. She managed to convey that passive, elusive, maddening quality that is Irene's trade mark. And physically, Nyree Dawn Porter---a gorgeous blonde----looked exactly right for the role.

    The original show was a big hit, not just in the UK but worldwide. Deservedly so. Even the minor characters---fuss budget James, the various Forsyte aunts and uncles, even the maid Smither---were incredibly well acted. And Susan Hampshire was perfect as the spoiled brat Fleur!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mary Sue
    Whereas Damian Lewis oozed raw sex appeal, a fact that made Irene's rejection of him all the more unbelievable.
    He does, doesn't he? That was actually one of the things I enjoyed most about the series. I admit that I hadn't imagined Soames as oozing raw sex appeal but you know, it worked for me, added a whole other level of appreciation for the character for me. And we've already established Irene was an ungrateful witch so her rejection of this smoldering, brooding Soames just made sense. And then you compare him with what she ended up with, Rupert Graves' Jolyon, and I felt justice had been done.

    I didn't like Irene at all, the actress I mean, she was a truly horrible choice even if only for the fact that she had dark hair and light eyes...how many times does the book mention her golden hair and dark eyes? The one thing she did do well though was portray Irene's coldness, she certainly was that. I have the dvd and I was watching some of the extras and the actress who plays her was saying something about how sad it was that she was tied to this man that she couldn't stand, no matter how hard she tried to love him and that comment made me wonder if she'd ever actually read the book.

    It wasn't the greatest adaptation of the book but I was so relieved they didn't make Soames out to be some horrible beast that I think I forgave a few sins...not all of them, but a few.

    However, I loved the old black & white miniseries, made back in the 60's. Did you ever see that?
    No, I haven't. I would like to though because I've heard a lot of good things about it. I'll have to nose around on the net and see if I can find a copy of it.

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    If you want the black and white series, try Borders. That's where I got mine!

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    We don't have a borders here but I'm sure they have a website I can check out.

    Did you ever see the second part of the newer mini series? I know it focuses on Jon and Fleur but I have no idea how far it goes, does it just finish the first trilogy or does it go into the second one? That one looks even worse than the first so I have no desire to watch it but I am curious to know what it all covers.

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