Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Forsyte Saga

Title: The Forsyte Saga
Author: John Galsworthy
List: #123 on BBC Top 200
Worth reading? Maybe.

I am going to admit right up front that I read this book in stages with several interruptions in between because other books became available through my local eLibrary. My review may be somewhat tainted by this disjointed reading. When I finally fished this novel, my initial reaction was a shrug, a “meh,” an “I suppose that was alright.” In other words, I had no inclination to rave about it and was glad to be able to put it aside and cross it off my list. I wonder if part of the problem, other than disjointed reading, was that it was just so incredibly long and never seemed to end.

Let me clarify. There are long books. And then there are long books. In the “long books” category I place Outlander and Les Misérables and Gone with the Wind. Now, I know plenty of people who, at least with regard to the latter two, would put those in the “long books” category. But to me, despite their length (over a thousand pages in the case of Gone with the Wind), these books were driving towards a conclusion. I wanted to keep reading them because I knew there would be something new that would tie into the beginning and make the whole experience worthwhile. And to put this in perspective, and perhaps reveal a bit of my own character, I first read Gone with the Wind when I was ten and even then did not think it was a tiresome slog.

But The Forsyte Saga? It was just long. Now, I realize it is a saga and thus that it will cover multiple generations and that it will be long almost by definition. But this was just too much. The Thorn Birds was a saga too, but it managed to keep my attention. In fact, I think The Forsyte Saga would have been much improved if it omitted the last generation entirely. But this, too, may not be entirely fair because the despair of two members of the last, third, generation covered rests in the opening conflict, introduced towards the beginning of the tome, between members of the second generation. And the story of the third generation completes the struggle and turmoil that I suppose is the main story arc of the book.

But it was just too much. It went on too long. It may have worked if each segment of the saga was a bit shorter, but as it was, by the end, I had no sympathy (at least for the male character of the second generation) and just wanted to scream, “Get over it!” and “Stop whining!” I suppose I might just be tired of the long, flowery prose of the early twentieth century and earlier (even though I adore Jane Austen), which would explain why the modern prose of Outlander was such a welcome respite and why even the straightforwardness of Oliver Twist seemed like a relief. Perhaps it is time to turn towards some of the more modern novels on my list so that I will not feel so hopeless and, I will admit, bored, with novels like The Forsyte Saga.


  1. What if they had broken it up into several books, like the Dune series?

  2. The Forsyte Saga is catching my breath. The Forsyte Saga is amazing and intricate book to read. Did you it has some sort of continuing chapter in the other book by Jogn Golsworthy - "End of the Chapter"?