Thursday, August 20, 2009

John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga (2002)

There was a Galsworthy revival a few years ago when Masterpiece Theater aired a BBC remake of The Forsyte Saga. We were glued to it at our house, took no phone calls from 8-9:30, and had to order takeout for our “TV parties” because we were too distracted to stir-fry broccoli. We gossiped about the Forsytes as if they were long-lost best dysfunctional friends. Was Soames nicer than we remembered? Was Irene too passive? We argued about whether languid Gina McKee was suitable as Irene, the artistic, gentle beauty coerced by her poor mother into marrying the wealthy Soames Forsyte, or whether we preferred the the gorgeous actress Nyree Dawn Porter from the 1967 series.

The Forsyte Saga (1967)

The underrated John Galsworthy, a neglected Nobel Prize winner and one of my favorite writers, was known primarily as a playwright in his day, though he is remembered now for The Forsyte Saga, a title that technically refers only to the first of three trilogies of autobiographical Forsyte novels, The Man of Property, In Chancery, and To Let. Alas, it is very difficult to find the other six novels: perhaps publishers think readers are fixated on the Soames-Irene-Jolyon triangle and will lose interest in subsequent generations. Not so!

Anyway, I was thrilled to find they are all available now at Borders, B&N, Amazon, etc. in individual paperback editions from the Headline Publishing Group. They even have book group guides in the back. I love it! I love the idea that you can coerce your friends into reading them by declaring them your book group choices. The last six are: The White Monkey, The Silver Spoon, Swan Song, Maid in Waiting, Flowering Wilderness, and Over the River.

Here are three of them.

I’m also thinking of Galsworthy because at a used bookstore I discovered for $5 a Scribners Compact Edition (1929) of Three Novels of Love by John Galsworthy, consisting of The Dark Flower, Beyond, and Saint’s Progress. I don't know these novels at all, but am very much looking forward to them. This book is Vol. 5 of a set, and I'm thinking of going back to pick up the others (only a few are left: the set is broken up).

Galsworthy may be my project for autumn - the leaves are already turning yellow on who-knows-what kind of tree on my street - though I'm certainly hoping we'll have quite a bit more summer.

There is also a LOT of Galsworthy at Gutenberg, etc. I always start with the BOOKS, though.


Danielle said...

I have a big book with all the novels in one, which I want to read but every time I look at that huge volume I think of it as an undertaking I'm not sure I'm ready for. I saw parts of the most recent film adaptation and that of course grabbed me. I like the looks of those individual volumes--maybe I could tackle the story in off to look them up.

Danielle said...

Ugh, I'm so bad. I just ordered the first three (now I have no excuse to read them). Thanks for listing them in order as Amazon doesn't give a clue to which is which.

Mad Housewife said...

Danielle, we are both TERRIBLE when it comes to buying books! Glad to enable your habit!:) Really, I love these books. I've started A Man of Property again.

I might order the original BBC series, too. I'm debating...

Ellen said...

It's a lot to read. I went through what was perhaps the whole of the Forstye saga in the 1980s (in my pre-net existence), and I was gripped by them. I'd like to see the old film adaptation which would really be detailed -- Eric Porter as Soames.


Frisbee said...

Ellen, I've GOT the 1969 DVD now and it's worth seeing. It's available from Netflix. Eric Porter is great.

Anonymous said...

As a long-time fanatic about "The Forsyte Saga", I highly recommend following it with the next three, "A Modern Comedy" (containing, "The White Monkey", "Silver Spoon" and "Swan Song"). These detail mostly the life of Fleur and her husband Michael, and Fleur's restless quest to forget Jon Forsyte (son of Irene and Jolyon), who gave her up 6 yrs. earlier. Then it becomes her quest to rekindle their passion when he returns to England! Soames figures prominently and becomes far more sympathetic, as he dotes on Fleur. The BBC's adaptation of the first 3 books from 1967 is the best. Eric and Nyree Dawn Porter (no relation) are superb as the doomed couple, and there are too many great performances to list. I found the last 3 books "Flowering Wilderness", to be tolerable reading, but the main character, Dinny Charwell, is rather boring and far less interesting than any of the Forsyte predecessors.

Frisbee said...

I, too, love all nine books, and thanks for reminding me that I should reread them.

Poor Fleur. She's so materialistic, but lively and sincere, and I am empathic. She'll always be Susan Hampshire, or vice versa, to me.