Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: The Forsyte Saga: In Chancery

I'm always surprised by finishing DailyLit books. I read a chunk of the book every day, and suddenly I'm ten from the end so I read them all at once, and suddenly I've finished a book I barely thought about reading.

However busy I was this quarter, I kept reading In Chancery every day. It's the third book of the Forsyte Saga, after The Man of Property and Indian Summer of a Forsyte, which is a novella. I read both of those last spring, and now I've finished the third.

It is 1899, or thereabouts. The Forsytes are growing older. The oldest generation are, one by one, dying. Their children are now in their forties, though middle age does not stop them living, having affairs, marrying. Their children are just growing up, falling in love, going off to fight in the Second Boer War. Like with the first books, the title is very apt, though you don't realize how apt until well into the book. The characters are in a kind of limbo--in chancery. They are trying to bring about changes in their lives, but this involves waiting for things to happen and making tiny movements towards the larger goal.

The main draw of the Forsyte Saga, for me, is John Galsworthy's writing style. The plot is interesting, but not captivating, and not many of the characters are really likable. You can sympathize with them, but they are not amiable, not charming. Usually, I like to read about people I like. Galsworthy's writing makes up for all that, however. He picks out moments and describes them beautifully. He talks about emotions without making anyone seem emotional. The inner workings of the Forsyte family are fascinatingly described. Galsworthy has developed a special language for Forystes. They have their own view of the world, their own systems of communication, their own way of getting things done. They are a very believable family. As someone who does not have a very large family (at least, not that I see), this is fascinating to me.

I thoroughly recommend reading the Forsyte Saga. It's wonderfully written, and a perfect portrait both of a family and of an era.

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