the Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy (1906-1921)
(the Man of Property, Indian Summer of a Forsyte, In Chancery, Awakening, To Let)
“The Forsytes were resentful of something, not individually, but as a family; this resentment expressed itself in an added perfection of raiment, an exuberance of family cordiality, an exaggeration of family importance, and – the sniff.”
The Forsyte Saga spans from 1886 to 1920 and deals with the ups and downs of many of the family members. But mainly Soames. Soames is a man of property and he isn’t happy when he discovers that his wife, Irene, is in love with an other man. And the other man is even engaged to another Forsyte! 
I remember reading the first chapter and not understanding much, too many names and details and I worried that the rest of the book would be the same. Fortunately it isn’t, and the chance of scandals really increased my interest. And also that there is a lot of comedy hidden within, like the names of all the companies.
Soames is my least favourite character and I grinned every time he didn’t get things his way. He did one good thing towards the end, but it doesn’t make up for the horrible things he did. I had a couple of potential favourite characters but they all ended up dead and the all the female characters ended up being dull after their moments of rebellion. The last book, To Let, was disappointing. It didn’t have the same intensity as the others and I might be biased on the fact that I had hopes for Fleur and Jon.
What I really liked about this saga were the historical aspects and the focus on change. The old Forsytes never got used to the idea of cars and loathed the modern youths. Soames invested in arts and the fact that he didn’t like his Gauguin picture, made me even dislike him more. 

All in all, it’s entertaining and a brilliant picture of upper class life in London around the end of the Victorian era. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you like family sagas and enjoy scandals.

John Galsworthy also wrote more books about the Forsytes, and they are collected in the works named A Modern Comedy and End of the Chapter, which means that the whole Forsyte story is about 3000 pages long. I doubt I will read the rest as I have far too many other books to read, but who knows, maybe some time in the distant future.

This was October’s read in Line’s 1001 challenge.


Buddenbrooks: the Decline of a Family by Thomas Mann (1901)

Consul Buddenbrooks and his family of five, plus various servants live the good life in a great house. The book follows the children from early age to death.

I started this book about two months ago, and then with 200 pages to go, I accidentally left it on a plane. I found a cheap copy and started reading it again a week ago.

It took me a long time to get into the story, and I usually could only read a couple of pages before my mind started to wander. Too many petty details. And too many names. It got a lot harder when I picked it up again, I had lost all interest in the family and the only thing that kept me going was the thought that when I finished it, I could cross it off a couple of my lists. It is bad when you are in need of some external motivation to finish a book.

So what is wrong with Buddenbrooks? There is not enough drama. My favourite part of the novel was the failing marriages of Tony, but they never got anywhere. And the other family members never got my full attention. A lot of the events explained in great detail would make great short-stories, like Hanno’s school day at the age of 15. Why put something so irrelevant so close to the end?

And now I dread picking up the other classics and discover that they are the same.

(I have read many great reviews of this book, so I guess it’s just me.)

ps. This is also one of the ugliest book covers I have seen.

twenty, twenty-one.

White Fang (1903) and the Call of the Wild (1906) by Jack London

One book, two novels. White Fang is follows a wolf pup of some dog heritage from he is born in the wild and tamed by men. While the Call of the Wild is about a dog being kidnapped from his home in California, brought into the Canadian Arctic and turns his back to men in favour of wolves. White Fang is a detailed description of how the nature works and how interactions between animals, and also between men and animals can shape the animals. The morale is if you treat someone badly, they will be bad and if you treat someone well, they will be good.

Having read the stories and seen the films as a kid, I was surprised how brutal the stories actually are. Most of White Fang is a bloody fight after one another with always someone being slashed in the end. While the Call of the Wild went in the opposite direction, from good to violent. I liked how the stories were narrated by the animals themselves, rather from a human perspective. Thanks to the amazing description of the Arctic, I’m already missing home after one day in the south.