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The Forsyte Saga

The Forsyte Saga is a series of three novels and two interludes by John Galsworthy. They chronicle the vicissitudes of the leading members of an upper-middle-class British family. Only a few generations removed from their farmer ancestors, the family members are keenly aware of their status as "new money". The main character, Soames Forsyte, sees himself as a "man of property," by virtue of his ability to accumulate material possessions—but this does not succeed in bringing him pleasure.

Separate sections of the saga, as well as the lengthy story in its entirety, have been adapted as motion pictures. The first book, The Man of Property, was adapted in 1949 by Hollywood as That Forsyte Woman, starring Greer Garson, Errol Flynn, Walter Pidgeon and Robert Young. The BBC also produced a popular mini-series in 1967. In 2002, Granada Television produced two series for the ITV network called The Forsyte Saga and The Forsyte Saga: To Let. The 1967 version inspired the popular Masterpiece Theatre television program, and the two Granada series made their runs in the US as part of that program.

Books

The Man of Property (1906)

In this first novel of the Forsyte Saga, Galsworthy details Soames Forsyte's desire to own things, including his beautiful wife, Irene Forsyte (née Heron). He is jealous of her friendships and wants that she should be his alone. He concocts a plan to move her to the country, away from everyone, but she resists his grasping intentions and falls in love with architect Philip Bossinney. However, Bossinney is the fiancé of her friend June Forsyte, the daughter of Soames's cousin Jolyon.

Indian Summer of a Forsyte (1918)

In a short interlude after The Man of Property, Galsworthy delves into the newfound friendship between Old Jolyon Forsyte (June's grandfather) and Irene, who has left Soames. This attachment gives Old Jolyon pleasure, but exhausts his strength. He leaves Irene money in his will with Young Jolyon, his son as trustee.

In Chancery (1920)

The marital discord of both Soames and his sister Winifred is the subject of the second novel. They take steps to divorce their spouses, Irene, and Montague Dartie respectively. However, while Soames tells his sister to brave the consequences of going to court, he is not willing to go through a divorce himself. Instead he stalks and hounds Irene, following her abroad, and asking her to have his child, which is his father's wish. "Chancery" refers to the legal system and courts. Ultimately, Soames remarries, wedding Annette, a French girl who is much younger than him and a Soho restaurant owner's daughter. Through his new wife, he has his only child, Fleur Forsyte.

As for Irene, she is left the sum of 15,000 pounds after Old Jolyon's death. His son, Young Jolyon Forsyte, also Soames's cousin, takes care of Irene's finances. When she first leaves her husband, he offers his support. At the time of the death of Young Jolyon's son Jolly, Irene has developed a strong friendship with Jolyon. They begin an affair, and she has his son after they marry.

Awakening (1920)

The subject of the second interlude is the naive and exuberant lifestyle of eight-year-old Jon Forsyte. He loves and is loved by his parents. He has an idyllic youth, his every desire indulged.

To Let (1921)

This novel concludes the Forsyte Saga. Second cousins Fleur and Jon Forsyte meet and fall in love, unknowing of their parents' past affairs, indiscretions, and misdeeds. Once Soames, Jolyon, and Irene discover their romance, they forbid their children to see each other again. Jolyon warns his son that once he dies, there will be no one to protect Irene from her ex-husband. Jon is conflicted between the past and his present love for Fleur. Despite her feelings for Jon, Fleur has a very suitable suitor, Michael Mont, heir to a baronetcy. Should they marry, Fleur would elevate the status of her family from "nouveau riche" to the aristocratic upper class. The title derives from Soames' reflections as he breaks up the house in which his Uncle Timothy, recently deceased at age 100 and the last of the older generation of Forsytes, had lived a recluse, hoarding his life like property.

Adaptations

Silent films

In the silent film era, it was filmed in 1920 and 1922.

1949 movie

A 1949 adaptation, called That Forsyte Woman in its United States release, starred Errol Flynn as Soames, Greer Garson as Irene, Walter Pidgeon as Young Jolyon, and Robert Young as Philip Bosinney. Walter Plunkett and Arlington Valles's work were nominated for an Academy Award for Best Costume Design, Color.

1967 mini-series

A television adaptation by the BBC starred Eric Porter as Soames, Kenneth More as Young Jolyon and Nyree Dawn Porter as Irene. It was adapted for television and produced by Donald Wilson, and was originally shown in twenty-six episodes on Saturday evenings between January 7 and July 1, 1967 on BBC2. It was the repeat on Sunday evenings on BBC1 starting on September 8, 1968 that secured the programme's success with 18 million tuning in for the final episode in 1969. It was shown in the United States on public television and broadcast all over the world, and became the first British television programme to be sold to the Soviet Union.

Following its transmission in 1967 by RTÉ, the Republic of Ireland's national broadcast service, the BBC production won a Jacob's Award at the annual presentation ceremony in Dublin. It was the last major British drama serial to be shot in black and white, even though the BBC was already gearing up for full time colour broadcasting.

In an interview for the DVD release, Wilson admits he would have loved to have shot the programme in colour, but delaying filming would have meant re-casting and he felt he had the perfect cast for this adaptation. In 1992 it was released in the UK on an 8-volume set of videos, and on region 2 DVD in 2004. Although never credited, the music that opens and closes each episode is the first movement, "Halcyon Days", from the suite The Three Elizabeths written in the early 1940s by Eric Coates, and its use very likely contributed to a resurgence in interest in the suite and its composer.

Radio adaptations

There have been at least three BBC radio dramatisations. The first was probably a radio production entitled 'The Man of Property' serialised and broadcast circa 1944 - 1948 on the BBC Home Service. The music used as the opening and closing theme came from Edward Elgar's Enigma Variations, specifically the Nimrod variation. Among the cast Grizelda Harvey played Irene Forsyte. Another dramatisation came soon after the 1967 TV series. The second was broadcast in 1990 and comprised a 75-minute opening episode followed by 22 hour-long episodes, entitled The Forsyte Chronicles. It was the most expensive radio drama serial ever broadcast, due to its length and its big-name cast which included Dirk Bogarde and Diana Quick. The radio series was rerun on BBC 7 radio in 2004.

Twenty-first century

The Forsyte Saga (2002)

In 2002, the first two books and the first interlude were adapted by Granada Television for the ITV network, although, like the 1967 production, the miniseries took many liberties with Galsworthy's original work. Additional funding for this production was provided by American PBS station WGBH, the BBC version having been a success on PBS in the early 1970s.

Character Actor Description
Soames Forsyte Damian Lewis a solicitor
Irene Forsyte (née Heron) Gina McKee Soames's first wife, and Jolyon's third wife
Young Jolyon Forsyte Rupert Graves a painter, married to: Frances, Helene, Irene
Philip Bosinney Ioan Gruffudd an architect
June Forsyte Gillian Kearney Jolyon's daughter, engaged to Bosinney
Old Jolyon Forsyte Corin Redgrave James's brother, Jolyon's father
James Forsyte John Carlisle Soames and Winifred's father, Jolyon's brother
Emily Forsyte Barbara Flynn James's wife, Soames and Winifred's mother
Aunt Ann Forsyte Judy Campbell The eldest sister of the Forsyte clan
Aunt Hester Forsyte Ann Bell an old maid
Aunt Juley Small (née Forsyte) Wendy Craig a dowager
Winifred Dartie (née Forsyte) Amanda Root Soames's sister
Montague Dartie Ben Miles Winifred's husband
Annette Forsyte (née Lamotte) Beatriz Batarda a former SoHo shopgirl, Soames's second wife
Fleur Mont (née Forsyte) Emma Griffiths Malin Soames and Annette's daughter, Jon's lover, Michael's wife
Jon Forsyte Lee Williams Irene and Jolyon's son, Fleur's lover
Michael Mont Oliver Milburn A baronet, Fleur's husband

Below is the plot summary of this series:First Episode: The Forsytes gather to celebrate Winifred Forsyte's (Amanda Root) engagement to Montague Dartie, a penniless but charming man. Her cousin, Young Jolyon (Rupert Graves), is absent from the party. We find he is at home with his daughter, June, and her governess, Helene. They are involved in a minor flirtation, but their feelings for each other are realized when his wife, Frances, falsely accuses him of an indiscretion. He cheats on her only after this accusation, and he then decides to leave Frances. Young Jolyon finds himself cut off from the Forsyte fortune and family.

Nine years later, Young Jolyon has a son with Helene, and a daughter on the way. He tries to get some of the family money to afford a larger house, but his cousin, Soames Forsyte (Damian Lewis) refuses him. A prosperous partner in the family law firm, Soames becomes interested in the beautiful but poor Irene Heron, (Gina McKee). Though at first she considers him, he ultimately does not appeal to her because of his desire to own things. For example, they are at an art gallery, and she sees the beauty of a painting, while he sees it as something to be owned and mounted in his hallway. When he proposes, she refuses him. She comes to visit his family, and flouts social expectations when she dances with Winifred when she is supposed to be in mourning. Intrigued by her beauty and danger, Soames forgoes the rules and asks her to dance.

Six months later, Winifred gives birth to her first child, Imogen. Montie gives her a string of pearls as a gift. She wonders how he could have afforded them seeing as how her father did not settle money or a house on Winifred when she married. At another dance, Soames attempts to show his passion for Irene, but ends up vulgarly kissing her hand in public. She is mortified, but her step-mother shuts her out of the house during a rainstorm for refusing him again. Second Episode: Under pressure from her stepmother she accepts Soames's proposal under the condition that if she should not be happy, he would let her go without impediment. They share an awkward, rigid kiss in the street. Young Jolyon and Helene read in the paper that his wife, Frances has died. He proposes to Helene and she happily accepts.

Contrary to what Soames has promised, two years later, we find Irene trapped in a loveless marriage. Soames is obsessed with his seemingly perfect wife, adjusting any stray strand of her hair back into place. She secretly takes steps to avoid getting pregnant as the idea of having his child repulses her. She befriends Young Jolyon's abandoned daughter, June (Gillian Kearney), who has been raised by her grandfather, Old Jolyon (Corin Redgrave). The 17-year-old June is engaged to a 26-year-old, penniless architect, Philip Bosinney (Ioan Gruffudd). They are not allowed to marry until Bosinney earns ₤400.

Unbeknownst to June and Soames, Bosinney and Irene are instantly attracted to each other. Irene asks that she have her own bedroom under the guise of not being able to sleep well. Soames is not keen on the idea, but she moves out of the room anyway. Hearing of her unhappy life, Bosinney hopes to begin an affair with Irene. Simultaneously, he grows cold toward June.

Soames does not like June's influence over his wife and aims to take her away from the city. He hopes that she might then concentrate on being a better wife toward him. He hires Bosinney to build a house near Richmond so he can earn the ₤350 to marry June. Robin Hill will serve as Irene's countryside prison. Meanwhile, Old Jolyon becomes agitated by his family, who clearly looks down on his son for marrying a governess. He pays his son a visit.

Meanwhile, the Darties seem to be living a luxurious and happy life but unbeknownst to Winifred, Dartie frequently squanders her money on gambling and shaky business ventures. She catches him eyeing the pearls he once gave her. Bailiffs come to their house and start to repossess items to fulfill Dartie's debt of 300 guineas. Her father, James Forsyte, is embarrassed by the situation as how their house is in his name.

Soames and Irene discuss the country house. She does not wish to live there, but he insists that she would be happy there when they have children. When she walks away, upset with the idea of children, he waits for her in her bedroom. He persuades her to come back to his bedroom, though she is still unhappy about it. Bosinney and June are still planning their wedding, although he is lackluster about it. He goes to Soames's house to discuss Robin Hill, but finds Irene there instead. They share a kiss. Bosinney and Soames discuss the plans for the house, which is thoroughly modern. When Irene shows interest in the type of house, her husband agrees to fund the project for £500 more than he first wanted to spend. Soames pats himself on the back for finding such a good architect for cheap.

Old Jolyon finds his son living in bohemian poverty with his wife, and two children, Jolly (who is also named Jolyon) and Holly. Helene is offended by her father-in-law's sudden interest in their lives, and thanks God for her husband's source of income, his paintings. He tells her that his father has secretly been buying his watercolors in a way of giving him money through the years. Old Jolyon expresses his loneliness to his son.Third Episode: June grows afraid that her wedding will never take place as Bosinney is always working on the house. She becomes angry at Irene's platitude that the hard times will pass, calls her old friend trite, and leaves in a huff. At Robin Hill, the building continues, but there are misunderstandings in budgeting, as he has gone over the agreed price by ₤700+. However, Soames relents because he wants the work done. Meanwhile, Irene and Bosinney's flirtations become more and more dangerous as they have a number of close calls.

Old Jolyon asks his son to have a talk with June's fiance, to convince Bosinney to be faithful. He refuses because he did exactly what Bosinney is doing now. Meanwhile, Soames's mother has a talk with Irene. She suggests that perhaps things would be better once they have children. Irene confesses to her, "I do not love him. I cannot love him. I don't want to love him." In the midst of his growing love for Irene, Bosinney snubs June in the middle of the street, driving her into a fit of depression.

The entire Forsyte family knows of Irene and Bosinney's affair except for Soames and June. During a ball, they flaunt their love for each other by dancing passionately in front of the entire family. June runs off in tears, her grandfather chasing her. Irene asks Soames to let her go, but he refuses. He threatens to beat her, but then immediately apologizes. When they get home she runs into her room and locks the door to keep an enraged Soames out. Determined to ruin Bosinney for stealing his wife, he sues for breach of contract in going over the agreed price by another ₤400. Montague gossips and spreads the news of Irene's indiscretion.

Irene and Bosinney consummate their relationship on the assumption that they can be together after the suit. However, as the court case nears, he is unable to produce future clients. Without work, he would be bankrupt at the end of the trial. She offers him her father's watch to fund his legal matters. Fourth Episode: When Irene stays at Bosinney's for longer than she intended, Soames grows suspicious. June returns from a vacation in Switzerland and discovers the law suit. Despite his infidelity, she still supports him against Soames. Walking in the park, Irene and Bosinney run into Young Jolyon Forsyte painting a watercolor. She lies about why they are together, though Jolyon knows the truth.

Old Jolyon goes to his brother James to withdraw his money and place it with another solicitor. He then goes to his son's house and expresses his desire to "be a family again." He expects them to feel relief and gratitude at the offer, but he is told that one could be happy despite poverty. Helene and Jolyon discuss if they should take his offer.

Irene asks for a divorce, but Soames refuses. She is late once again coming home from Bosinney's. In a moment of carelessness she leaves her bedroom door unlocked and Soames rapes her. The maid hears her screaming, but can do nothing. Irene meets with Bosinney the next day and he discovers the truth. In a rage, Bosinney goes to confront Soames, but as he runs through the foggy streets, he is run over by a cab and killed. She goes home and Soames attempts to reconcile, she remains fearful of him.

When Bosinney does not go to his own court hearing (which he loses anyway) and he does not meet Irene at a hotel (to run away together), June and Irene go to his apartment. The two women argue; Irene compares June to Soames, and June calls Irene a leech. Finally, Irene slaps June to stop her tirade. Old Jolyon asks June what she would think of living with her father and his family. She suggests living at Robin Hill.

When Soames comes home from court, the maid tells him Irene has left, taking two suitcases. Old Jolyon goes to Soames and asks to buy Robin Hill from him. However, they are interrupted when a policeman asks Soames to identify Bosinney's body. Old Jolyon has to break the terrible news to June. Last to learn is Irene, who went to Bosinney's club in search of him. Jolyon breaks the news to her, and takes her back home. He is haunted by the expression on her face and regrets delivering her to Soames. Soames tries to convince her that Bosinney's death was a sign that they should be together. She goes up to her room in tears. Fifth Episode: The next day, she leaves again, this time for good, but only with the clothes on her back. She has left her wedding ring behind. Young Jolyon meets his family again at the club, but he and his father are repulsed by Dartie's talk of Mrs. Soames. In the meantime, Soames is deluded into thinking that she will return, asking the maid to maintain the flowers in her room.

June and her father reunite and embark on a newfound friendship. During the funeral, June berates Soames for his part in her fiance's death. Despite her hatred for Irene, she still defends her to him. However, she also reveals that Irene prevented the conception of any of his children. He yells back that their friendship was a sham, and she replies: "Yes she stole the love of my life, my future. I should hate her, but the alternative was you. I cannot hate her. I can only wonder why she didn't do it sooner."

Soames's mother comes to visit her despondent son. In the presence of his sister Winifred, he cannot speak, only cry over Irene. His mother is affectionate toward him, but she wonders if she raised a child incapable of loving another being. She mentions that when he was a boy she gave him a kitten which he smothered with his love. "I should have taught you not to love like that...You feel things too much, you always have." Soames finally gets up the next morning and is fully recovered. He tells the maid not to bother with Mrs. Forsyte's room. He begins to move on with his life.

Old Jolyon makes an offer on Robin Hill. He defends Irene to Soames's parents. "If you talk about Irene, you do so with respect. Your son loved her once, with very good cause." The brothers settle that Jolyon will pay full price for the house. June gets along well with her father's family. She discovers a bundle of paintings she did as a child. Her father had kept them all those years passed. The family toasts to "New Beginnings."

Five years has passed and Helene has died. Old Jolyon is once again taking care of a granddaughter, this time a young Holly, while the rest of the family is traveling abroad. One evening, Old Jolyon notices Irene at the opera, and later again on the grounds of Robin Hill. They renew acquaintance and he invites her to give young Holly piano lessons. Since she left Soames she revealed that, she was on the verge of killing herself when a "lady of the night" took her in and cared for Irene. She then made a living as a piano teacher while giving what food and comfort she could to other such women. With June and Young Jolyon abroad, Irene and Old Jolyon see each other often. He and Irene grow close, and in his own way he falls in love with her. However, his health soon fails and he dies shortly after. Sixth Episode: With Old Jolyon's death, Holly is devastated and has no one to look after her aside from her mam'zelle. She comforts her and leaves when she has fallen asleep so she will not happen to run into June. Jolyon and June return home and discover that Irene had visited before their arrival. Young Jolyon is the executor of his father's will. To the shock of the Forsytes, Old Jolyon had made a codicil to his will that leaves Irene ₤15,000. Everyone comes to the funeral, but there is gossip and speculation as to why he would do that. Jolyon and June discuss what has come to pass and she states that all the people she ever loved "all gravitate to her in the end."

Being the executor, Jolyon visits Irene to discuss the money his father left her. She asks him to be her financial advisor, and during that time, he finds himself admiring her. She comforts him as he cries about his father's death.

Twelve years pass and everyone gathers for Soames's surprise birthday party, with the exception of Jolyon's family. Though he is still married to Irene, he has met a beautiful young French woman, Annette Lamotte. She is a SoHo shopgirl, and her mother runs a restaurant in one of his properties. He invites them to visit his weekend estate, Mapledurham. He shows off his art gallery, a collection of beautiful paintings which he owns but cannot understand.

In the meanwhile, Dartie and his cousin-in-law George spend their time gambling and cavorting with prostitutes. He has given Winifred's pearl necklace to one of them. He embarrasses his son, Val at the casino by stumbling about and falling down drunk. Dartie comes home after his son runs off, and his wife says that her pearls are missing. At her accusation, he reacts frantically and puts a gun to his head but when he pulls the trigger he finds that it was not loaded. He admits that he gave her necklace away. He decides to leave his family and go to Buenos Aires. Soames tries to convince Winifred to begin divorce proceedings, and he expresses his desire to "start again" as well. Winifred states that she would not like a divorce, which would humiliate her and her children. Soames visits his father who tells him to have a son.

Jolyon is preparing for an exhibition of his watercolors at Robin Hill. Soames comes to visit, along with Val, asking if Jolyon knew if Irene had "any men" as grounds for divorce. He agrees to see her if and when she returns to London. He goes to her apartment and asks her if she could provide what Soames needs for a divorce, but she admits she cannot help him.

In the meantime, Val and Holly are getting along and falling in love. They are unaware of the Forsyte history.

Jolyon visits Soames and tells her there is nothing she could do to facilitate a divorce.

While he forces Winifred's hand in her own divorce, once Soames believes that he must be with Irene, he does not follow his own advice to divorce and move on. Seventh Episode: Despite his feelings for Annette, Soames's feelings for Irene are easily rekindled. even after twelve years. He pays her an unexpected visit and wants to resume his marriage to her since she won't grant a divorce. He follows her and asks her to bear him a son. A prostitute saves her from him, and she escapes. She consults with Young Jolyon, and they conclude that he will not rest until she grants him a divorce, or gives him an heir. Irene reveals to Jolyon that Soames had once before forced himself on her. She quickly leaves for Paris to escape his harassment. Discovering his sister's romance with Val Dartie, Jolly forbids that they see each other again, prejudiced by what he overhead his father say. He tries to blackmail her into giving Val up, by threatening to tell their father what she has been doing.

Winifred is humiliated in court, but realizes that Soames had no intention of divorcing Irene. Soames hires a private detective to find and follow Irene, saying that he is doing it for a client. Jolyon meets Irene in France to visit and bring her, her annuity. There they spend time together and begin to fall in love.

Val and Holly are secretly engaged but are discovered by Jolly who reveals the Dartie divorce proceedings. Jolly forces Val to prove his love by going with him to enlist in the Boer War.

In the meantime, Dartie comes home to Winifred.

Holly and June become nurses, and ship out to South Africa, where Jolly is ill with typhoid fever. Jolly dies, an event that hits Young Jolyon very hard. Soames discovers Irene and Young Jolyon together at Robin Hill just after they have learned of Jolly's death, and accuses them of adultery. They are not lovers, but they know that without admitting guilt, Irene will never be free of Soames. Irene and Soames divorce, but she and Jolyon go away together as a couple.

Val comes home along with Holly. He has been discharged after a stray bullet hit his ankle. He announces to his family that he and Holly are married and that they are moving to South Africa. Soames and Annette go to her mother's restaurant, and he sees Irene is pregnant with Jolyon's child. Soames runs off and is in such a rage that he bites his lip until it bleeds. Annette disobeys him when he tells her to kick Irene out of the restaurant.

Soon afterward, Soames and Annette are married and having a family party at Mapledurham, Annette announces that she is pregnant. Soames relishes the prospect of producing an heir at last, as does his father who tells her, "A boy, you hear me? A boy." Meanwhile, George reads the paper aloud, which announces that Jolyon and Irene Forsyte have had a son. At Robin Hill, June and Irene reconcile.

Annette has a difficult delivery, and the doctor tells Soames to choose between saving his wife or his baby, either way, she will never have another baby again. Soames gambles that the baby will be a boy, and tells the doctor to do what they can to save the child at all costs. Annette survives and they have a baby girl. He is disappointed and decides to leave his wife's side and go to his father, who is dying. He lies to his father and says he has had a baby boy. Soames returns home in the morning. To his great surprise, he falls in love with his daughter immediately. Holding her in his arms, he names her Fleur.

"The Forsyte Saga: To Let" (2003, miniseries)

Immediately following the success 2002 adaptation, a second series was released in 2003. It portrays the saga's last book, "To Let." Much of the cast resumed their roles, but most of the first generation of Forsytes had died in the previous series. The principle characters played by Damian Lewis, Gina McKee, Rupert Graves, and Amanda Root return. It has also been released on DVD. (Below is the plot summary of this series.)Episode One: "To Let" begins nine years after the end of the first series. It is Aunt Hester's 80th birthday, and the Forsytes are gathering for her party. Annette is in a marriage of convenience with Soames, but they are happy with their young daughter, Fleur. Soames is happy to indulge his daughter's every desire. Meanwhile, June has become a women's rights activist. Her younger brother Jon has gone along with her to an assembly. Afterwards, she takes him to their great-aunt Hester's birthday party while in London, which shocks everyone. (Jolyon Forsyte's part of the family has stayed broken from the rest of the family.)

Soames is irate at Jon's presence. He also believes that Irene should have had a son with him instead of Jolyon. Winifred takes him out to the garden, to keep him away from her brother. Unbeknownst to anyone, Fleur and Jon get along famously in the backyard. Once he discovers Jon and Fleur together, he yells at Jon, calling him "illegitimate in all but name." He looks upon him with disdain because the little boy epitomizes Irene's betrayal.

Irene and Jolyon come home from traveling abroad. Jon runs into his parents' arms. When it is revealed that Jon and Soames met, Irene becomes mad at June for allowing it to happen.

It is eleven years later, and the 1920s—the Jazz Age. There are automobiles everywhere and no more hansom cabs. Soames meets his daughter at the dress shop. She is picking out her dress for her birthday party, which Soames is paying for.

Jon and Jolyon visit June at her art gallery in London. Meanwhile, Young Jolyon is no longer so young. He has developed a heart condition, and his doctor, who is not optimistic about his prognosis, advises him to tell Irene. Jolyon cannot face the prospect of troubling his wife, and conceals the truth from her.

At home, Jon and his mother are playing the piano duet for a dancing Val and Holly. Holly teaches Irene how to do a new dance. Jolyon comes home, and Jon tells him his future plans. He is going to work on a farm that neighbours Val and Holly's horse stud, and become, essentially, a farmer-- (much like their great grandfathers.)

At an auction to raise money for war widows, Soames bids on an imitation Degas painting which reminds him of his daughter. There he meets Michael Mont, a monied-war veteran-baronet who arranged the auction. At home, Soames is the only one who understands his daughter in a game of charades. Mother and daughter are not close because Soames has always undermined Annette's authority by always giving way to Fleur.

Val and Jon run into Dartie and George, and their Belgian friend, Prosper Profond. Val is still embarrassed as ever to associate with his father. They all have lunch at Profond's estate. He is a rich foreigner who likes to spend his money on friends. Though his loyalty falters, he remains good friends with Jon through the years to come.

Soames goes to June's art gallery without knowing it is hers. Discussing art and meaning, she says to him, "There are some things you can't buy, Soames. You still haven't learned." He spots Irene and Jon at the gallery. Fleur meets her father there, but he wants to take her away instantly. However, Jon and Fleur meet. They discover they are distant cousins, and actually have met before. Unwitting of the past, Fleur imagines that their family's quarrels are romantic. She says to her father, "I'm not your daughter for nothing. If I want something, I generally get it." At home, Irene tells Jolyon of Jon's interest in Soames's daughter.

It is Fleur's birthday party and Soames buys her an expensive diamond encrusted necklace. Soames invites Michael Mont, encouraging his affections toward Fleur. The father and daughter dance at the party, as do Profond and Annette.

In an attempt to find out about Jon Forsyte, she asks Val who he is. He reveals that Jon is going to stay with them soon. She manipulates the situation, and invites herself to their farm at the same time. However, when she gets there, Holly has arranged it so that Jon would not be around. However, he unexpectedly stops by. The next morning, Fleur packs a picnic and searches for Jon's farm, but finds that "roughing it" is harder than she first thought it would be. She finally gets to his farm, and they begin their secret, but chaste, affair. He takes her back to Val's, and Holly sees them kissing. She later informs her father.

Profond is supposed to take Winifred to a play, but cancels. Dartie latter sees him with Annette at the play.

Jolyon goes to Soames and tells him to keep Fleur away from Jon. Soames calls his cousin a hypocrite. Neither Jon nor Fleur knows about Irene's marriage to Soames, or about how she came to leave him. The children notice their parents' strange behaviour, and become suspicious.Episode Two: Jon and Fleur take the train part of the way home together. Soames tells Winifred of Jon and Fleur, and holds his sister personally responsible. He comes up with a plan to throw Fleur a party to introduce her to other eligible men. Jon takes Fleur home, but they are interrupted by Michael Mont, who tells Fleur that he loves her. Though she does not show much love for Mont, she is still easily amused by him.

Irene and Jolyon are worried that Jon will marry Fleur. They decide that Irene will take Jon to Paris, to keep him away from Fleur. Soames takes his daughter to go shopping for another dress, but she takes off early to meet Jon. He tells her that he is going on a tour of Europe, but they agree that they will wait for each other. Soames makes his daughter promise not to see Jon again.

During the party, it is clear that Profond is having an affair with Annette. Winifred is upset at this revelation because he had flirted with her. Dartie and Winifred discuss this turn of events, and she tells him that she regrets remaining faithful to him all these years. She tells him that his son is utterly embarrassed by him. The next morning, Fleur and her friend see Annette kissing Profond on a bridge.

Jolyon reveals to his daughter June that he is dying. He makes her promise not to tell Irene. In Paris, Jon and Irene visit the nightclubs. At home, Jolyon meets Fleur who lies about her identity. She goes home and finds Irene's portrait behind her mother's picture.

Irene and Jon's vacation does not seem to be helping him get over Fleur, and Irene is missing Jolyon. They decide to go home. Jon and Fleur meet immediately and she tells him that she thinks she knows the old family secret. She believes Soames used to love Jon's mother Irene.

Dartie is kicked out of his club for owing money. However, he is allowed back in after Profond pays his debt, but not before he tries to get money out of Soames for some information about his wife and Profond. Darite decides to go gambling one last time. Surprisingly, his 30 year losing streak ends and he wins a substantial sum. When the clock strikes minute, he stops gambling, just as he said he would. He plans on using his winnings to take his wife on vacation, but before he gets home, he and George get in a car accident. Dartie dies on impact. At the funeral, George has Dartie's favorite race horse ride alongside the procession. During this time, Profond reveals to Fleur that Soames had married Irene, but they divorced.

Fleur takes the train to Robin Hill, and Jon and Fleur are discovered by Irene. Jon is mad that his parents weren't more civil to Fleur during her visit. He is so angry that he runs away to Maple's farm where he is working, he stays in a run down cottage there. Jolyon alerts Soames. A little while later, Soames gets a telegram that Annette has been spending her time with a "dirty foreigner." Soames asks his daughter where Jon Forsyte is, but instead of telling him, she takes this opportunity to think of ways of meeting him.Episode Three: Fleur goes to Jon's cottage. She offers herself to him, but he stops her because he doesn't want to rush things and wants to wait until everything is perfect and they're married. Unable to trust his unfaithful wife, Soames makes his sister Winifred the sole trustee of his will. Jolyon goes to Jon's farm and finds Fleur there. He asks her to stay away from his son because he is dying, and if she takes Jon, Irene will be "entirely alone." She tells him she will give Jon up. However, when Jon comes home, she concocts a plan to elope. Because they are under-aged, they cannot marry without parental consent. So, she says they can leave a suitcase in Scotland to establish residency for 21 days. Then they could marry there. In the meantime, she tells Jon to go home and pretend that they have separated. They both go home.

Michael Mont visits Soames and asks for his daughter's hand in marriage. Soames replies, "In the end, the matter lies with her." Then he extends his approval. Fleur asks her father about Irene, but he refuses to talk about it except to say that it was a "grand passion." Soon afterward, Profond comes by Mapledurham to say that he is leaving England. Annette is devastated. Fleur looks on her parents' relationship as a strange agreement. Despite her affair, Soames takes his wife back with great civility-- treating her better than he did before the affair.Episode Four: :Mont asks Fleur to marry him, but she refuses. However, she does invite him to a cricket game as a friend. At the game, Annette runs into Profond, Soames sees Irene and Jolyon, and Fleur sees Jon. Although at first Annette is cruel to Profond, in the end, she wants to resume their affair. Jolyon and Irene see that Jon has been lying to them about Fleur all along. They decide that they must at last explain that Soames had raped Irene many years ago. He tells his son that if he marries Fleur, there would be no one to protect Irene from Soames. The stress is more than Jolyon's ailing body can handle, and he suffers a massive heart attack and dies.

After the funeral, Fleur goes to see Jon, who did not meet her at the train for Scotland. They make love, but are discovered afterwards by June who believes Fleur is just as manipulative as her father. June and Irene are saying goodbye and Irene tells her that she is always welcome at Robin Hill. Later, she tells her son that she won't stand in his way if he wants to marry Fleur.

Fleur asks her father to go speak with Irene and convince her to let her marry Jon. However, when he sees his ex-wife, the meeting dredges up all of Soames's long repressed resentment of the fact that Irene never loved him, and all of Irene's continued fear of Soames's pursuit, even all these years later. While he is threatening her and towering over her, Jon walks in and tells Soames to leave immediately. Since the meeting is a fiasco, Fleur runs in and finds Jon comforting his mother. She calls Irene selfish for trying to hold onto her son, and repeats her father's words, except about Jon, screaming, "He is mine." Seeing the resemblance between father and daughter, and realizing the real threat Soames poses toward his mother, he breaks it off with Fleur. Blaming her father for what has happened, Fleur begins to hate him. Not knowing what to do, Soames summons Annette who was in Paris. She comes and talks her daughter out of despondency.Episode Five: Michael Mont proposes to Fleur again, he says for the last time before he gives up on her. She accepts. She later sees Jon in the park again. Not able to choose between Fleur and Irene, she gives him up for good. On her wedding day, Soames reveals to his daughter why Irene hates him so much. Feeling bad for him, she reconciles with her father. The Forsyte-Mont wedding joins money with title. Profond tells Jon of an opportunity at his printing press in New York. After the wedding, he accepts and leaves for America. With no one else at Robin Hill, Irene decides to sell or to let Robin Hill and move back to Paris. Soames and Irene meet one last time, and, after half a lifetime of bitterness, they are no longer enemies. They shake hands and he leaves. It is understood that they will never meet again.

Themes

Duty versus Desire: Young Jolyon was once the favourite of the family until he left his wife for his daughter's governess. He eschews his status in society and in the Forsyte clan to follow his heart. Soames, though it seems he is the polar opposite of Jolyon, has those same inclinations toward doing what he desires. For example, instead of finding a wife who is rich, he marries Irene and Annette who have no money or status. When he takes Irene to a play about a married woman and her lover, he ironically sympathizes with the lover and not the husband. However, most of his decisions err on the side of duty.

Generations and Change:The many generations of the Forsyte clan remind everyone of what has come to pass over the years. However, as the old ranks begin to die, people are able to change. For example, after a few generations, the fact that they are nouveau riche does not matter as much. This is also the case with Soames and Irene's marital problems. Once they grow old, and their children can overcome their parents' past, Soames can finally let go of the past. Mortality is an important issue because it forces people to let go. Another change with generations is the diminished number of Forsyte offspring. Many of the second generation have fewer children.

Sequels

Galsworthy's own sequel to The Forsyte Saga" came in A Modern Comedy'', written in the years 1924 to 1928. This comprises a novel, The White Monkey, an interlude, A Silent Wooing, a second novel, The Silver Spoon, a second interlude, Passers By, and a third novel Swan Song. The principal characters are Soames and Fleur, and the second saga ends with the death of Soames in 1926. This is also the point reached at the end of the 1967 television series, but Galsworthy wrote one further trilogy, End of the Chapter, comprising Maid in Waiting, Flowering Wilderness, and Over the River, also known as One More River, chiefly dealing with Michael Mont's young cousin, Dinny Cherrell.

In 1994, Suleika Dawson wrote a sequel to The Forsytes called The 'Forsytes: the Saga Continues in which Soames's daughter, Lady Fleur Mont is the main character. She has been a dutiful wife and mother, and had long forgotten her love for Jon Forsyte. But when tragedy brings Jon back to England, Fleur is determined to recapture the past--and the love of her life. Thus the story continues, as a brave and reckless new generation pursues the Forsyte destiny.

References

External links

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