What a great multi-generational saga. Galsworthy had such a gift of character and story building. How he kept the multiple perspectives interesting and intertwined the major themes of the novel throughout all three books and the characters' development was amazing. I was nervous at first about starting such a tome but I was interested in Galsworthy's attempt to capture such a transitional period, Victorian era to Edwardian era, and how industrial advances and the role of women would affect those of the moneyed-class.
Galsworthy did a wonderful job developing the themes of possession and materialism verses art and beauty. One of the most prominent storylines throughout the saga is Soames Forstye's, the Man of Property, who was such a dislikable tragic character whose need to possess everything from objects to people keep the love he so desires at bay throughout his entire life. One almost wants to feel sorry for him but cannot because Soames is his own worst enemy. He is rude, selfish, crass and self-centered. Everything is about him or about what he could possess and control. His most cherished possession is his first wife Irene who does not love him and is in love with someone else but he will not let her go. She belongs to him like the many pieces of art he collects. He treats her like property and abuses her and wonders throughout his entire life why she never loved him.
Toward the end of the novel one hopes that life has changed Soames but no, he is such a static character that he repeats his mistakes by marrying another woman, Annette, that does not love him but is beautiful, young and French something no one else in his family has. If that were not enough they have a daughter, Fleur, together that he raises in his likeness and she becomes her father's daughter and the heir to repeating the past once more. The saga ends with Soames at High Gate cementry reflecting on his life and still wondering why life turned out for him the way it did. He is alone and unloved but he is the still the man of property.
The novel deals with many more important themes like the restricted role and expectations of women during this time and how they changed with legal legislation: the Married Women's Property Act, which allowed women to own property; the Matrimonial Clause Act, which allowed women to legally separate from abusive husbands; and the Jackson case which "held that a man could not confine his wife in order to enforce the restitution of conjugal rights" (Galsworthy, Introduction).
My Thoughts: All in all, a wonderful book with many, many interesting characters. Some of my favorite characters and storylines were those of June, Old Jolyon, Young Jolyon and Irene. Although not perfect in any way they were the most kind, humane, and loving of the bunch.
The novel was worth the month long read!