To Let by John Galsworthy

July 15, 2010

Plot summary (with spoilers): To Let is the fifth and final installment of The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy. As the entire collection would be far too difficult to sum up in a single blog post, I thought it would be best to tackle them one or two at a time. This entry covers the last book of the saga.

To Let focuses on the youngest generation of the Forsyte family. Most of the novel deals with the blossoming love affair between Jon Forsyte, son of Irene and Young Jolyon, and Fleur Forsyte, daughter of Soames and Annette. The two teenagers accidentally meet one day at June’s art gallery, where Soames and Fleur had gone to look at pictures. Unbeknownst to them, June, Jon, and Irene were also taking in the artwork that day. Soames managed to slip out without encountering the other three, but then the end up at the same confectioner’s shop, where Fleur purposely drops her handkerchief for Jon to pick up. The kids introduce themselves and quickly discover that they have the same last name, which prompts Soames to admit that they might be distant cousins before rushing out.

Fleur and Jon both have lasting impressions of their meeting, but neither expects to see the other again. Fate was working on their side, however, as both happened to visit Val and Holly Dartie at the same time. Jon was going there to learn about farming, while Fleur just wanted to get away for a while. Fleur and Jon fall properly in love during this time, though they decide to keep their affair a secret from Val and Holly. They know that their families don’t want them to be together, but as yet they don’t know why. Therefore, it would be better to hide their feelings for each other.

Of course this is easier said than done, so it’s not long before Fleur starts snooping and prying to see if she can uncover the root of the family feud. She finds a picture of Irene in Soames’s things, and assumes that the feud has something to do with her. After much sneaking around and wrangling, each family finally tells their child about Soames’s marriage to Irene. Fleur doesn’t think this will change anything, but Jon breaks off the affair because he realizes he is all Irene has left in the world after Jolyon died. Fleur suffers for a bit, then ends up marrying Michael Mont, heir to a baronetcy.

The novel also includes very lengthy chapters featuring Soames’s thoughts on various issues, including the changes that are taking place in modern society, his wife’s burgeoning affair with the foreigner Prosper Profond, and the death of Timothy, the last of the Old Forsytes.

Liked:

  • I enjoyed reading about Fleur and Jon for the most part. I personally would have liked to see them end up together, but I guess I can accept how things played out.
  • The final scene between Soames and Irene, when they happened to run into each other and she raised her hand in acknowledgment or forgiveness was well done. I don’t know that many women would have been able to “forgive” a rape like that, but it seemed in character that she would do so at last. It was interesting that Soames didn’t respond, though. I would’ve thought he’d jump at the chance to sort of make up with Irene.
  • I liked Soames’s musings about what was happening between Annette and Prosper Profond. That affair was an interesting parallel to the original Irene-Bossinay affair, and showed how Soames’s thinking had changed in the intervening years.

Disliked:

  • I thought trying to hide the Soames/Irene marriage from Jon and Fleur was a bit ridiculous. I can understand not wanting those two to be together, but I’m not sure why the parents felt the need to “protect” them from the truth. The marriage was ancient history, and Jon and Fleur were old enough (19 or 20) to deal with the fallout. If the parents had been upfront from the start, there wouldn’t have been as much heartache on Fleur’s side.

Rating:

This was the weakest book out of The Forsyte Saga, but it was still fairly good in its own right. The Jon/Fleur romance was the best part, though it’s a bit difficult for modern readers to buy into the reasons for hiding Soames’s marriage to Irene nearly two decades before their children fell in love. I give this particular book 3 stars out of 5, but the Saga as a whole merits 4 stars out of 5.

One Response to “To Let by John Galsworthy”

  1. I’m just beginning to read this book, after reading “the man of Property” and “in Chancery”, which I think are very good… I was interested by your summary of this new chapter of the Forsyte saga, which anyway continues with ” a Modern Comedy” and three new books, until the death of Soames, I thinK.
    Is Galsworthy really appreciated in GB ? I like the way he writes, he makes me think of the French author Proust who emphasizes on painting characters in his “Recherche…”. In Proust, we can find characters and a very intense social background.
    Regards
    F. LESIGNE

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