Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Author Birthday: John Galsworthy


From today's Writer's Almanac:

It's the birthday of Nobel laureate John Galsworthy (books by this author), born in Surrey, England (1867). He's the author of the Forsyte Saga, a series of novels that satirically portray British upper-middle-class families. 
He won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1932, and he used the prize money to help establish an international organization for writers, PEN. It's an acronym they chose for the group after someone pointed out that the words for "Poet," for "Essayist," and for "Novelist" in most European languages have the same initial letters (P-E-N). He refused knighthood, saying that he didn't think that writers should take titles. In 1967, his Forsyte Saga was adapted into a BBC TV mini-series, which was hugely popular in England.

I remember reading The Forsyte Saga over the course of one snowy week in January 2004, when PBS's Masterpiece Theater was rebroadcasting the season 1 mini-series prior to unveiling season 2. It was a reading experience that stands out just as much as the novel itself. The snow fell continuously, the wind howled, the roads were treacherous... and I sat by the fire, drinking endless cups of tea, lost in the drama of late Victorian and Edwardian England. It was bliss.

My edition included three novels and two interludes: The Man of Property (1906); the interlude (short story) "Indian Summer of a Forsyte" (1918); the novel In Chancery (1920); the interlude "Awakening" (1920); and the novel To Let (1921).

After reading The Writer's Almanac and remembering how enjoyable the novels were, I searched amazon and found the complete collection - all 9 novels and 4 interludes, and 2650 pages - for just 99 cents. I plan to "Buy now with 1-Click" momentarily.

While poking around, I also found this 2012 article from the New York Times  describing The Forstye Saga series as "the bodice-ripper that started it all". The "it", of course, being Downton Abbey. [Currently 144 days, 12 hours, and 4 minutes until season 4 premiers in the US]

Have you read The Forsyte Saga  or watched the series? If you're a die-hard Downton fan like me, it might be a good project for the next 144 days.

22 comments:

  1. I can't remember the last time I had a hedonistic reading spree like that, but it sounds wonderful. I've got lots of "projects" on my list if ever I have the opportunity, and this one was just added.

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    1. Sandy - Don't think I've had a 'hedonistic reading spree' since then...certainly makes it even more memorable!

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  2. I really want to read this. All the more after reading your post!

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    1. Andi - The Masterpiece Theater is excellent, too. I highly recommend both!

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  3. I haven't read this but I am tempted now. We are lucky to have the new series of Downton back next month here in the UK!

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    1. Lindsay - I don't understand why they can't just show it here at the same time! It's tough to avoid spoilers... plus I hate waiting until January :-(

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  4. Shame on me. I haven't read it yet, even though both my mom and my grandma read and loved it. It is on my classics club list, and I should start reading it soon...

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    1. Eszter - Maybe you'll get to it sooner now that it's on your Classics Club list! I'm not sure how much of the plot I will remember from 2004, so may have to skim that part again.

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  5. Oh, these books. My family is mad for Galsworthy. No matter whose house you visit, you will find a complete set of the books on the shelf. I even have my own set now, having inherited my grandmother's copies, though I'm not as big a fan as the rest of the family. The longstanding joke is that my parents loved the books so much they almost named me Fleur. Thank goodness they loved another series even more (R.F. Delderfield's "A Horseman Riding By") and named me after a character from that instead! I'm not sure I could have gone through life as Fleur...

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    1. Claire - Oh my, what a wonderful story!! I must admit to being a little envious of inheriting your grandmother's set of books... not sure about living life named Fleur though ;-)

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  6. I don't know how I've missed reading these books, when I love family sagas, particularly in Victorian & Edwardian settings. I remember first reading about them in Anna Quindlen's book How Reading Changed My Life, when she writes about her own love of the series, and defends it against ridicule especially from her college lit professor.

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    1. Lisa - I first heard about this series from Anna Quindlen, too! I need to get my own copy of How Reading Changed My Life... borrowed a library copy many years ago.

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  7. My sister loves the Forsythe Saga but I haven't read the series--but remedy that. Wonder how many $.99 deals are still out there. What a great reading memory--winter storms and Edwardian bliss.

    I'm currently rewatching DTA, so that everything is fresh when we finally get to watch season 4.

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    1. JaneGS - I'm sure we'll have a Downton Abbey marathon here before the new season!

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  8. We were avid fans of the first FS on tv. Whole scenes come back to me, as well as the characters. Just saw Martin Jarvis in Endeavour, and we said 'our Jon.' As when we see the late Margaret Tyzack we say 'our Winnie.' And Susan Hampshire will always be 'Fleur.' Most memorable. High quality.

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    1. Nan - I got the series on CD for Christmas the following year. It's definitely time to pull them out again!

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  9. I have always wanted to read The Forsyte Saga. I need to just dive in!

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    1. Melissa - It's easy to lose yourself in the story. Hope you get a chance to read it some day!

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  10. Thanks for me reminding me to read this!

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  11. JoAnn,
    What a fascinating post!

    I do remember the very first The Forsyte Saga on PBS back in the 1960s, but I must admit, I did not see the first few episodes and always felt behind the game. This prompted my mom to suggest I plan to read a few during the summer, which I did. I am very sad to report that I remember very little of the books I read, although I enjoyed them.

    Ken and I loved the most recent PBS The Forsyte Saga. How well done and how sad I was to see it end. Would love to watch it again.

    I loved your wintry reading description--how nostalgic a feeling it must be for you!

    Judith

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    1. Judith - I've been thinking of watching the recent PBS series again, and then begin reading from where it ends. The Forsyte Saga was definitely one of my most memorable reading experiences!

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