Looking for Edwardians

by Charlotte Reads Classics

Happy March to all! Its safe to say I am thoroughly sick of winter and am loving seeing the light last a little bit longer each evening. Firstly on a little side note I’d like to thank Jessica Francis Kane for featuring my review of The Report on her website. I’m chuffed!

Now that spring is here, it is time to indulge in my ever growing obsession with the Edwardians. The time that is always described as a perpetual summer before the horrors of war; and there is no better place to start than with The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy.

The family saga follows the Forsytes through the generations, the first book in the series is The Man of Property, set in the 1880s. I find this period of history so fascinating because it is so unique: the changing society between Victorians and Edwardians makes for a clash of changing attitudes. A lot of the book discusses the modernisation of marriage and relationships, particularly when it comes to things like divorce.

Galsworthy’s construction of the plot really gets you hooked, although there isn’t really defining moment contained in a sentence or a paragraph. Everything about this book is so gradual – finding out who the Forsytes are, what defines them in society, their wealth and pursuit of it… Reading it makes you completely complicit with their world.

At the end of the book there is the Interlude: Indian Summer of a Forsyte. which really secured the book in my affections. The writing is so beautiful, I have to include this quotation. Bear in mind, it looks like a spoiler, but it isn’t:

The stable clock struck four; in half an hour she would be here. he would have just one tiny nap, because he had had so little sleep of late; and then he would be fresh for her, fresh for youth and beauty, coming towards him across the sunlit lawn – lady in grey! And settling back in his chair he closed his eyes. Some thistledown came on what little air there was, and pitched on his moustache more white than itself. He did not know; but his breathing stirred it, caught there. A ray of sunlight struck through and lodged on his boot. A bumble-bee alighted and strolled on the crown of his Panama hat. And the delicious surge of slumber reached the brain beneath that hat, and the head swayed forward and rested on his breast. Summer – summer! So went the hum.

The stable clock struck the quarter past. The dog Balthasar stretched and looked up ay this master. The thistledown no longer moved. The dog placed his chin over the sunlit foot. It did not stir. The dog withdrew his chin quickly, rose, and leaped on old Jolyon’s lap, looked in his face, whined; then, leaping down, sat on his haunches gazing up. And suddenly he uttered a long, long howl.

But the thistledown was as still as death, and the face of his old master.

Summer – summer – summer! The soundless footsteps on the grass!

How can you read writing like that without falling in love?