Downloaded from Audible
Read by David Crace
Reviewing “To Let” is full of hazards if the reader wants to avoid spoilers. In this final novel of the first trilogy of the Forsyte Saga, John Galsworthy is tying up loose ends and setting the scene for the next stage in the life of the family.
Timothy, the last of the older generation, reaches his hundredth birthday, well cared for by his housekeeper and cook. He no longer recognises Soames but still mutters on about his investments.
Soames is winding down his law practice and has formed a close, humanising bond with his daughter, Fleur. Irene and Young Jolyon continue to live at Robin Hill and they too have a close bond with their son Jon.
The rift between the two families remains, but there are links provided by Winifred Dartie and Jolyon’s daughter June. June has not married since the loss of her fiancé Bosinney and has become a rather well observed old maid, given to rescuing failed artists.
By now Soames has become a serious and knowledgeable art collector. However, he is very much concerned that when he dies his collection will be assessed for inheritance tax. He considers various means of protecting Fleur’s inheritance.
Galsworthy clearly has an interest in art and its market value and raises issues that are still relevant today.
Val Dartie and Holly have made a successful marriage thanks to her intelligence and commonsense They have returned from living in South Africa and Dartie has become an expert on horse breeding even though he still enjouys a flutter. Because they are first cousins, they decided not to have children and they happily bridge the gap between the generations.
So! What happens? Well … beautiful, affectionate, wilful Fleur drops her handkerchief at an art exhibition and handsome, charming Jon picks it up. And thereby hangs the tale.
At the same exhibition Soames makes the acquaintance of a young art lover called Michael Mont and invites him to see his private collection, thus introducing a new character into the cast. Another new character accompanying Soames’ wife, Annette at the same exhibition is a rich Belgian called Prosper Profond. I can’t quite make out his function and find him irritating. Maybe he comes into the story later. He does perform one catalytic function in this story though.
Soames’ and Irene’s secret has been kept from the younger generation and forms a large part of this novel.
There is a moving scene, when Soames, alone at Highgate cemetery looks dreamily out over London and thinks about family, property and the future generation. He concludes that the younger generation are sufficiently financially secure not to have to work to create more money, or much else for that matter. They vaguely enjoy the arts and travel but the energy of the Forsytes has diminished. Women now ride bicycles for pleasure; people own cars and the property class are plagued by taxes. The world has left him behind. And yet, ironically, he has worked hard to protect his family financially.
Although I enjoyed it, I found “To Let” less satisfying than the previous novel perhaps because inevitably the character had become less interesting. I wonder what comes next!
So far in the readalong, Liz has read and reviewed this one – I will add links to Ali and Kaggsy’s reviews as they publish them.