The 7th novel of the Forsyte Chronicle and a big shift over to the aristocratic Mont family. We have met some of the Monts before but I found it confusing to sort out relationships with no visual family tree. In the end I decided to plough on and let them sort themselves out.
The narrative hangs on the problems of Hubert Cherrell who is in trouble for shooting, in cold blood, a Bolivian muleteer who had been mistreating the mules and who Hubert claims attacked him with a knife. Hubert has been attached to an expedition officially run by an American Professor of archaeology who has, in fact left all the day to day management to Hubert. The Professor has written an account of the expedition in which he criticised Hubert for his behaviour. However, back in England Hubert is the focus of a scandal and the Mont family gather round to protect him from extradition to Bolivia on a murder charge.
Hubert’s sister Dinny uses her charms on the American Professor who has fallen in love with her and does all in his power to have Hubert exonerated, including editing any criticism of Hubert’s actions out of his published account of the Bolivian expedition. At the same time the Mont family call upon all their influential connections within the establishment. Hubert is a weak character with a strong wife and sisters and interesting uncles, Adrian and Hilary.
Galsworthy makes clear the wheels within wheels of the political establishment, whilst not neglecting the personal and emotional issues involved. Galsworthy writes well about the qualities and eccentricities of the aristocracy, very reminiscent of P G Wodehouse. I especially like Lady Mont, Aunt Em to Dinny, who drops her gs and suggests taking coffee on the tiger rug in the hall and who reckons that Adrian will never get into heaven unless he takes someone with him.
As usual Galsworthy raises various social issues including women’s rights, divorce, prostitution, American democracy, foreigners, religion and madness. And, as usual his views are modern and humane. I like the way Galsworthy develops family relationships but I don’t like Hubert and was uncomfortable with what I interpreted Galsworthy’s ambivalence towards him. The plot around his way to avoid extradition becomes more absurd as the novel progresses.
Maid in Waiting has something for everyone: adventure, politics and romance. We are left with the cliff-hanger of who will be a worthy suitor for Donnie. Will she be tempted by the New World of America or stay with tradition? Roll on Flowering Wilderness and One More River!