Swan Song Great Novel, Poor Overture

John Galsworthy is probably best known for The Forsyte Chronicles. He followed up the three volumes in that series about Soames Forsyte with another three focusing on Soames’ daughter, Fleur. Swan Song is the last of that second trilogy, which is called The Modern Comedy.

In Swan Song, Fleur’s first love, Jon, returns to England with his wife. Fleur tries to revive the old flame and very nearly succeeds.

Meanwhile, Fleur’s husband, Michael, is putting his energies into slum-conversion to distract himself from the knowledge that Fleur likes him but doesn’t love him.

Soames, 71, is puttering about on the sidelines, aware that Fleur wants something his money can’t buy for her.

Galsworthy is a master storyteller and superb crafter of characters. His people are complex: even at their most dastardly, they draw readers’ sympathy.

Although I love The Forsyte Chronicles and The Modern Comedy, I don’t recommend Swan Song to anyone who hasn’t read the other five novels in the series. You won’t understand why characters act as they do unless you know what’s happened in earlier books.

Start instead with the first Forsyte tale, The Man of Property. If it doesn’t whet your appetite for Galsworthy, nothing will.

Swan Song
By John Galsworthy
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928
360 pages
1928 Bestseller  #3
My grade:B+

© 2008 Linda Gorton Aragoni