The White Monkey, Forsyte Chronicle # 4

The White Monkey - John Galsworthy A Modern Comedy - John Galsworthy
— feeling doubt

This first part of the second of three (!) trilogies concerning the Forsytes does not have the epic sweep or grandeur of 'The Forsyte Saga'. Many of the more dynamic characters of the previous books are marginalized or not present at all, leaving us with Fleur and Michael, and her father Soames.

The plot revolves around the question of Fleur's affections. Her husband, Michael, well remembers Fleur's sudden turn-around considering his suit and knows that her love for him, if there at all, is more of convenience than passion. Will she abandon him for another? Meanwhile, he introduces the wife of a former employee to a line of work not considered 'suitable' by the world at large. Soames tests his conscience when he finds out about a scandal after being newly appointed as trustee to a financial concern.

Everything and everyone is uneasy, it seems. The writing is far cry from the more modern styles of some of Galsworthy's contemporaries, but he hits on the unease and the open acknowledgement of moral ambiguity. The cracks that were appearing when Soames reflected with horror on all the common people strolling in Hyde Park are now ravines. A person's backgrounds and connections are no guarantee of their behavior, conversation is less about information and more about affect, and Soames' eyes, as well as others, are turned up to the sky and thinking of fire raining down from the skies.

That was the single most interesting thing about the novel to me. The first World War hardly received a mention, but it plays in the minds of the characters of 'The White Monkey'. The characters also know it is not the last war either. The advent of airplanes used in warfare and the possibility of bombs falling on London is reflected on more than once.

Overall, I liked the novel, but it was easy for me to occasionally forget about the book and move on to others for weeks at a time. These characters are worth further consideration, but they don't have the sparkle of Irene or June.

'A Modern Comedy'

Previous (The Forsyte Saga): 'To Let'

Next: 'The Silver Spoon'