I started reading The White Monkey by John Galsworthy with the plan of giving up The Forsyte Saga if I didn’t like this fourth book in the series, but it is my favourite book so far! Looks like I will continue reading…
The White Monkey is the story of Fleur Forsyte and Michael Mont, who married after Fleur gave up her sweetheart, Jon, after learning about their parent’s history (see the previous three books for their parent’s story). Michael is in love with Fleur, but she isn’t in love with him – that sad, old story. Michael’s best friend Wilfred is also in love with Fleur. She keeps him dangling alongside Michael, while she decides who, if either man, she loves…
The story is set during the 1920s and Fleur and Michael are rich and privileged, able to enjoy life in London society while others around them starve.
Michael, who will eventually become a baronet, is a good man who knows and understands Fleur very well. John Galsworthy did very well not to have Fleur come across as a spoiled brat, one whom the reader would lose patience with. Instead I liked her and sympathised with her, hoping all the time she would see sense and fall in love with Michael.
Soames Forsyte, Fleur’s father, appears again in this story as a main character. He is embroiled in a business scandal when he discovers inconsistencies in the accounts of the P.P.R.S., of which he is on the Board of Directors. To his credit, he brings the inconsistencies to the attention of other board members, most of whom would rather not know or let their shareholders know about. Soames still regularly buys art and purchases a painting called The White Monkey, which he gives to Fleur. The significance of the painting is in the composition, a monkey with haunting eyes eating fruit with the discarded rinds thrown about it.
Art appears regularly throughout The White Monkey. Michael is a publisher and Wilfred a poet. One of the characters is a painter and another his model. Some characters visit art galleries to carry out liaisons, and all of the characters talk about books and art.
I loved Michael and Fleur’s slang, which Soames despised, his exact words in response to something Michael said were; ‘Good Gad! he thought; ‘what jargon!…’
There are less Forsytes in this book than in the first three, apart from Fleur and Soames, but there were a few minor characters who I enjoyed very much. I don’t think these minor characters will appear again in future novels but I would like to know what happened to them, especially the Bickets, a poor couple who were dreaming of a better life in Central Australia.
The Silver Spoon is next in the series. I plan to read it on the beach this summer.