The only other Galsworthy books which I have read have been The Forsyte Saga series so I was interested to see what one of his more obscure books was like. Previously I have found his books to be very enjoyable and well written and I wasn’t disappointed with this one.
I galloped through it at a good pace because I found it to be so straightforward and clear, which isn’t always the way with Victorian novels. Strictly speaking, I suppose that The Country House is Edwardian as it was first published in 1907. However the action takes place in 1891. The themes are similar to those of The Forsyte Saga – family, marriage and infidelity.
Chapter 1 starts with guests arriving for a house party at Worsted Skeynes, it is the first shooting party of the season. At first I felt that there were rather a lot of characters being thrown at me and everyone seemed to be described minutely. I was a bit worried that it would all be a bit too much for bedtime reading but they all just seemed to fall into place without any complications.
The estate is owned by Horace Pendyce and has been in his family for generations but although it is farmed on model lines, it still runs on a slight loss. He is married to Margery and they have grown up children, 2 boys and 2 girls.
The eldest son, George owns a racehorse and has developed a secret gambling habit whilst living in town. A relationship develops between him and Helen Bellew, who is the estranged wife of a neighbour. She has left her husband, supposedly because he has a drink problem, however as she is a bit of a man-eater, there is always the possibility that she drove him to drink. They are regarded as both being at fault in the break up of the marriage, but when Jasper Bellew serves divorce papers to George, his parents are horrified to discover that he isn’t the sort of character that they had thought him to be.
The thought of such a scandal in his family is almost more than the squire can bear and there is a meeting to discuss the situation with the local rector Mr. Barter, the family solicitor and a cousin. George refuses to attend.
The rest of the book is about George’s parents reaction to his behaviour and how it affects their lives and the lives of those around them.
The book deals with the hypocrisy of the divorce laws, as they were then. Actually they didn’t change until fairly recently, it was much the same in the 1970s.
I don’t want to give too much away and spoil things for any would-be readers. Suffice to say that I’m glad that I read the book, although I wouldn’t read it again.