#14 — Finally, I have finished the very heavy to hold Forsyte Saga, with the final volume, "To Let." The themes of ownership of women by men and the consequences in a changing world play out to a sad but satisfying finish, as the people around Soames recede from him, whether into death or marriage or simply the distance. There are some beautifully written passages, both descriptions of post-World War I London and of the interior lives of Soames and his cousin Young Jolyon, and of their children, Fleur and Jon.
I want to offer one more reflection on the BBC version from a few years ago, once more related to Gina McKee and Irene. Soames' "ownership" and violation of Irene form the core of these books. In the BBC miniseries, we follow Irene into her bathroom and see her grieving after it happens. But in the books, Irene is unreachably interior, not just to Soames, but to the reader as well. What is attractive about her is something numinous, and much as I like McKee, she is not like that. I think the adapters tried too hard to win us to Irene, when the right kind of actress in a better adaptation would have done it with a nod of her head or a slight gesture of the hand.
#15 — The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness, by Karen Armstrong — in this memoir, Armstrong describes the years after she left her Catholic order and the grail quest on which she eventually embarked to find her authentic self. In doing one she lost her religion and her faith, but in doing the other, she found an understanding of the divine more real than her prior disillusionment would have allowed to be possible. I love the image of study as worship that informs the final section of the book.