The first of three volumes chronicles the lives of leading members of a large upper class family. The main character is Soames Forsyte, who desires to possess beautiful things, and this includes his wife, Irene. Soames decides to build a house in the country to remove Irene from London and all her friends. He hires Philip Bossiney, an architect, to build the house. Unfortunately Bossiney and Irene fall in love, which leads to tragedy.