Thursday, 2 July 2009

Lady Chatterley's Lover

In the past I haven't fared well with D.H. Lawrence. He writes contemptible characters so well that when I was at school I threw Sons and Lovers down in disgust, even though I was close to the end, because I loathed Mrs Morel, Paul's mother, intensely and I simply couldn't have her in my life any longer. At University, Women in Love bored me and I only managed to read 2/3 of the novel; Lawrence certainly has me persevering with a book more than any other author, or perhaps it was merely the academic requirement. Women in Love also convinced me that Lawrence was a misogynist.

When Lady Chatterley's Lover was suggested for last month's book group, I was far from delighted. I ended up not hating the novel, nor loving it, but I am glad that I read it. If I were to define my reaction towards the novel further, I would say that I am ambivalent. As I said, I am glad that I read it; it's another Classic down and the illicit furore surrounding this book means that it is one to read. I would even say that at some point in the future, perhaps in my twilight years, I would even re-read it. Lawrence provokes a response in his readers, whether its love or hate or confusion, it is more than some writers achieve. I still think he may be a misogynist though, or maybe a misanthrope ... it's another think I am undecided about.

I have issues with the novel being about Connie Chatterley (Connie is my sister's name and I found it so odd reading about Connie, the sexual being) and yet the title referring to her lover, Oliver Mellors, instead. I didn't find any of the characters sympathetic, likeable, and in the case of Clifford Chatterley, he is another irritating, detestable character in Lawrence's oeuvre. I didn't enjoy the novel per se but I did find it engaging and compelling. Moreover, I didn't find Lady Chatterley's Lover to be wonderfully written; the sex and discussion of their "crisis" was painful at times to read and it is hopelessly dated. There are far more accomplished writers of the period, namely Virginia Woolf.

It was certainly though-provoking in ways that I didn't foresee, certainly in regards to my own preconceived notions. This novel is one I will be thinking about for a while, continually attempting to make up my mind about it.


verity said...

I am most amused by you throwing your book down! I often felt the same about books at school, which is why I never did English Lit beyond GCSE, although in my case I think it was less the books and more the teaching, which is a shame, as almost everything I read at school is marred.

I think you're right with your review though. I think we lose sight of the book itself because of the furore around its publication which has led it to be perhaps overrated.

Paperback Reader said...

I was lucky enough to have great English teachers, Verity, which is perhaps why I studied it for a further seven years (Higher, Sixth Year Studies, Honours degree, Master's)! I find that some things from Uni are marred and that reading books for the most part during those years was not enjoyable because it was required reading and I missed reading for pleasure/books by choice.

Controversy always overshadows the books themselves and few live up to the hype.

farmlanebooks said...

I have often been intrigued by this book. I loved reading your review and will probably still read this at some point.

I didn't realsie you have a masters in English. Did you specialise in anything for that?

Nymeth said...

He's certainly a writer that doesn't leave anyone indifferent. I'm glad you appreciated this more than his others, even if you were still ambivalent in the end. I actually did sympathize with the characters, but I can also see their flaws. And your point about the title is a good one. It's easy for me to put off by social attitudes I despise when reading older literature, but sometimes if I persevere I find a lot more nuances and ambiguities than I expected to, and that's what happened with me and Lawrence. Though I can see why feminist critics have problems with him (and with other male Modernists), I find a lot in his work that I love.

Paperback Reader said...

Jackie, although my review isn't that complimentary, I don't intend to put anyone off it; it's worth reading and I am grateful to my book group for the impetus to read it.

My Master's is in Modern and Postmodern Literature and I wrote my thesis on Angela Carter, but I don't consider myself a specialist, by any means! I enjoyed studying literature further and I still do, reading as much as I can.

Paperback Reader said...

Ana, he deserves more consideration than I had previously given him and I am thankful that Lady Chatterley's Lover allowed me to perceive that.
I find that at times I can be reactionary to texts/authors and it is upon further reading and reflection that my appreciation -if not love- for them grows.

JoAnn said...

This was a book club selection several years ago for me, too, but I was the only one that actually finished the book. I was glad to be able to put it on my 'classics read' list, but couldn't muster much more enthusiasm than that.

Darlene said...

You reminded me of a childhood memory. The family bookcase was in my room as a youngster, I suppose it was the only spare place they had. My mother pointed to the aforementioned book and said "I don't want you to read that book, it's for grown-ups". What a stupid thing to say to a ten year-old. Yup, I looked.

Paperback Reader said...

JoAnn, thank goodness for book groups and their purpose of reading books that we sometimes wouldn't choose for ourselves!

Darlene, funny anecdote! That is certainly not a deterrent.