Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lawrence, D.H. 1928. Lady Chatterley's Lover.

Ours is essentially a tragic age, so we refuse to take it tragically. The cataclysm has happened, we are among the ruins, we start to build up new little habitats, to have new little hopes. It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We've got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.

According to what I've read on the internet, though it was written in 1928, this was one was deemed 'too smutty' to be published (at least widely published) until the 1960s. And even then, it took some trials to do it. Is it obscene? Is it literature? Is it both? Can a book legitimately be both? No doubt, it was shocking then. But is it still 'shocking' now?

I didn't know quite what to expect from this one. It doesn't start off horribly shocking. It starts off rather beautifully. Smooth and beautiful. Poetic. It feels like truth. Even if you disagree with the philosophy in general, it still feels true. Words have a way of doing that. That's why words are often considered dangerous. The reader is introduced to Constance "Connie" Chatterley, the wife of a paralyzed war veteran, Clifford Chatterley. The two are married. The two are seemingly wealthy. Better off than most in any event. He is a nobleman, a "lord" and by marriage that makes Connie a "lady." But she doesn't feel comfortable with that title and the responsibilities of being 'above' everyone else. Her wealth and position are a burden, little else, to her.

In a way, Lady Chatterley's Lover asks the question, can "modern" men and women be happy? What does it mean to be happy? What does it mean to be successful? What does it mean to really live? Is life really truly about the earning and spending of money? Is the quality of life really and truly measured by how much stuff you have? Is money itself evil? Is industry and technology evil?

In regards to happiness, the novel addresses the issue of love and sex and successful careers in terms of 'making' people 'happy.' Clifford, since the accident, throws himself into trying to be "successful." At first this success is all about fame and acclaim. He wants to write. He wants to be heard. He wants to be known. He wants people to see him as a success. When this proves unsatisfying, he turns to industry. He turns to being a business man. For Clifford, this means getting involved in the coaling industry. The pits and mines and dealing with the working class. Connie, on the other hand, throws herself into several things. At first thinking that if she can find love on an intellectual level she'll be happy...then thinking if she can find satisfaction on the physical level...then thinking if she could only have a child to love and nurture...and so forth. Connie is always changing the definitions of what it takes for her to be happy and satisfied with her life. Early in the book, she thinks that if she can intellectually love her husband but find some relief with another man (she does have needs after all) then all will be well. But as Clifford changes as well, she realizes she doesn't want anything at all from him. The less she has to do with her husband, the less her life is connected with his the better.

Oliver Mellors, the lover of Lady Chatterley and the game-keeper of Lord Chatterley, is an interesting character. (Probably the most interesting character in the entire novel.) His dialect makes him a bit hard to understand, for one thing, and his personality is more abrasive than the others in a way. He's more tell-it-like-it-is than the rest. In a way, he's tender, but in other ways he's very rough around the edges. Very gruff. And he's definitely got a grudge against the world, though in all honesty all the characters seem to have a grudge against the world. Mellors is definitely cynical about love and marriage and committing to one woman. And he's not really a family man either. It's not that he's a heart-breaker necessarily. He's not a player in that way. It's more he's a guy who's up front that he wants sex, needs sex, loves sex. And he's not going to put up with a woman who doesn't share that. That is one reason why his marriage didn't work out right.

The novel isn't just about this adulterous affair. A novel that stretches the limits in what you can talk about in that regards. Far from it. It's about social class, economics, philosophy, gender differences, society, you know, meaning of life type stuff. Here are two quotes about money which I think just scream relevance:


"Anyhow, nobody knows what should be done in spite of all the talk, the young ones get mad because they've no money to spend. Their whole life depends on spending money, and now they've got none to spend. That's our civilization and our education: bring up the masses to depend entirely on spending money, and then the money gives out." (268)

"If you could only tell them that living and spending isn't the same thing! But it's no good. If only they were educated to LIVE instead of earn and spend, they could manage very happily on twenty-five shillings." (268)
The novel has its sections where it lays out an argument against this 'modern' life. This philosophy of spend, spend, spend. A philosophy of I want it, I deserve it, I need it...NOW! So it was refreshing to see the novel in that light. It was also weird, in a way, to see the juxtaposition of reason and intellect versus animal instinct (if it feels good do it--and keep doing it) battle it out to see which way makes a person happiest.

Have you read this one? What did you think? Do you think it too pornographic to be literature? Do you think it is just as shocking today as when it was first written? What did you think about that ending?

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Subscribe to receive updates in your favorite reader.

8 comments:

Amy 1:47 PM  

I have not read this one but it sounds really really interesting. I may have to pick it up sometime when I'm not feeling totally overwhelmed so that I can enjoy it more.

Carrie K. 2:23 PM  

I did read this one - and found it very well-written and thought-provoking. While it was more explicit than other novels of the time, I didn't find it "pornographic."

Nymeth 2:46 PM  

I loved the ending. It was so tender. Somehow I was convinced it would end on a bitter note, and I was so glad it didn't. It wouldn't have had the same power if it had.

I was actually surprised that it wasn't more explicit. I mean, I completely understand why it was shocking back then, in the wake of the Victorian era, but it's not all that graphic by today's standards, I don't think.

Steven Davis 5:45 PM  

I read Lady Chatterley's Lover a few weeks ago myself and had a very similar reaction to it. I didn't expect the case against materialism. Very nice review. Here is mine: http://libraryannex.blogspot.com/2009/02/lady-chatterleys-lover-by-d-h-lawrence.html

Molly 6:17 PM  

I have not read this one, although it has been sitting on my bookshelf for a couple of years now. My husband read it and did not consider it pornographic by 2009 standards.

Your review was excellent!

susan 6:33 PM  

Read this in college. Loved it then. One of those rare books, I'd read again. It is beautifully written. Thanks for the review.

Zibilee 5:42 PM  

I read this ages ago, and felt that though it may have been heady for it's time, it was very subdued when it came to the sexual aspects in the story. I remember much of it revolving around other topics aside from sex, though it is hard to put a finger on it all now. I ended up really liking the book, though and really thought the language was wonderful. Great review! You really encapsulated it better than I ever could have.

Linda 7:52 PM  

Fabulous review. I have SONS AND LOVERS on my list, but maybe I'll add this as well - you make me want to read it. Peace, Linda

Post a Comment

I'm always happy to hear from you! To help fight spam, comment moderation has been set up for posts older than two days. Feel free to ask me questions or ask for recommendations!

Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

Unique Visitors and Google PR Rank

Free PageRank Checker

Pageloads Counter

Search Book Blogs Search Engine

The background is based on a background I found here...with some small adjustments on my part so it would work with the template.
Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  © Blogger template Newspaper III by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP