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Sail Away
Sail Away
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: 12.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice relaxing music, 23 Mar 2014
This review is from: Sail Away (Audio CD)
I remember this from years ago, when it was more vogueish (although saying that, you have songs like Let Her Go now). Gray falls into that sort of Dido category of easy listening and his songs work best on soundtracks; not sure I could take a whole album of this. But Sail Away and Babylon (the other famous one but a bit overplayed) are good chilling tracks.


Sugar Rush, Series 2 [DVD] [2005]
Sugar Rush, Series 2 [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Olivia Hallinan
Price: 6.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compliments the first series nicely, 9 Mar 2014
It's eighteen months since the last series and Kim (Olivia Hallinan) is out and proud. Though it is a shame that we don't see the in-between part, I think it fits well with the programme that it skips straight to the action. Not every show with gay characters has to have a big coming-out scene and the way in which Kim is outed is wickedly funny. What makes the show so addictive is that it is outrageously over-the-top whilst still being realistic. It manages to be entertaining and strikes a chord; it's even blackly comic in parts, remembering in Series One where Kim contemplates spiking Sugar's (Lenora Crichlow) drink. I think the only weakness in the show is the character of Matt (Kurtis O'Brien), Kim's little brother. The writers didn't quite know what to do with him and whilst I liked the fact that the programme didn't judge Matt, he just didn't develop in the way that Stella (Sara Stewart) and Nathan (Richard Lumsden) and of course the two leads did.

For me, the main point of this series is to show Kim as independent. In Series One she was obsessed by Sugar but now she has grown up a bit and moved on. It shows how tight their friendship is that the two girls manage to maintain it, even if there is a slight role reversal. The lesbian aspect is more prominent in this series as Kim is out and proud. Some reviewers think that it is too prominent; I think that it works. The idea of Kim falling in love with a sex shop owner, Saint (Sarah-Jane Potts), is true to the tongue-in-cheek attitude of Sugar Rush. The show never hides away from sexuality and I think for teenage viewers that it is a positive message, particularly as it is not simply standard heterosexuality. Basically, anything goes and anything is accepted. I think that's another appeal of the show; it never judges. It allows a fantasy world where you can be who you want to be and have what you want to have.

Whilst Series 2 does not top Series 1, it is a brilliant continuation of the show, actually developing the situation and the characters without rehashing or outstaying its welcome. If you simply want the love story, you could stick to Series 1 but you would be missing out on the pay-off: Kim's transformation from awkward schoolgirl with a massive crush to confident lesbian woman. So although Series 2 ends on a cliffhanger (and I would have loved another series), I think that they wrap things up satisfyingly- even if you do get withdrawal symptoms.


Psycho [DVD]
Psycho [DVD]
Dvd ~ Anthony Perkins
Price: 5.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A re-evaluation of Psycho, 28 Feb 2014
This review is from: Psycho [DVD] (DVD)
Believe it or not, I did not know the surprise ending so I had the delight of being shocked by the grotesquerie. For me, it is Anthony Perkins' performance that makes the film last in the memory. Norman Bates is by far the most interesting character but we don't see him nearly enough. Of course, maybe that would diminish the effect but I disagree. I think that Hitchcock probably identified him as the only interesting character but the censorship of the time meant that Bates must very much be 'the baddie', the 'scary monster' in the shadows that paved the way for the modern slasher film. Peeping Tom, also about a psycho, came out the same year but director Michael Powell took the brave decision to have the audience lurking in the shadows with the monster- a brave decision that would of course result in the death of Powell's career.

The trouble is that none of the other characters are at all likeable, not even in a cardboard sense. One can't wait for Janet Leigh's vapid character to be offed; the pity is that all the other characters weren't offed with her. Instead we get her boyfriend and friend sneaking around Bates Motel like they're playing detectives in an Enid Blyton novel. The mystery aspect/catching the killer is as creaky as any of Hitchcock's older films (Stage Fright). Perhaps it's part of the censorship that destroyed Strangers on A Train or maybe Hitchcock does think dull stupid youths on the hunt is a suspenseful event. Yes, maybe Hitchcock was smarting from the censor's angry fist but he could have made the youths even faintly interesting and likeable.

The bits with Anthony Perkins stand up pretty well because his performance is so chilling. His eyes are genuinely psychotic, which makes the final scene so potent. There's even some nice use of bird imagery. Unfortunately we're subjected to a whole scene in which we're told that Norman is psychotic (in case you hadn't guessed!) because of these past traumas. Not only is the cod-psychology unconvincing, it's a piece of exposition that a good filmmaker would have known to take out. I'll conclude therefore that Hitchcock was forced to keep it in so we can wag our fingers at Norman. Hitchcock does get quite a good final word though.

The problem with reviewing classic films is that you filter out all the bad bits because of the strength of the good bits. Whilst of course you must praise the film's strengths, it has some undeniable weaknesses which make up a sizeable chunk of the film. It is of course compulsory viewing for anyone interested in the horror genre and for the brilliance of Perkins' performance, but I'd recommend watching it alongside a few other films. The obvious companion is Peeping Tom; subtler and more allegorical but a good example of the psychological horror that might have been.


My Best Friend's Wedding [DVD] [2002]
My Best Friend's Wedding [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Julia Roberts
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: 3.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Friendship or Marriage?, 16 Feb 2014
I find very few rom-coms particularly funny and I don't find this one funny, apart from Rupert Everett. He's there to cover up what would otherwise be quite a depressing film. Some of course will call it bitter sweet but for me it's a bit depressing in its values.

Julienne (Julia Roberts) gets a call from her best friend Michael (Dermot Mulroney). She assumes that he's there to fulfil their old promise- if neither was married before they were 28, they would marry each other. However he actually reveals that he's met a pretty perfect little blonde, Kimmy (Cameron Diaz), and is going to marry her. Oh, by the way, they want Julienne to be the maid of honour. Jules realises that she's in love with Michael and goes along to sabotage the marriage.

The idea of Julienne being best friends with an ex from 9 years ago is a bit odd, particularly as he'd been very much in love with her and she'd been stand-offish, but I'll go with it. The problem with the film is not that it isn't completely in the right for portraying Jules as borderline psychotically jealous; there's nothing worse than losing a best friend and having to accept that you're not the woman in their life any more. The problem is the character of Kimmy. She is sweet and perfect and unlike Jules, has an old-fashioned starry-eyed view of romance, where one can have a whirlwind marriage and must give up their life and ambitions all for the sake of love. One could argue that there are some people who are genuinely lovely and sweet and that Kimmy is right in her willingness to accept all of Michael's flaws. However I think they could have made her character less irritating.

It's not clear whether the director is trying to defy the cliches of Hollywood or staunchly reinforcing them. In some ways it's very sexist- you have the shrew and the perfect wifey. The ending may be off-beat but there's an underlying misogyny. You can never be quite sure what the values of the film really are. Still, it's worth a watch because Rupert Everett is quite delightful.


Sugar Rush: Series 1 [DVD] [2005]
Sugar Rush: Series 1 [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Olivia Hallinan
Price: 6.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming funny tale of young love, 15 Feb 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Sugar Rush is perfectly pitched. Ultimately it's about youth: the feelings of first love, the exploration of sexuality and the belief that you can do anything.

Kim (Olivia Hallinan) is a fifteen year old who lusts after her best friend, the sassy town bike Sugar (Lenora Crichlow). Unfortunately Sugar is very much into men. Kim's next door neighbour Tom (Andrew Garfield in an early role, still with a baby face) is very much into Kim, though having two dads means that everyone assumes Tom is gay. Kim's mother Stella (Sara Stewart) is rather interested in their sexy new handyman Dale (Neil Jackson) whilst her father Nathan (Richard Lumsden) is woefully oblivious. And her little brother Matt (Kurtis O'Brien) thinks he's an alien.

Though a lot of serious and sometimes tragic issues are explored in Sugar Rush, it never allows itself to be depressing. Gay characters on TV and film often have such a hard time of it that you'd think it was a death sentence. Either that or they're obsessed with sex. However the portayal of Kim works. She (and the camera) looks at Sugar the way a straight girl may look at a teenage boy; the show doesn't shy away from the fact that Kim has sexual feelings towards her friend. However the universal appeal of the show is how it explores those intense friendships you have when you're young, where it's you and your mate against the world and you feel that you'll be together forever. In a way, it's a similar theme to Withnail and I, though the friendship there is loving but platonic.

The show is set in Brighton, known for being a fun loving place with a good gay scene. So there is no suggestion that Kim is doomed because she is a lesbian; actually, she has a whole world ahead of her. However Sugar's world, hedonistic and intoxicating as it may be, is falling apart. Lenora Crichlow perfectly shows Sugar's trashiness and self-absorption whilst showing that she has a tragic side underneath. Every girl, and maybe every guy as well, has had an idolic crush on a mate- that impossibly cool person that you can't even believe would be friends with you, let alone a best friend. Sugar Rush is very identifiable, whatever your sexuality.

Or even exploration of sexuality aside, it shows a teenager starting to realise that her parents' marriage is falling apart. Sara Stewart and Richard Lumsden find the comedy in the strainings of the marriage and Nathan's compensation for Stella's lack of maternal extinct by doing all the chores. However it is also desparately sad, as Stella looks longingly over an old picture of Nathan. Sometimes love is not enough. The effect of this on Kim and her younger brother is nicely contrasted, as it completely destroys her younger brother, though even then, still with a degree of humour.

If you're a viewer in your early twenties or around about that age, you may remember the CITV show Girls in Love, based on the Jacqueline Wilson novel. Olivia Hallinan also starred in that as well, and in a way, they are very similar. You can almost graduate to Sugar Rush.

As for that 18 rating, it makes you assume that the show will be sordid and titillating but it's not at all. What earned the show its 18 rating was the way in which it did not judge the characters' drugs taking. The actual content remains within the 15 boundaries, though I've noticed that the BBFC tend to mark a certificate up if the film or show deals with homosexual relationships. It's a shame because that 15-18 bracket are at an ideal age to watch this. For the rest of us, it's a look back at those wonderful torturous years of youth.

THE PRODUCT

There are some extras, plus subtitles for the main features. The extras include deleted scenes (which I haven't checked out yet), an outtake reel (basically a minute and a half of the cast messing about) and director commentaries on the first and last episode of the series (interesting but it would have been nice to get the actresses in as well).

As other reviewers have noted, there have been music edits, as is the case with other shows (This Life and Waterloo Road), which means that the original soundtrack is replaced by a score. It is frustrating that the producers don't use music that they can get DVD rights for- the reason for As If never getting a video or DVD release is that it would be far too costly to get the rights for all the music they used.


This Life +10 (BBC) [2006] [DVD]
This Life +10 (BBC) [2006] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Davenport
Offered by babsbargains *** WORLDWIDE SHIPPING ***
Price: 28.99

2.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag (and a sort of spoiler but not really), 13 Feb 2014
F Scott Fitzgerald said: "It is in the thirties that we want friends. In the forties we know they won't save us any more than love did" Amend that to 'twenties' and 'thirties' and you have the theme of This Life+10, a feature-length reunion episode.

Sadly the show starts with a funeral. Ferdy has passed on, so we're back to the original five: Miles (Jack Davenport), Anna (Daniella Nardini), Milly (Amita Dhiri), Egg (Andrew Lincoln) and Warren (Jason Hughes). Egg, in that old cliche, has written a book about their times back in the nineties. He's a bit of a literary sensation so documentary maker Claire (Jodie Whittaker) gathers the five friends together at Miles' country mansion, having made a pile of money in the hotel business.

And how is everybody? Anna is still a ruthless lawyer but yearns for a baby. Milly and Egg have one- a cute little toddler called Oscar- but they're rowing. Miles has a young Vietnamese wife he picked up in Hong Kong and Warren is about to launch a life coach business. Unlike some of these types of shows, I think everyone has ended up where we might expect them to, even if Egg's fame is a bit contrived.

I can see why writer/creator Amy Jenkins chose the premise of a fly-on-the-wall documentary. One of the features of This Life was Warren's sessions with his therapist, who Milly then started going to; the characters candidly revealed all to camera. However if I'm honest, I found the device a bit boring and ponderous and it really drags the tone down here. Of course naturally there's going to be a wistful look back at youth but from the looks of this, you'd think that life ends when you reach your mid-thirties. What This Life did well is mixing comedy and drama with self-reflection but there is little comedy in this episode. The characters all look at twenty-something Claire, who's simply a plot device, and think about how old they are. Of course, they could have potentially used that character to explore how the youth generation has changed, but they don't. There's some talk of the nineties, the role of women, etc., but at times it feels a bit like an essay.

At the time, This Life was seen as a ground-breaking insight into modern life but this episode is disappointingly conservative. The characters remain the same people inside, which is some consolation, but there's little of the spark that made the show a cult hit. The sparks between Miles and Anna are thankfully still there but the rest is buried under a depressing sense of ennui.

I would say that it is worth a watch in the sense that it ties things up better (Series 2 had such an abrupt conclusion) but it's more of a reflection and essay on This Life rather than a sequel, so the tone is very different. But if things are this miserable in your thirties, what would they do for a +20?


Collision [DVD] [2009]
Collision [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Douglas Henshall
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: 10.14

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A good story but full of filler, 8 Feb 2014
This review is from: Collision [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
This is very much a boxset to watch all in one go, as it relies on the viewer being vigilant. Despite the show's flaws, it does have good re-watch value.

The premise is that there is a pile-up on the A-12, involving eight cars. There's some fatalities, some critical injuries and some escape with a few scratches and a bad arm. But our lead policeman John Tolin (Douglas Henshall) does some sleuthing and discovers that there are some dodgy dealings about. He is paired up with policewoman Ann (Kate Ashford) with whom he naturally has romantic history with. So, who are all these people and what's going on?

That is really the show's problem for the middle three episodes. In the opener, we see some intrigue and wait to learn more about that, only for more 'intrigue' and characters to keep piling up. Clearly this was done to stretch the show to five episodes (one was shown every weekday for a week). The criminal activity was all a bit vague and unconvincing, lacking any tension, though there is a pay off of sorts for the blandest one in the penultimate episode. If they'd left that, the show could have focused on the more interesting criminal activity; the dodgy secrets of a large company that one of the people involved in the crash, PA Karen (Claire Rushbrook) is on the brink of exposing.

Buried underneath all of this unconvincing no-tension dodgy dealings are the secrets of a private piano tutor (David Bamber), the rubbish relationship of roadside diner waitress Jane (Lucy Griffiths), the millionaire who wants to whisk her off her feet (Paul McGann), a man (Phil Davis) and his mother-in-law (Sylvia Sims), and a young black couple (Anwar Lynch and Leonora Crichlow). These stories are quite well written: because some of them are predictable, it means that others surprise you because of course, you're expecting everything to be predictable and lazy. And of course, it's an ITV drama, so predictable and lazy are par for the course.

Acting-wise, the dodgy dealers are passable but the main actors are actually quite good. True, they're not given outstanding material and due to the large cast, characters do not get a lot of chance to develop, particularly the relationship between Griffiths and McGann's characters. Their chemistry is more like daughter and father so it's a bit off-putting to imagine them as lovers but these characters were always looking for an escape route.

Personally I think the show was at its best when dealing with the personal consequences. Of course, we wouldn't get the irritating police couple or the good performance of Jo Woodcock as John's daughter, but it would be more interesting. Writer Anthony Horowitz was clearly capable of doing something more subtle but ITV clearly thought it would be more appealing as a police procedural show.

The end episode is satisfying and does leave you thinking about how the crash had such a vast effect (the butterfly effect). Though some characters obviously end up worse, others get the chance of freedom, so there's some interesting ethical dilemmas.

The show is worth a watch if you can pick it up cheap- it's on Amazon for under a fiver at the moment and it's just about worth that. Yes, it is mainly a stretched out police procedural but there are some interesting twists.


The Trial of Lady Chatterley: Regina v. Penguin Books Limited
The Trial of Lady Chatterley: Regina v. Penguin Books Limited
by C.H. Rolph
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating insight into literature, morality and law, 5 Feb 2014
Lady Chatterley's Lover is far from the greatest novel of the 20th century, but it may well be the most important one.

In 1960, Penguin Books were brought to trial for their decision to publish Lady Chatterley's Lover, DH Lawrence's last novel. Lawrence was not unknown for dealing candidly about sexuality- in fact, an earlier novel of his, The Rainbow, had been initially banned- however this novel really took the biscuit, with detailed sex scenes and what the prosecution euphemistically called 'Anglo-Saxon words'. So, Lady Chatterley's Lover was judged under the Obscene Publications Act of 1959. Though it was not the first piece of literature to have been judged under the act, it was the most prolific.

The jury had to decide two things: one, was the novel obscene? Two, if it was obscene, did its literary merit mean that it was for the public's good? So began the five day trial. 35 witnesses were called for the defence; none for the prosecution. Therefore we have the tour-de-force comic performance of Mervin Griffiths-Jones. Though the judge had ruled that the novel should be tried and considered as a whole, Griffiths-Jones had taken the trouble to underline all the naughty passages and count the naughty words: "s_ and a_, six times apiece". It is ludicriously comic- you can only wish you were there when Griffiths-Jones reads out one of the offending passages in 'the Nottinghamshire dialect'! (well, you sort of can be there if you watch The Chatterley Affair)

Griffiths-Jones' most infamous comment is "Would you allow your wife, or even your servants, to read this book?" It was seen as the death-knoll for the prosecution but Griffiths-Jones bravely soldiered on, badgering academics to decide whether particular passages were examples of good writing, and being shocked when a bishop said that Christians should read the novel. Indeed, pretty much all the witnesses for the defence come across as intelligent sympathetic people, who think it's laughable that the novel (first published in 1930) could be thought of as 'dangerous' or 'dirty'.

Ironically, the transcript of the trial (published here in full and more recently in an abridged version) says more about sex, class, morality, 'bad' language and the limits of literature than anything in Lady Chatterley's Lover. This isn't a book about how great Lady Chatterley's Lover is; the majority of the witnesses say that it is a lesser Lawrence novel, and I agree. It's about whether a novel can have literary merit even if it discusses things and uses words that we don't associate with 'the classics'. Of course, to a modern reader it seems almost inconceivable that art should be banned on grounds of morality, but The Trial of Lady Chatterley is by no means a cosy glimpse into the past. Indeed, the attitudes towards sexuality displayed by the defence witnesses is far more sophisticated and tolerant than modern attitudes. Can you imagine a member of Church promoting the novel nowadays? It's also arguable that any literature that deals explicitly with sex is viewed as pornographic or dirty. What if Fifty Shades of Grey had been a novel of 'literary merit'? It would still be sniggered at, or whip up moral panic.

Of course this will be overtly of interest to law students, as the trial brought about changes in the law and how trials were run. However I think it is invaluable to any literature student, or somebody studying social and cultural history, because it also revolutionised how we think about texts and Literature. How do we judge whether something is a 'classic' or not? Do a few lines and passages of smut mean that the entire work becomes obscene? Is the writer's morality relevant to the text? Does literature need to take some sort of moral stance? Reading the book (well, both books) will inspire your own questions.

One thing that is worth noting though. Even though the novel was found to be not guilty of obscenity, Lawrence has never escaped his reputation as a smut-peddler and general embarrassment. Were it not for Lady Chatterley's Lover, he would probably still be thought of as a bit too interested in sex but his talents for imaginative sympathy, direct candour and desire to tackle the impossible, would outshadow that. Unfortunately, Lawrence has become synonymous with the novel and it will take some work to convince the public and even academics to recant.


The Rainbow (Wordsworth Classics)
The Rainbow (Wordsworth Classics)
by D. H. Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
Price: 1.89

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic sensual saga, 2 Feb 2014
THE NOVEL:

Though Lawrence is best known for writing Lady Chatterley's Lover, for me, The Rainbow is a far more illuminating and interesting look at sexuality. It also avoids Lawrence's key pitfalls: tendency to be florid when describing sex, long passages of Lawrence philosophising and my pet hate- the Mellors type. Lawrence has a particular type of male character he loves writing about- a rough, hearty man-of-the-soil, a man's man who can barely string a sentence together but is seething with bestial passions. Mellors is of course the epitome of this character. I don't know whether Lawrence thinks women like things like that or whether he has a penchant himself. Anyway, we only get a very minor character of the Mellors type in The Rainbow.

Originally Women in Love, the sequel to The Rainbow, was going to make up the fourth and final section of the book. Though The Rainbow is not rigidly divided into sections, there are three key eras in the history of the Brangwen family. The first generation is Tom Brangwen, who marries a Polish widow Lydia Lensky. She's six years his senior with a tragic sort of soul that Tom can never quite understand. As an antidote to the alienation he feels from his wife, Tom focuses his affections on her little stepdaughter Anna. Though Tom and Lydia have children together, it is Anna Lensky that heralds the second era of the novel.

As a teenager, Anna falls for Will Brangwen, her 'cousin'. Will is different from the typical blonde-haired Brangwens; he is skinny and dark-haired. This will become a theme of the novel, as each new era involves a change that moves the family away from their agricultural history and towards the modern era. Like Tom and Lydia, Anna and Will have a deep passion with trouble at its heart. Will is constantly on heat and Anna tires of it. She finds a new identity for herself, as mother and giver of life, and Will finds himself pushed away. When Will and Anna do come together, it is with a destructive sensual force. Fecundity is another of the novel's themes and though Lawrence sympathises with Will's frustration, he admires Anna as this pagan goddess of fertility.

Anna and Will's eldest child Ursula becomes the third and final generation. Unlike her predecessors, Ursula has many 'eras' as she reaches her coming-of-age and is transformed from a rebellious dreamer to a wiser, more realist, woman. Like her parents and grandparents, she has a central man in her life: the calmly self-assured Anton Skrebensky, a family friend. Neatly linking back to the novel's beginning, Anton's father was a friend of Lydia's, back in Poland. Anton and Ursula are both half-Polish but they have no real connections to their past. Anton seems to be perfect- unlike any of the other male characters, he knows who he is and what he believes in, which is why Ursula falls for him. However, when Anton goes to war, Ursula searches for an identity beyond him, as she has a fling with a schoolmistress that she worships and later becomes a struggling school-mistress herself. But in true modernist fashion, Ursula fits neither Lydia's role of dutiful wife nor Anna's of breeder. Is it better for a woman to simply accept one of these identities or should she struggle to find a new identity? Though the choice seems obvious, Lawrence does show Lydia and Anna as being happy in their simple roles and does not demonise them. He also casts doubt on whether Ursula isn't just chasing for some dream version of an identity that does not exist.

To get the full effect of the novel, it's best if you read it continuously in a short space of time, rather than switching between novels, so that you get the full sweep of the history of the Brangwen family. It's a compelling read full of people with interesting conflicts, trying to come to terms with their sexuality. I say 'people' because the characters are so full of internal conflicts that it's hard to pin them down as anything concrete. There's a feverish quality to the narrative, as if Lawrence just allowed himself to be swept along by the characters' passions. This is what makes Lawrence so interesting as a writer- his characters have deep desires. They really want things and are at times almost consumed by their need to have it. I'm not just talking about sex, though it is a recurrent desire, but things like independence. It's similar to Thomas Hardy, although Lawrence's characters are full of 'life-force', chasing everything fertile and promising and running from things that are dead and mechanical. Of course Hardy's characters are full of the death-drive, hurtling towards destruction.

People criticise Lawrence for not having a sense of humour. True, there are no overtly 'humorous' parts or comic relief, but some of Lawrence's metaphors are quite funny, particularly when he gets into pathetic fallacy (or should that be phallacy). When his minor burly bloke comes in, the rhubarb is "thrusting upwards upon the thick red stem". I'm sure Lawrence sees it as simply being a reflection of his themes of fecundity but Lawrence wouldn't be Lawrence without some madly unsubtle sexual metaphor.

Those rhubarbs must have been very shocking because The Rainbow was actually banned for a decade because it was ruled to be 'obscene'! Okay, it was probably more than the rhubarbs- sexual discovery is the main theme and is dealt with quite candidly, plus Ursula engages in a bit of skinny-dipping with her schoolmistress and discovers the orgasmic qualities of the moon. But there's no naughty words- not even anatomical words, apart from breasts. It just happens to be an openly sensual and sexual novel.

Lawrence's interest in female sexuality might raise a few eyebrows. Far from being a token attempt to write about a woman's experiences, he has an acute interest in it. The novel quite shockingly suggests- shocking for the time- that women had sexual feelings, and that just because a man was satisfied, the woman was not necessarily satisfied. It's dealt with quite beautifully and realistically actually. There's a lovely chapter called 'The Bitterness of Ecstasy' where Ursula and Anton have a whirlwind four weeks of passion, perfectly capturing the fever of young love. Surprisingly Anton is a decently written male character being neither an incessant mouthpiece for Lawrence's views nor a burly miner.

As for the significance of the title, there are many meanings. In one sense, it symbolises the illusory qualities of Ursula's dreams; rainbows are a trick of light. Secondly, rainbows appear only when it is both rainy and sunny, suggesting that life may be a necessary mixture of both- or that there is hope after the rain. And thirdly, the nature of a rainbow- that you can never reach its end- also reflects the nature of history. The Brangwen family will continue on, long after Ursula and the others.

This is my favourite novel of Lawrence's Big Four. I'd recommend it to those looking for a romantic read with lots of sensuality and less industrialism, and you don't need to have swotted up on Lawrence first. Those looking to dabble in Lawrence should start with Sons and Lovers, Lawrence's semi-autobiographical novel, as it's not too heavy on its themes. It's also a bit more appealing to male readers as well. Then progress to that famously naughty book, Lady Chatterley's Lover, which is Extreme Lawrence- but more importantly, it is a landmark in the history of sexuality in literature, challenging the idea that there are suitable ways of writing about things and unsuitable subjects for literature. If you really love Lawrence or you're curious to see what happens next with Ursula, progress to Women in Love. This is Lawrence's favourite novel but unlike The Rainbow, Sons and Lovers, or even the giggles of Lady Chatterley's Lover, it's not much fun, unless you have a hotline to Lawrence's mind. The best part of Women in Love is when Ursula's lover Birkin (Lawrence's mouthpiece) and her sister's lover Gerald (man of the soil) have a nude wrestling bout for a good six pages. Though one might venture to suggest that there's a little more to that 'wrestling' than at first appears.

THE PRODUCT:

My copy is a Penguin Classics version, the one with the baby on the front. It's a nice durable copy, and being about 500 pages, you don't want some cheap flimsy copy. The font is a good size, the notes are fine and this is apparantly the closest we can get to Lawrence's original text. The only downside is the poor introduction by Dr James Wood, where Wood spends most of his time making facetious comments about Lawrence or indulging in dull analysing of some sentence or passage on nature or talking about how the novel is like a re-writing of the Bible or some such nonsense. It is laughable that Wood accuses Lawrence of being pompous and serious when he does exactly the same! If this passes for academic insight, English really is in trouble as a degree subject.

There's also a version of The Rainbow with a bizarre cover- a topless red-headed woman covering her modesty with her hands (we only see her chest). None of the characters in the novel have red hair. It's simply perpetuating the old cliche of Lawrence as a smut-peddling nympho.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2014 5:12 PM GMT


Lady Chatterley's Lover: AND A Propos of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (Penguin Classics)
Lady Chatterley's Lover: AND A Propos of "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (Penguin Classics)
by D. H. Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps the most important novel of the 20th century, 29 Jan 2014
Do I think this is a great novel? Its greatness is up for debate but what cannot be denied is that it is an important novel- perhaps the most important of the 20th century, if not the entire history of literature. Lady Chatterley's Lover was the most famous of the books tried until the Obscene Publications Act of 1959. Penguin Classics were daring to publish the unexpurgated version- until then, the only version available was one with all the naughty bits cut out, which was a bit pointless. 34 witnesses stood in defence of the novel, including academics (male and female), a bishop and a university student. The prosecution called no witnesses.

The trial revolutionised literature and indeed sexual mores. What was once shocking was now perfectly acceptable. There was nothing inherently wrong or dirty about four-letter words; the context was everything. A book's moral values had nothing to do with its literary merit. All the book banning you see in dystopian novels- that was all happening here in England. Lawrence was no stranger to obscenity charges: The Rainbow, an earlier novel, was banned for eleven years, and the reputation stuck. Indeed, it sticks today.

However, some of the things he argues in Lady Chatterley's Lover appear in dystopian novels like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. One of the ideas in Nineteen Eighty-Four is that through sex, the individual is defying the state; which is why the state had created the Anti-Sex League. In Brave New World, the state encourage sexuality but they have full control over it so it does not become a threat. So Lawrence's equation of sex with personal freedom, and as a rebellion against a mechanical age was actually a modern and progressive thought. Yes, he could have replaced the sex scenes with some dots, or glossed over it, but that would have undermined his message. Far from being a bit of titillating fluff like Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey, Lady Chatterley's Lover is a highly political novel. Without any cap on what he could or could not say, Lawrence was able to portray an honest love affair that became a powerful rebellion against society and convention.

I would venture to suggest that 99% of first-time readers of the novel are reading it to judge whether it is a smutty book or not, whether it's really as shocking as all that. If you are reading purely for titillation, you will probably be disappointed- not because there isn't a lot of sex in it but there's a lot of philosophical and political stuff too. Lawrence was highly moral, perhaps to the detriment of the book as your average reader is really waiting for all the naughty parts and when Lawrence is on his soapbox, it's hard to get him off. However, there is some interesting stuff in the philosophising; one of the upper class men makes a point that applies pointedly to Lawrence and his own career: "It's the one insane taboo left: sex as a natural and vital thing. They won't have it, and they'll kill you before they'll let you have it. You'll see, they'll hound that man down." Though to us that sounds terribly overblown, Lawrence paid the price for his sexual candour, and if you think about it, how many mainstream writers can write candidly about sex without it being laughably embarrassing?

It is interesting that Lawrence chose to write from the viewpoint of Lady Chatterley. His portrayal of female sexuality is far better than you would imagine from a bloke- very tender and intimate. There's a scene where Lady Chatterley (Connie) studies her body critically in the mirror and it's quite an accurate representation of how women judge themselves and the effect age will have on their sexual attractiveness. Connie's not hideous but she's no babe; Lawrence is not writing from the female viewpoint in order to please himself but in a genuine attempt to portray (or maybe understand) female sexuality. Readers may (and have) question Lawrence's sexuality, particularly as Oliver Mellors, the gruff gamekeeper, is the bit of rough manly man that creeps up a lot in Lawrence's work as an object of desire. To credit Lawrence with a more fluid sexuality does help to understand some of the nuances- if you take the quotation from the novel in that respect, Lawrence's statement is perfectly accurate.

Though sex is obviously important in Lawrence's novels, it does him an injustice to focus on it in a purely literal sense, which is where I think Lady Chatterley's Lover hinders him. What Lawrence is really passionate about is the 'life instinct'; the desire to go out and live life, seeking vitality, fertility and sensuality in all its forms and fleeing from the deadening and mechanical aspects of society. The novel does however provide the clearest example of Lawrence's belief that until the mind can accept the body and the body can accept their mind that a person will never be truly fulfilled. It's not simply a reference to sexual fulfilment; sex is simply an easy way of stating it because it is an experience of fulfilment that is achievable and that people can relate to.

I've been talking quite vaguely about themes and Lawrence's writing as a whole rather than this specific book because if you read it under the impression that it's a spicy book, you'll be disappointed and so caught up in the duller philosophising passages of the book that you'll ignore the bits that are interesting. For readers who just want a love story, the novel does explore sexuality quite tenderly and you do root for Mellors and Connie to defy class barriers and find happiness together, so it's worth putting up with the boring contextual bits for that. Personally I don't think Lawrence wanted to write Lady Chatterley's Novel because he wanted it to have an erotic effect on the reader. Sure he wanted the reader to understand the eroticism but I don't think he wanted us to go all shivery at the mention of Mellors. This is where Lawrence's taste in men comes into question. Mellors is not exactly every woman's sexual fantasy; he's inarticulate, forty, not particularly attractive, more hearty than sexy bit of rough. He's Lawrence's fantasy, basically. When Ken Russell cast Sean Bean for the 1993 adaptation, he had it spot on.

If you're not particularly interested in Lawrence's wider themes, he did write more accessible and entertaining novels. Women in Love is best avoided until you've dabbled in Lawrence a bit more because it's Lawrence's philosophies at their strongest and strangest. It does however have an erotic scene with two men wrestling; much more erotic than anything in Lady Chatterley's Lover. Sons and Lovers is a nice little intro, being a fictional autobiography, and it has interesting things to say on the mother-son bond, which is intensely portrayed. I'm reading The Rainbow at the moment and it's good- basically the story of three generations of one family and their search for a satisfying relationship. It is quite sexually candid but more in the sense of the part sex plays in relationships, and how men and women interact in romantic relationships.


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