on 25 September 2003
Although I, like many others, began reading this book due to it's risque reputation, I gained far more from it than I could have imagined. Connie's frustrations with the modern world and her desire for something better touched me, and echoed my own hidden feelings. Regardless of the manner of writing, the philosophical (some would say long-winded) side-tracking, and the sex that it is famous for, I enjoyed every page, every sentence...yes, every word. Any woman who says she cannot relate to Connie has either experienced nothing of nature or felt no yearn for love. As a 20 year old woman from the country who now lives in the town, I was entranced by the imagery of the landscape and the primal feelings it provokes within Connie, and indeed within myself.
To any woman, or indeed, man: Read this book and you won't regret a page.
on 8 May 2012
A book more infamous than it is famous 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' is one of those books that you feel 'you must get around to some day'. Published to great scandal in 1929 it remained banned in Britain for salacious content for 31 years and during that time became notorious though few had actually read it. Upon its release in 1960, people queued up at bookshops for it desperate to judge for themselves, it's publication became one of the first major literary events.
The book held a number of surprises for me, I expected to find that in the 82 year time lapse between the book being written and my reading it in the present day, what passed as 'racy' then, would be tame and timid now perhaps even cringeworthy and embarrassing. It is not so. The sex scenes in the book, and there are many are incredibly graphically written, not in a way that feels obscene, to me, anyway but in a way that feels right. They are frankly written, realistic and actually quite tasteful and romantic.
The phrase 'ahead of his time' is of course a cliche now, but it genuinely applies in this case, were this book written by a modern author in 2011 about a romance between an aristocratic lady and her gamekeeper in 1929, it would probably be equally admired as a modern classic but cause very little in the way of moral outrage now with the potential exception of the Daily Mail.
As a modern reader of literature I find that it has had a real impact on my opinion of society of that time, it was an era perhaps when out of politeness things were left unsaid but not necessarily undone, and that the women and men of the 1920's are not perhaps as different from us as we tend to believe. The free use of the more frowned upon swearwords and modern slang in the dialogue indicates this too; like the paragraph in which Mellors admires Connie's derriere and actually uses the word arse. Obviously there are better examples but I think I'll keep them out of the review, but it's not really what you "expect" from the "classic writers"
To sum up the plot Connie marries a man who is crippled in the War, he can no longer have children, and he encourages her to have an affair in order to concieve which she then embarks on with the gamekeeper Mellors. (My own frustration with this was the inaccuracy that a paralysed man cannot have sex/children which of course they can, but I sort of have to let that quibble go as this was not widely understood in 1929, and also it's a plot device)
This is where you realise there is more to this story, a man has given his wife licence to have affair, as a means to an end, what does this say about him and about her....?
I read Women In Love at university, and read it rather too quickly in order to have it read on time. I didn't particularly enjoy it or find it remarkable in any way. Last year I read Sons And Lovers which was a really bizarre experience because I really enjoyed the book, and I still think of it occasionally but I absolutely detested the main character and several of the supporting ones. Lady Chatterley's Lover was a different experience again and what I found myself thinking most was what a terrible shame it is that mere mention of the title is inextricably linked to the scandal surrounding it and the idea that it is smutty. There is so much more to Lady Chatterley than sex, although the sex IS well written.
During the course of the novel such diverse subjects are dealt with: the condition of Post World War I Britain, class struggle, class snobbery, intellectual snobbery, society, the roles of men and women, human nature, human frailty the emotional dynamics of a sexual relationship, love, marriage and the disintegration of those things and even existentialism.
I find it such a shame that if you say 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' to someone, perhaps as recommendation they will automatically assume because of its infamy that you like "dirty books" or something. It's the main association everyone has with it, that it was banned because it was dirty.
And it's not just that! It's so INTERESTING, engrossing, well written and thought provoking that all the sex is just an integral part of the story not the sum of its charms. This book is excellent. Read it. 10/10
For such a well known book with so many reviews, it is hard for me to know whether I can add anything to what others have written.
One of my teachers at school grew up in Nottinghamshire and used to tell us that he grew up with people who had the mentalities of characters from D H Lawrence. He was not a great fan of Lawrence, regarding him as a bit of someone you would want to avoid in a pub. We all had copies of this book, knowing about its notoriety - I had my parents' early 1960s Penguin edition, which apparently sold over 2 million copies on the back of an obscenity trial testing out the Obscene Publications Act in 1959. I never got far with it at the time.
30-odd years further on, the obscenity trial and its titillation potential are forgotten. There are plenty of books which are far more graphic in their description of sexual intercourse than this one.
So, what can you derive from this book? For me, it is a beautifully written and quite exquisite account of the breakdown of a marriage and the union of people from different social classes. Such events are less shocking now than they must have been in the 1920s. There is much discussion about the times and environment that they are living in and also quite fascinating insights into personal relationships.
Some people have commented that the characters are one dimensional; I disagree. The three main players in the triangle are all fascinating. Sir Clifford Chatterley is not a particularly attractive character, a terrible snob and quite unbending to his wife's unhappiness. However,.he has great intelligence and insight as well as talent and energy. However, as his nurse Mrs Bolton observes at one point he has a steel like exterior with a soft inside. Whatever faults Clifford has, I did actually have a lot of sympathy for him.
His wife, Constance, Lady Chatterley, is clearly unfulfilled by her relationship with Clifford. The initial reason may be that he is unable to satisfy her sexually having been disabled during the First World War. However, there must be more to it than that. They appear mismatched from the start and you never get any sense of a meeting of minds.
There were two lovers in this book. The first is a writer Michaelis who is rather taken with Constance but whose desire for her to divorce Clifford and marry him are rebuffed. The real lover is Oliver Mellors, who is the gamekeeper on Clifford's estate, Wragby. Mellors is everything that Clifford is not. For Constance, he is a 'real man'. This isn't just that he is capable sexually but also that his feelings and sensibilities are fully aligned. As we get to know about him, we learn that he is far more than a mere gamekeeper. He was apparently a very bright boy, a collier's sone who won a scholarship to grammar school and had served as a commissioned officer in India during the First World War. However, a return to his roots and a disastrous marriage have removed all his learning and we initially see him as a taciturn barely articulate gamekeeper speaking in a broad Derbyshire accent, which he is able to drop at will.
D H Lawrence was apparently trying to 'hygeinise' sexual language in this book. There are, according to the prosecution in the obscenity case, "30 f**ks or f***kings, 14 c**ts, 13 balls, 6 each of s**t, and a**se, 4 cocks and 3 p**s." At one point in the book, the writer appears to want to normalise these words in their sexual context rather than dress them up with euphemism. I am afraid that I still find the use of the f**k to define the act of sexual intercourse and c**t for the female sexual organ a bit crass and shocking.
This all brings me back to the teacher I was referring to at the beginning of this review. He was always incensed by the prudery of people like Mary Whitehouse. I recall during this period the controversy over the Howard Brenton play, Romans in Britain. People attempted to ban the play because in one scene, it depicted the rape of a druid by a roman soldier (I think). My teacher considered that the fuss made by people like Mary Whitehouse would make people think that Romans in Britain was about homosexual rape in ancient times when the play was about far more than this. I feel the same way about Lady Chatterley's Lover. It is a far more wide ranging and interesting read than one simply about adultery and graphic sexual content (which I greatly enjoyed by the way).
on 29 July 2011
To really appreciate this novel, the reader has to be able to appreciate the context it was written in. At the time that DH Lawrence wrote Lady Chatterly's Lover, the idea of a married upper-class lady of a manor having an affair with anyone, would have been scandalous. Think back, readers, to a time long before women's rights, the vagina monologues, women in politics, and so on. Think back to a time of corsets and tight lips, of compromises, of a strong ruling class, and of ruling etiquette. The fact that Lawrence broke so many taboos with this book, by writing not only about the lady's unfulfilled personal life and her affair, but of her affair with the gamekeeper of her manor. Had Lady Chatterly not conveniently been left a small fortune to support herself with, she would have fallen quickly from grace and into the gutter, much to the pleasure of the rest of society- for any high brow lady who chose to have relations with someone as lowly as a gamekeeper would have been seen as fit for such punishment at the time. Think of Diana and Dodi for more context, if you must.
However, Lawrence treats his characters well. When I started reading this book I was of course aware of all the stigma and controversy surrounding it, but I also know that it was not uncommon for texts to be labelled as 'indecent' in Lawrence's time, as so many things were back then. To speak openly of sexual relations, particularly between members of different classes, would have been a massive slur in Lawrence's England. I expected, then, some rudeness, some crudeness, and some deliberate bating of the classes. What I found however, was that even in today's sexually open society, I was shocked by Lawrence's writing. I have never read anything quite like it- and I've read Mills and Boon! The thing that stands Lady Chatterly's Lover apart is that it is clearly challenging literature, rather than a quick fix for a horny reader. It takes thought. It requires context. The reader can't help but wonder after Lawrence's motives.
Mellors the gamekeeper is a complex character with a crazy ex wife, an interesting past and an apparent dislike of the class system in general. He likes to keep himself to himself. He is portrayed sometimes as a gentleman, who is able to speak the part, and other times as a crass lower class working man, with a thick accent and little gentleness to his gruff manner. He does not hanker after Connie at first: the reader sees a role reversal as Connie, the lady with airs and graces, begins a subtle chase after Mellors. She is married to Clifford, who is bound to a wheelchair and whose character clashes with her greatly. Although he is the well-bred gentleman of high breeding, he is arrogant and tedious, hard to get along with, and consumed with abstract notions of what it is to be a man. Mellors, on the other hand, simply is male: he engages in manual labour and he knows how to take care of himself. Connie is attracted to these qualities, and also to the idea of bearing a child, which Clifford consents to, though he means for her to sleep with another upper class man, and not with their gamekeeper.
I was initially struck by the bluntness with which Lawrence portrayed Connie's sexual desires, and her vivid encounters with Mellors. I knew that Lawrence was a firm believer in people enjoying sex and accepting it as a natural act, which again put him far ahead of his time, as he lived in a society that was rife with sexual rules and tensions. However, the way Lawrence breaks these norms in Lady Chatterly's Lover are simply mesmerising. Lawrence does not hesistate to use the C-word repeatedly, for example, which is still a taboo word in today's society. The reason we dislike it at present, however, is because it is seen as a very derogatory insult, whereas Lawrence's use of the word is used only to refer to the beauty of the vagina. Perhaps the crudeness, then, lies with us rather than in the text.
Although the reader might find it tedious to follow Mellors' and Connie's conversations during, before and after their (constant) foreplay and sexual experiences, it is worth remembering that this is ultimately a love story, though an unlikely one and involving the most unlikeliest of characters; one cannot deny the naturalness between Connie and Mellors, despite their many obvious differences. Despite their upbringings, Connie and Mellors fit together, even if only sexually. Their willingness to experiment with their bodies borders on embarrassing for the reader as s/he reads description after description of whose parts are doing what to whom, yet sex is portrayed as a kind of conversation between Connie and Mellors; one that rises above the different uses of language that they have both been taught.
I am still surprised by the freshness of this classic; it maintains the power of shock and awe even today, yet if the reader is honest s/he will admit that there is no reason for us to react with prudishness now. We now live in a sexually open society, with easy access to porn, naked bodies on show everywhere we look, and sex is an acceptable topic of conversation: something we are, in fact, excellent at debating. Yet Lady Chatterly's Lover is scandalous to us; outrageous even, and I have found people who loved and laughed with The Vagina Monologues, baulk at the uncomical Lady Chatterly's Lover. And perhaps that is where it has been most daring: in telling in-depth stories of sexual encounters, with an entirely serious tone. Whatever you may have heard of this text, it is invaluable as a 'reflective' work: I recommend that you read it, just to see your own reaction. You may be surprised!
This is an exquisite book, banned until the 1970's but written at the turn of the century. Lady Chatterly is married to 'his lordship' a much older and crippled man who is unable to fulfil an intimate role. A new gardener is hired and the book takes the reader into a genuinely beautiful relationship between a man and a woman. Yes it is steamy. Is it erotic? VERY. But it is not a trashy novel. It is a very well written and sensitive book. An absolute classic to have on the bookshelf - away from great aunt Edna and the kiddies!
A book which has achieved more notoriety for its sex scenes (shocking in 1930, when the book was written) than for its character studies, Lady Chatterley's Lover focuses on the affair between Constance, the "sturdy" young wife of Clifford Chatterley, and the antisocial gamekeeper on the Chatterleys' estate in the remote midlands. Constance, Lady Chatterley, who married Clifford a month before he left for World War I, becomes his caretaker when he returns from war paralyzed from the waist down and impotent. A writer who surrounds himself with intellectual friends, he regards Connie as his hostess and caregiver and does not understand her abject yearning for some life of her own.
The distance between Constance and Clifford increases when Mrs. Bolton, a widow from the village becomes his devoted caretaker, and he becomes increasingly dependent upon her. In a remarkable scene, Clifford finally tells Connie that he'd like an heir, and he does not care whom she finds to be the father of "his" child. Connie, yearning for an emotional closeness which she has not experienced in a previous affair, soon becomes involved with Mellors, the estate's gamekeeper. Crude and anti-social, Mellors has an honesty and lack of pretension which Connie finds refreshing.
Throughout the novel, Lawrence creates finely drawn characters whose interactions and gradual changes are explored microscopically. The growth of love between Connie and Mellors is complicated by the increasing self-centeredness of Clifford, whose outrage at rumors of their affair is motivated by Connie's choice of someone so far beneath her. To Clifford, the separation of the social classes is an integral and inevitable part of life. Devoted to achieving financial success even at the expense of his workers, Clifford is depicted as a symbol of unfeeling aristocracy and government. Mellors, by contrast, is a strong man of character who stands up for what he believes, obeying his best instincts.
Dealing with themes of love, passion, respect, honor, and the need for understanding, Lady Chatterley's Lover is a complex, character-driven novel which, though dated, celebrates the driving passions which can make life worth living. The romantic scenes and language here are tame by modern standards, and the extreme behavior and willingness to flout convention by Connie and Mellors may be less realistic psychologically than what would make sense for a modern reader. Firmly rooted in the 1930's, the novel shows an insensitive Clifford adhering to the outdated values, based on outdated economic structures, while Connie and Mellors, freed from these conventions, explore their instincts and their humanity. Mary Whipple
on 3 March 2009
This is a delightful little gem, well presented and beautifully written. D.H.Lawrence's exquisite use of the English language has been (and still is by those of repressed intelligence) grossly misunderstood since he dared to tell it 'like it is' to a society very much in denial; people living a half-life of pseudo-modesty. Sadly, there'll always be the hypocrites, of course, plus the tabloid mentality brigade who are unable to perceive genius when they're presented with it; it's their loss.
Do buy this lovely book, read, devour and enjoy it at leisure; let it's passionate honesty lift your heart to a better place.
A story of sexual and social liberation. A real swipe at the 'establishment' and a challenge to what was considered proper at the time. Published for the first time in 1928 and written by a man - hence the notoriety gained by D H Lawrence's 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'.
This is a story of adultery. A love affair across the class divide. The wife of an aristocrat falls for a man on the lower rungs of society - a lowly gamekeeper. Why?. Lady Constance Chatterley finds her relationship with her husband, Lord Clifford Chatterley, both physically and emotionally bankrupt. Clifford is paralyzed from the waist down due to a war injury and his mental state is one of cold indifference and intellectual snobbery. Constance is neglected to the point of frustration but also pushed into producing the son necessary to carry on 'the family name'. Any aristocrat will do but; on meeting the very masculine, non intellectual, Oliver Mellors it's just a case of 'when' and not 'if'.
Constance is empowered, awakened, and goes on to realise, through her affair with Oliver, that to find happiness she needs to be in a relationship that's complete; mind and body, and that's something her husband is unwilling and unable to give.
At first the pregnancy is met by a mix of gossip and joy. The Chatterley name will continue. Only when the true identity of the father is revealed to be a member of the working classes does the world implode and Lady Chatterley is cast away to find her true love finally free from all she has grown to loathe.
There's a lot of insight here and plenty of social commentary if you're happy to spend the time looking for it but; if you're reading 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' purely because of the smutty reputation it gained as a banned book during the 1970s you'll be disappointed.
Lady Chatterly is not one of my favourite 'classics' but it has a lot to say about the times in which it was written. D H Lawrence makes cutting observations about the class structure, the treatment of women and the plight of the poor.
on 29 January 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.
Over time D H Lawrence wrote three slightly different versions of this tale, but this is the third and final edition, the famous one that we all know about. It has been a while since I last read this, but I have read it a few times over the years, and it was lovely to come back to it. Because of the famous trial that surrounded Penguin releasing this in its unexpurgated state this novel has become somewhat tarnished with the impression that it is just a piece of erotica. There is sex here, and strong language, but the story itself has so much more to offer. In some ways Lawrence has managed to tap into the mindset of women with his ideas and explorations of them.
Constance Chatterley is married to Clifford, who during the First World War is injured to such an extent that he is paralysed from the waist down. Thus their marriage becomes something of a partnership of intellects. This starts off one of the underlying themes of the whole book, the question of what makes a complete and fulfilling relationship between two people. The other underlying theme is class structures. Throughout the book class rears its head. Clifford is upper class, Constance herself is originally middle class, and then the gamekeeper, Mellors, is working class. Even when we have described the home of the Chatterley's we can see that industry is not too far away; for instance the colliery that can be seen on the horizon, and the soot that rains down on the land. Clifford seems to be able to ignore this, as if it is all beneath him.
The story analyses how Constance wants more than just an intellectual relationship, and how she becomes dissatisfied with the sex with others that she does have, how once the man has had his jollies, he is not too concerned about the woman having her pleasure. With the yearning for a baby as well we can quite clearly see Constance's wishes and yearnings. With Clifford we can see how he alters and becomes quite attached to the nurse, the widow Mrs Bolton, treating her almost as a motherly figure.
Always an interesting read this can be in places grim and pessimistic, but also feels so real with Lawrence's prose, providing us with something that is both intelligent, thought provoking and fascinating.