Author: D. H. Lawrence
Date published: 1928
“Constance Chatterley feels trapped in her sexless marriage to the invalid Sir Clifford. Unable to fulfil his wife emotionally or physically, Clifford encourages her to have a liaison with a man of their own class. But Connie is attracted instead to her husband’s gamekeeper and embarks on a passionate affair that brings new life to her stifled existence.”
One would think that a book titled ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ would be a romance novel; an easy mistake. Just the surname ‘Chatterley’ evokes images of a pining maiden standing amongst splendid, windswept British landscapes. But this is not the case. There are no rose coloured glasses, Connie and Mellors do not wistfully romance each other into bed after a suitable amount of time getting the audience to think ‘these two really are chaste except for this one time because they are really special together’. They fuck. Hard. A lot.
On the surface it is quite obvious why the book was so controversial – Sex itself is controversial, saying ‘cunt’ and ‘fuck’ around 50 times is controversial and (though class is not such an issue today) people having an affair outside of their social group is controversial. But it is the underlying issues – the ones about modern industrialism, replacing the human soul with money and learning how to ‘tenderly fuck’ – that I think really caused the subconscious reeling back of society.
The depiction of midland industrial England is a character in of itself. Lawrence describes the strange contradicting hopelessness of progress and the hard, ugly landscape brilliantly. Having a Father who is from Yorkshire helped me delve through the commoners slang, but there is a glossary for those unfamiliar. But the point is that it is supposed to be hard to understand and alienate oustiders.
The balance between Connie, Mellors and Clifford is great. They are each their own flavour, their own outlook and experience. The nurse Mrs Bolton is fascinating and could have had a book written about her entirely. Clifford is also an interesting case, as you can constantly pity him yet also feel a slight aversion for him. Connie is a well written character, but sometimes irritating. She can switch moods and thoughts so suddenly, leaving the reader a little bewildered about the strength of her conviction. Lawrence also has the habit of fixating on a word (for instance ‘obstinate’) and repeating them many times over a the next few pages. This is deliberate on his part, but for some reason comes across annoying.
What makes ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ brilliant is that Lawrence manages to pick out an undercurrent, a social feeling, and speak about it plainly. For example he nails the aversion females have to giving themselves completely to sex and the hatred men have when women constantly hold back. It has something for men and women alike, as it tells both their frustrations with equal sympathy and spite. There are a lot of messages, a lot of elements in this book. I personally related to the misguided idea of people stepping away from their humanity for something spiritually higher – but what exactly and for what point? But I think that even if people don’t get them all the ideas, they will understand the need for real, honest, free relationships – to cut back the pressure and bullshit that society forces.
In the end, ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’ is well written, is long enough (getting the length of stories right is a tricky thing) and you want the lovers to succeed against the general stupidity and coldness of their times. It is a great read and hopefully the more conservative will give it a chance and get past the ‘saucy’ element to find its messages.
♥♥♥♥ – 4/5