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Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Rainbow (1915) by D.H. Lawrence

Book Review
The Rainbow by
D.H. Lawrence
p. 1915

  D.H. Lawrence is interesting  because he introduces modern themes but without many of the modern stylistic features that would come to characterize capital "M" modernism.   The best example is his treatment of sexuality, most famously in Lady Chatterley's Lover, but many of his books deal with sex in ways that are new and, dare I say, bold.

  In one sense, The Rainbow is a conventional multi-generational late Victorian/Edwardian family novel.  In another, more important sense, The Rainbow was declared obscene by the English government, and all copies were seized and burned after publication in 1915.  While I obviously think the censorship is ridiculous, I can see where they were coming from.  The third main character, grand daughter Ursula, lives in an openly sexual relationship that specifically DOES NOT end in marriage.  In fact, Ursula's refusal to marry the Polish emigre Anton Skrebernsky is the narrative center of the novel.

 From a formal/structural sense, Ursula's segment of The Rainbow overwhelms the novelty of the first two chapters, which are fairly conventional accounts of love among rural Englanders in the mid to late 19th century.  This topic is thematically of a piece with every Thomas Hardy and George Eliot novel, so the contrast between those first two portions and the third, radical portion concerning Ursula is almost jarring.

  The Rainbow is ALSO long- close to 600 pages I'm thinking? And considering the first two thirds of the book are nothing new or fresh, it makes the third, radical portion tough to reach.

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