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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Women in Love (1920) by D.H.Lawrence

Book Review
Women in Love (1920)
 by D.H.Lawrence

  This is the fifth D.H. Lawrence title I've tackled under the auspices of the 1001 Books Project.  Women in Love is a kind of sequel to The Rainbow (1915.)  The Rainbow was banned in England for being obscene because of the "graphic" depiction of sexual conduct.  Today, that kind of description wouldn't get you a PG-13 rating in a movie, but the degree to which Lawrence describes sexual union, let alone the fact that said union takes place outside of marriage ON OCCASION was enough to make him the poster child for literary freedom of speech in the early 20th century.

  The main characters of both novels are the Brangwen sisters, Ursula and Gudrun.  Both sisters are in their maturity, their late 20s according to an early discussion between the two of them, and both resist conventional sexual/emotional relationships with the opposite sex in the way that only a male author with an over bearing mother figure writing in the 19-teens could imagine.

  In Women in Love, Ursula is a school teacher and Gudrun is a London based sculptress who has found her way home.  As single girls in their late 20s, they are confronting the pressure to conform to societal expectations, and both shortly form attachments with local bachelors, Ursula with Gerald Crich, the scion of a local coal mining magnate, and Gudrun with Rupert Birkin, a regional school inspector with ties to the same London art scene as Gudrun.  There is also an intense quasi-gay relationship between Gerald and Rupert.

Whereas The Rainbow is a fairly typical multi-generational family drama with one outstanding character at the end (Ursula), Women in Love spends 600 pages details a couple years in the lives of Gudrun and Ursula, and the one relationship they each have with one man each.  True: They do have sex before marriage!  One of them gets married, the other does not, and the one one who does not ends up getting nearly strangled by her beau before he staggers off to die in the Alps.

  Women in Love is also another entry in the D.H. Lawrence vs. over bearing Mothers play book.  Generally, it is fair to observe that the parents to not idly stand by while the two main couples try to actively subvert conventional morality.  Although they are approaching it from a Victorian point of view, a modern reader who has familiarity with some of the emotional consequences of the 1960s sexual revolution, may have more sympathy with the disapproving parents then the lead couples.


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