D.H. Lawrence is scandalous. He's most famous for Lady Chatterly's Lover, which announces its scandalousness loudly by having "Lover" in the title. It screams, "Sex is happening here!" This got the book banned and censored. Even better! Nothing so titillating as a banned book.
Yeah, except, a lot of the time the books that are banned are not as raunchy as the imagination of the people who banned them. True smut is seldom banned; it's just put in the back room and left for the pervs who want it. And D.H. Lawrence's smut is sort of weak and intellectual. Yes, Lady Chatterly had a lover. And yes, Lawrence tells all. But when you get down to it, the 'all' is kind of disappointing. He tells it like it is, and wouldn't that just be the definition of "prosaic"?
In daily lives, relationships are like that. They're not scandalous—even the scandalous ones.
Well, I read Lady Chatterly a long time ago, and that's not the book I'm reviewing now. I picked up Women in Love because I knew D.H. Lawrence was a highly regarded author, and I had only read LCL and one short story by him. I wondered if his other books were worth reading.
Women in Love starts with two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun. Both of them are extremely modern ladies, but with really old-fashioned names. Gudrun especially has that contrast. I didn't even know Gudrun was a name, it's that archaic, but she herself is an artist. She makes her living at it, even. Ursula is a little more tame; she is a teacher.
There sre the men, too. Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin reveal themselves as the love interests for the two women in love.
All these four are strained to the breaking point with their sensitivity. They are constantly in rapturous heights, or seriously believe that they will die of their disappointments. It seemed comical to me, after the first time, how overcome they are by their feelings.
And they are constantly in highly intellectual discussions. What is the meaning of things, really? And they come to conclusions, by paths not apparent to others, which are very definite. All so important.
Love to them is not a soft pillow to fall into and languish upon. It is an argument to resolve, or a cause to take up. They snuggle sometimes, and ask "Do you love me?" of one another. But they have previously torn to shreds any assumptions about love and what the word means, so both the question and the answer are blind groping.
Now add to the two cute hetero couples a strong homoerotic tension between Rupert and Gerald. Whew. Even I felt a little steamed up by some of the scenes between those two.
All of these characters seem to want so much. They don't believe in anything they have known, but they want to find something that they don't know to believe in — a phrase which sounds utterly nonsensical and as if I could have lifted it directly out of the novel. I don't think I am inadvertently quoting, though.
These people are so modern; they seem unable to exist with any satisfaction in the world they are in. Gudrun, who is the most modern of the group, can find no satisfaction of mind anywhere. She does however, enjoy nice stockings. That particular detail shows that Lawrence is in charge of this book of contrasts.
Bibliomania tells me "Lawrence maintained that it was his finest work." It was finished in 1916, but not published until 1921. I can tell that it fishes deep into the spirit of the time. Many of the ideas and impulses described seem so in keeping with what I know of the period, I could imagine that it would resonate strongly with his contemporaries.
It's not an easily understood book, but I'm glad I read it. Especially now that I know he thought it was his best. I don't feel like rushing out and reading the rest of his books, but if one came to hand, I wouldn't turn it away.