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Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence

29 Jun

A controversial and often over-looked book, Lady Chatterley’s Loveris a personal

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

favorite. I’m not afraid to say it. For those of you with a passion for banned books, look no further than Lawrence’s glance into the mental versus the physical nature of the human spirit.

Published: 1928

Genre: Fiction (romance…?, literary fiction)

Difficulty: Not bad at all. I read it on a train/airplane. Though you may get some looks when you read this. Just a heads-up.

Quick Read: Fairly. It probably took me 4 days, I could it see it taking somewhat longer if you are a slow reader–there is a lot in here.

Synopsis: Lady Chatterley, or Constance, is an young, intellectual aristocrat who marries Clifford Chatterley, a lord who becomes paralyzed during World War I. Though he tries to relate to his wife, she can never be his “intellectual equal” in his eyes, and due to both his attitude and his impotency (thanks to his war wounds), Constance finds herself depressed, bored, and drifting away from him…only to then be attracted to their gamekeeper (no, you filthy-minded reader, it’s not Hagrid, this ain’t fan fiction). Very quickly Constance finds herself growing in touch with her physical, sensual self, and may need to leave the intellectual, mental life of the aristocracy in order to learn the importance of her own bodily needs.

Missing from this synopsis: yep, you guessed it, a lot of sexual activity. But not with her husband. SHOCKER, I KNOW. (I’d hardy say it’s a spoiler–most any synopsis will tell you this, but with more flowery language).

What makes this book awesome? First of all, this novel actually has a lot of historical significance. It was first published in the U.S. in 1928–except it was incredibly censored due to being “obscene.” It was not until 1959 in a historic censorship court case that Lady Chatterley’s Lover finally got the right to be published by Grove Press, in it’s entirety. It set a precedent for obscenity versus censorship in literature, and opened up the publishing of both erotica and literature with erotic content throughout the rest of the twentieth century. I’d say that’s pretty significant.

Second of all, it is just beautifully written. The prose has a wonderful, quick flow to it–even when it is discussing large topics such as the separation of mind and body (or, lack of separation). Parts of it feel poetic, and extremely empowering, both to women and men.

While it is sensual erotic in places, most readers today have probably read or seen worse, quite honestly. And there is a lot of depth to the book, beyond the erotic–classism, post-war British controversies, gender dynamics within the family, and body politics. All of this gives the book the depth that won it the right to be published at all. Lawrence is one gutsy writer, so I urge you to check him out.

D.H. Lawrence, himself. I guess he liked to knock over working class people with trains? I don't actually know that, don't quote me on that.

Some neat-o facts: 

  • Barney Rosset of Grove Press, who fought to allow this novel to be published in it’s entirety, also brought Samuel Beckett’s work to America, worked with Allen Ginsberg, and also brought Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller out of it’s censorship label as well.
  • Once the book was finally published in full in 1959, many considered it part of the start of the sexual revolution in the 1960s.
  • According to Wikipedia (yes, I look there sometimes, oops!), Lawrence was actually a right-wing conservative who favored dictators over any kind of labor movement or movement of the people. Damn. I didn’t see that one coming, did you?

If you like this, try: Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, Lolita by Nabokov, Orlando by Virginia Woolf, The Passion or Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson