Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
This book is one of the most famous banned books and I have been long curious to know what all the fuss was about.
The story is pretty basic. Lord Chatterley returns from World War I paralyzed waist down. His new bride Lady Chatterley cares for him after his injury but slowly starts to feel stifled, and longs for something. She soon finds satisfaction in a brief affair with her husband’s friend. When that affair fizzles out, she has an affair with the gamekeeper who maintains Lord Chatterley’s woods. What happens next forms the bulk of the story…
Never has a book started out so promising and ended so tamely. I absolutely loved, loved, loved the first 50-100 pages of this book. It was gripping, the psychological studies of the various people in the book were absolutely spot on, and the setting very vividly described. And then the affair starts between Lady Chatterley and Oliver Mellors. And things just went absolutely downhill from there.
It’s not that I am a prude that could not tolerate all the sex in the novel. But it was just sooo badly written. And no…I am not going to print some of the language and the words used here. Just let me say, it was most unromantic and almost bestial. I guess that was his intention anyway – to remove all the floweriness that is normally associated with love and show it as it is. All I can say is, it was not my cup of tea.
The dialogues were god-awful and had me cringing with embarrassment for the main pair. While I started off this book feeling very sympathetic to Lady Chatterley and her lover, their constant self-righteousness and lack of any kind of guilt whatsoever banished all that.
There are many reviews of this book that praise how D.H.Lawrence has captured the class distinctions that prevailed during that time. But to me, they all just seemed forced into the novel. It was like D.H.Lawrence was beating me over the head with his message. To a great extent, it’s great that the focus extends to the issues of the time (mainly class, and questions of industrialization vs agrarian culture), but it is done at the expense of developing strong characters.
Another conflict that is played out in the book very subtly is the conflict between the intellectual and the physical. Lord Chatterley is the intellectual. He is constantly thinking of stories to write, and means of improving the productivity of the coal mines that he owns. Lady Chatterley is least interested in these endeavors. She wants a child and a loving marriage – something that Lord Chatterley is unable to give her. He does not mind her having affairs although she must come back to him in the end and she must bear a child only from someone who is his social equal – rules that she promptly violates.
Lady Chatterley herself is a pretty unsatisfying character. She feels stifled by the confines of her setting. But the only outcome that she could devise for herself was love with someone else. Also, she comes across as very dumb and it was hard going reading her incoherent and impractical thoughts on a lot of the central issues of the day. Her lover and gamekeeper Oliver Mellors is also pretty annoying. He is totally against industrialization. He wants to go tell people to not work so hard and to enjoy their lives more…but does he offer any real solutions? No. It’s just random talk. And this pair despise the husband who is actually taking an interest in the coal mines and trying to find out if there is a way to increase profitability out of those dying mines.
Basically, I am trying to say I felt for Lord Chatterley the most. Sure, he is a product of his times – vain and snobbish, but he also seemed the most intelligent, and literate. There is one scene in the book which D.H.Lawrence has written in a way that is meant for us to hate him. This is a scene where his wheelchair gets stuck on a hill and he loses his temper very badly with his wife and the gamekeeper who are trying to help him. Me? I only felt sorry for him. It seemed a very natural reaction for a man to get angry because of his own helplessness.
And I guess, that’s where I have to end this review and say that I am probably still way too conventional for this novel. Sure, I enjoyed it. And I am glad that the ending is fairly satisfactory to all parties concerned. But, I would not call this feminist in any way. It’s good reading, but it’s probably a little dated. There are some valid arguments made, but a lot of it is very clumsily written and a little too heavy handed.
Still worth a read though and definitely a ground-breaking novel for the time!