Saturday, January 22, 2011

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence

I've owned a copy of this book for a very long time, and had even made a couple (obviously failed) attempts to read it before now. I'm glad I've finally reached a point in my life where it strikes a chord with me, because I found it to be a pretty awesome story. It focuses on Constance (Connie) Chatterley, wife of Clifford Chatterley, a baronet and veteran of the First World War. Clifford was paralyzed from the waist down in service, but he and Connie are able to make the most of it for a while; Connie helps Clifford with his writing (with which he gains a level of success), and she is able to derive a level of satisfaction from that for a time. When that is no longer enough to sustain her needs, she begins an affair with a playwright named Michaelis. Eventually, however, everything in her life begins to feel stale, and this is when she begins a more serious and consequential affair with Oliver Mellors, gamekeeper for the Chatterley estate. It is with Mellors that Connie learns not only true sexual fulfillment, but also what it means to connect with someone on a more meaningful level.

This book was censored in Britain and the U.S. when it first came out for some of the more explicit bits, but it is (luckily) about so much more than just sex. Ideas of mind vs. body, money/class/power, and finding a place within modern society are some of the recurring motifs that weave in and out of the main plot. On this first full read through, though, what I enjoyed the most out of this novel is the way Lawrence uses nature to make sense of all the other strands. The natural setting throughout most of the book is the forest on the Chatterley estate. It is an old bit of forest, described as being from the time of Robin Hood. Although Clifford is technically the owner of the land, nature is actually Mellors' territory, and greater society is Clifford's. Clifford represents the issues of money, class, and power of modern society that Mellors despises and attempts to escape by keeping to himself in this historic bit of nature. Connie, in turn, rejects everything about Clifford in order to pursue a more meaningful existence for herself with Mellors, and it is in nature that she learns to love (not only Mellors, but also herself) and to let herself go. Ultimately, Connie's journey of rediscovering herself is what I derive the most satisfaction from as a reader.

Until now, I've only read some of Lawrence's poetry, but I so enjoyed reading his prose that I'm definitely going to make more of an effort to read his other novels. From what I can deduce, a lot of them are a bit sexy, but hopefully, like in Lady Chatterley's Lover, it's not all smut, but sexiness with a purpose.

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