Monday, November 26, 2007

Book Review: Lady Chatterley's Lover

I started reading this book because I wanted to read more of the "classics," because as much as I enjoy contemporary fiction, there is a certain amount of snobbery in the book-loving world that makes you feel like you'll never be "well read" if you don't read the classics. But after reading this book, I'm kind of wondering if this qualifies as a classic.

While reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, I found myself getting the same impression I got when I read The Feminine Mystique. The book was interesting, particularly from a historical perspective, but I couldn't help but think that it was lacking relevance. It seems as if this book has the well-known reputation that it has because it was one of the first books of its kind of use graphic and explicit descriptions of sex. And from what I understand it was the subject of obscenity litigation involving publishers in the United States and the United Kingdom, which of course increased its fame.

But in the age of modern romance novels, that sexuality is not uncommon or remarkable in publishing. In fact, I personally felt as if there wasn't a whole lot to Lady Chatterley's Lover once that sex was stripped away. Frankly put, this is a book about sexuality and Lawrence relies heavily on descriptions of sexual encounters between the two main characters to tell the story.

Which leads me to my other complaint. There was something about a male author writing what is supposed to be this great liberation of a female character's sexuality that didn't sit well with me. More than once I felt that Lawrence was slightly patronizing, and I definitely felt that he, as a man, was ill-equipped to speak to the sex lives of women. Perhaps this isn't his fault, because from my understanding much of the hub-bub about this book took place after his death, so maybe he never intended for this book to be any kind of authority on female sexuality. Who knows. But I felt like there was a marked difference between this book and the work of modern female romance novelists. The approach to the relationship was 90% sexual, with little time spent explaining why there was attraction between the characters to begin with. I suppose that is where I became unsatisfied with writing, with his male perspective, because I personally think that the female perspective is different and Connie's viewpoint would have been more accurately captured by a female writer.

What's more, Connie came across as very childish to me (hence my impression that Lawrence was patronizing). And the way that Mellors spoke to Connie is not my idea of romantic in the very least. I was left utterly convinced about the love that was supposedly between these two, at least, regarding his feelings for her. All I can say, I guess, is that I'm not a fan of Lawrence's writing (very depressing and full of anger, in a lot of ways). However, while I wasn't a fan of this book, I do appreciate it for its historical significant. The social interactions described in the book were enlightening, and it reminded me that we are kidding ourselves when we want to believe that the past generations were not as "liberal" in sexual matters as we are now.


Anonymous said...

Didn't you find the conversations between the three main characters (the groundskeeper, Lady Chatterley and Clifford) to be a particularly pertinant commentary on the social and political environment of the time? I think the beauty of D.H. Lawrence is the intricacies of the conversations between characters. Read "Women in Love" to get a full grasp on his ideas and writing style.

Anonymous said...

Didn't you find the conversations between the three main characters (the groundskeeper, Lady Chatterley and Clifford) to be a particularly pertinant commentary on the social and political environment of the time? I think the beauty of D.H. Lawrence is the intricacies of the conversations between characters. Read "Women in Love" to get a full grasp on his ideas and writing style.

Anonymous said...

Thank goodness I am not alone, I have just finished this book like the reviewer who felt that they would like to read classics and was left disappointed. Yes it is a political commentary of the time and it uses graphic language but the story is thin and leaves you hanging mid air. I felt that it was stylish but vacuous I didn't like or care about any of the characters.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. I brought this as my choice to my book club. I try to read a classic that I have not read at least once a year. I am about 120 pages into this one. I find it tedious.

In my opinion in it is not well written at all, and the character development is weak. He was a shock jock of his time, pushing the boundaries, but lacking substance!

RS said...

You echo my sentiments. I am left with only last few pages to read and googled to see what other people 'liked' about this book.If you ask me, Connie is just a naive selfish woman and Mellors,is a quaint version of today's 'dudes' who refer to their exes as 'crazy bit**es'. I failed to find any redeeming quality about him.

As for your question about why this book is considered a 'classic'. I guess you get this attribute with age. Remember, in 50 years, Madonna will be a 'Classic' and in 100 years, Lady Gaga will have the honor *shudder*

Catherine Te Whare said...

I agree with the review. The sexual aspect from a female view is totally inaccurate as far as I am concerned. I could not relate to Connie's experiences at all. It was passionless.
I didn't really like any of the characters either. There didn't seem to be any depth to them whatsoever.
Overall an Anti Climax (excuse the pun)
Catherine Te Whare

Shiba said...

i agree with the last posted comment and would like to add that if you really think that the book is only about sex than you are veryvery myopic. The book is about what the country is in the present state. Depravity. Not related to sex but the industrial greed and hypocrisy and high handedness. An example of that shallowness is the blog writer's own decision to read is just because it is considered a classic. The book is a beautiful description of what happens to mind when truth is revealed but I think most of the comment posters here are too far gone into the shallowness of their own lives to see any beauty where such a depth of it exists. Pity and hopelessness.

Anonymous said...

I'm 67 twice married with several affairs in between but this is the first time for me and Lady Chatterley's Lover in spite of all the hype about it in my youth.

Yes, on several fronts--Lawrence's dpeiction of the class divide, fallout from the Great War, the pseudo-intellectual milieu and pre-pill sexuality--is dated, but even so aspects of all these "fronts" aer with us still. I don't think Lawrence was interested in either presenting "socio-political correctness" or having the reader "like" his characters--Mellors is as "likeable" as Clifford Chatterley and Ivy Bolton as Connie Reid Chatterley.

But the characters do ring true for me. I'm actually astounded at perspicacity which Lawrence (whose style I don't really like) is able to convey what is going on for Connie in her various situations. Whether she and Mellors "make a go" of their marriage into the future is of as little interest to me as it appears to be to Lawrence.

I think his scope is a lot bigger than a post-war love affair. To me he seems to be exploring a wider concept of honesty, integrity and courage than our society has come to be interested in. It's the honesty that is linked with the laws of nature rather than with the machinations of the often rather sick human mind.

That's what makes this book, in my opinion, very relevant for today.

Anonymous said...

If the writer as great a writer as you say he is, then why couldn't he have made his point come across in a decent and readable manner? I have no respect for authors who can only make their point across through sexual and inappropriate content. It's like when somebody says a cuss word. If you're smart enough to think of another and more intelligent form of expressing yourself, then do it. The only occasion that I see fit to express sexuality in a book is usually when you're talking about religions that contained sexual intercourse for their particular practice, such as some of the ancient egyptians did. He had the intelligence to write a book that mattered without inappropriate content, and he didn't. Therefore, I do not respect or admire him in any way, shape, or form. I know I might be a bit harsh, but that's how it is.