Sarah This ship has probably already sailed for the OP, but for anyone else asking themselves this question: do yourself a favor and read The Rainbow first!! Not only would several suspenseful plot points in The Rainbow be spoiled by reading Women in Love first, but having the background on the family gives a completely new dimension to certain references in WiL to some characters' pasts that otherwise might escape the reader's notice.
Julianne Davidow No, you can read Women in Love without reading The Rainbow first. But by reading The Rainbow, you can get a better idea of the characters in Women in Love. Also, The Rainbow is a beautifully written and compelling book.