Rebecca's Reviews > Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover by D.H. Lawrence
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's review
Jul 20, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: classics
Read in July, 2011

Banned from multiple countries for sex scenes that are pretty much standard in most romance books today and language you can hear in any R-rated movie, this book is one of the great legends of erotica. I was interested to see how it held up.

It rather reminds me of Brideshead Revisited, in that melancholy-people-ruining-their-lives kind of way. It's so very much an artifact of its time. There's a vague longing for good-old-days-that-never-were, a disillusionment with life, a distrust of glamour, and a despair at the destruction of the old order by the forces of modernization that permeates literature from the period between the World Wars. After awhile, you start feeling it in the oddest of places--not only Hemingway and Fitzgerald, but in Waugh and Wharton and even Tolkein. The loss of countryside to industry and the nobility before the masses (nevermind that nobility's enclosure laws starved most of the villages and gave them no choice but to embrace industrialization) is seen as a loss of innocence and purity.

Lady Chatterley's Lover is not about smut at all, but about how dehumanizing the modern world has become. Constance's affair with Mellors has less to do with either of their feelings for each other and more to do with a blind groping for someone possessing both the strength and tenderness that mechanization and the anesthetizing effect of capitalism has driven out of the people around them.

It's surprisingly lyrical, both in descriptions of fields of wildflowers and in descriptions of sex scenes. Lawrence manages descriptions that somehow manage to be profound and hot without ever resorting to ridiculous euphemisms. Some fairly objectionable language is used in incredibly tender ways (leaving me to wonder if some of the words have shifted over the following century).

There are a couple of speeches that Mellors makes that portray female sexuality in a way that I found revolting. (Basically, if you can't come simultaneously with the guy, after being almost completely passive in bed, you're an emasculating, unnatural harpy. Thanks for that.) I will admit, it is not clear to me whether this is the author's own belief, or if it's just the character's. Similar speeches about how chasing money has led to a cold and unfeeling society and how the war dehumanized everyone are clearly the author's own beliefs. But Mellors is not an entirely sympathetic character, and this could have been an indication of the groundkeeper's own flaws and bad assumptions.

I'm rather annoyed at the edition I read. The book ends abruptly and sadly (as could probably be guessed from the way all the books I compared it to ended). But my edition had some essays and the documents from the obscenity ruling in the back, which I did not realize. So when I turned the last page, fully expecting another 30 pages of book, to find an appendix, I was rather shocked and had to go back and re-read the last two pages now realizing that this was the ending.
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