2007: 29. Women in Love

“Ursula and Gundren Brangwen sat one morning in the window-bay of their father’s house in Beldover, working and talking.  Ursula was stitching a brightly coloured piece of embroidery, and Gundrun was drawing upon a board which she held on her knee.  They were mostly silent, talking as their thoughts strayed upon their minds.”

Women in Love, D.H. Lawrence

Women in Love concerns the love and relationships of two sisters, Ursula and Gundren Brangwen (nice English names, hmmm? They sound more like something out of Wagner!), specifically their relationships with two friends, Rupert Birken and Gerald Crich.  Gundren and Gerald fight out their dark and sadomasochistic attraction, which ends in tragedy, while Rupert and Ursula are able, eventually to come to a more healthy mutual understanding.  This is only after pages and pages of talking about love and marriage and possession, and what that means, and, after Rupert is able to deal with the fact that the one he truly desires is Gerald.  Oh, this is couched in a notion that Lawrence had, which was that men needed to have perfect male friendships to balance their relationships with women, but the fact is that Rupert and Gerald, like Lawrence himself, are deeply attracted to men.  The Rupert/Gerald wrestling scene is quite famously the most erotic of the novel.  

The whole novel reads like a long conversation that Lawrence is having with himself, trying to convince himself that marriage and the male/female relationship could make a man happy.  In that sense, this is a fascinating, if somewhat tiresome novel of ideas.  It certainly left me with the sense that D.H. Lawrence was absolutely a mess, psychologically, and would have been a lot happier if he could have just let himself be gay.  What makes the book more than a glimpse into a tortured psyche is the writing.  When he isn’t having the characters bloviate for pages about their theories of the world, the book contains exquisite descriptions and captures the characters and their physical world so well that I could picture it perfectly.  Descriptive writing of this sort doesn’t usually catch my fancy - I am a plot girl, as you know, but I found this book to be so visual that it was almost like a film.  I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel.  And, of course, anyone would enjoy reading to see if the nutbar, Lawrence, would make it through this exercise in one piece.  My call? If he did, he just barely did, the poor conflicted soul.

Recommended for: People who like beautiful writing (the scene of the boats on the water the night of the fete is worth the admission alone); people interested in talky theoretical novels of the early 1900’s; people who like homoerotic nude wrestling scenes (and seriously, isn’t that all of us?)


Date/Place Completed:  3/13/07, D.C.

Categories:  Fiction; Commuting Read; Modern Library Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017