2009: 69. Sons and Lovers

“‘The Bottoms’ succeeded to ‘Hell Row.”  Hell Row was a block of thatched, bulging cottages that stood by the brookside on Greenhill Lane.”

Sons and Lovers,  D.H. Lawrence

Sons and Lovers is the second novel by Lawrence that I’ve read, and I enjoyed it more than Women in Love, although reading them both has left me with the notion that Lawrence was  total nutter (as if I didn’t know that based on my knowledge of his life).  If Women in Love seemed to be Lawrence grappling with male relationships, Sons and Lovers is about the relationships between men and women - between lovers, and between sons and mothers.  The novel is the story of a young man (read, D.H. Lawrence) and his life growing up in a lower class mining family.  The first half of the book is a more straight old fashioned novel, telling the story of Gertrude Morel, a young woman who makes a bad marriage - marrying a rough hard drinking miner.  The book tells of their marriage, and their children and their hard life.  The second, longer of the novel focuses Gertrude’s son Paul, as he tries to break free of his home and figure out his place in life.  The second part is more Lawrencian, as I think of Lawrence - all tortured throbbing emotions and psychosexual nonsense.  Overlaid with Paul’s relationships with various women, is his deep relationship with his mother, which verges on the Oedipal.  What I am saying is, there is a lot going on in this book.


Mostly, the book mades me realize how much we’ve all benefitted from the sexual revolution (or at lease how much Lawrence might have!).  This is the sort of book where everyone is mooning on about their souls, and whether they meet as one, and whether their love is pure or physical,* and I was left thinking that if they could just, you know, date and have sex and not make such a PRODUCTION about everything, they’d be much happier**.  It must have been difficult to be a Paul, or a Lawrence, an artistic, feeling young man (with possibly confused sexuality) growing up in a hard, poor working class family, and to have that crossed with Edwardian notions about purity and such on top of that, well, I suspect that would have lead exactly to this sort of hothouse over dramatic emotional stuff.


And beyond that sort of that psychologically fraught stuff, this is a pretty good read.  I enjoyed reading about life in a coal mining town, and how one young man climbed up into the middle class, and even about relations between the sexes at that time.  And I didn’t even get into the crazy stuff with Paul and his mother, about which you could write a thesis, let alone a blog post.  I love it when I read a book that I find I could write a whole second post about and touch on completely different topics, and this is that kind of book.  I wouldn’t say that I loved Sons and Lovers, but I keep coming back to it and chewing on it.


For example, this quote (from pg. 276 of the Barnes & Noble version, part of a letter from Paul to his first love, Miriam “If people marry, they must live together as affectionate humans, who may be commonplace with each other without feeling awkward - not as two souls.  So I feel it.”)


**  Though, of course, there would be much less of a novel!!


Date/Place Completed:  June 2009; D.C.

Categories: Fiction, Modern Library Top 100, Book Resolutions

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017