Sunday, April 20, 2014

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Happy Easter, everyone :)

This is going to sound weird, but it’s harder to get my reading done when I’m focused on losing weight.

My best friend recently got engaged (shout out to Laura!), so I have been recommitting to the weight loss process, and trying to finally get to that goal weight that has forever eluded me. Why do I mention this? Because it’s harder for me to get reading done when I’m trying to lose weight.

First of all, I’m busier – I now work cooking and workouts into my day. Second of all, I eat out less, and restaurants are where I once got most of my reading done. And thirdly, it’s just another thing to focus on, and that focus needs to come from somewhere.

But I’m still managing to get reading done where I can, and adding to the completed book list. This particular book I’ve had done for a while, but it took a little bit of time for me to review. Almost as long as it took me to read.

With that in mind, book 16 of Project 84 is:

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Lady Chatterley’s Lover
by D.H. Lawrence

I hate to do two of these books in a row, but I have to come clean. Lady Chatterley’s Lover was not my favorite.

The plot was simple enough. Constance is married to Clifford Chatterley – a high society man who was injured in the war and paralyzed from the waist down. Feeling distanced from her husband, Constance finds comfort in the arms of Oliver Mellors, the couple’s gamekeeper, well below Constance’s social standing.

Constance battles between a sense of propriety (and a desire to stay loyal to her husband), and a physical love that only exists with Mellors.

It’s a simple premise, a simple plot, but the book is unnecessarily complicated, so much so that I just couldn’t get into this book.

I’ve mentioned this before, but a big focus of my study in college was late 1800s and turn of the century literature – focusing much of my study on Realism. A big part of Realistic literature is an absence of plot, and a focus on characters. That approach often leads to a presence of ideas unrelated to the actual novel. For example, the main characters will be at a dinner party and discuss the politics of the day or their view on race relations for several pages, even though the greater themes of the novel have nothing to do with those topics.

There are a great number of reasons why Realistic authors chose that focus on the characters, and from an analytical standpoint it can add to our understanding of the time period. The main idea is that what is important are the characters themselves – not what they are doing but who they are. I have no problem with the approach. In fact, I respond to the idea. It’s actually a big part of the reason why I dislike most Jane Austen novels – all plot, no character or substance.

The Realistic period came to an end around the end of World War I, but Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was published in 1928, is still a prime example of a Realistic novel – at least by my estimation.

With one small issue: it’s not a very good Realistic novel.

While Lawrence does focus on character before plot – both of those subjects seem to come second to his main focus: getting his point across. The book isn’t actually about the characters at all – it’s about Lawrence. Lawrence’s views on sexuality, on women, on the politics and business of his day. The book was controversial immediately upon its inception. Lawrence couldn’t even get it published in England initially due to the subversive themes. So I get why he would place so much focus on his own views, but it still takes me out of the narrative and away from the characters. In a realistic novel, characters come first. In this one, characters come second. Lawrence comes first.

Ultimately, my problem with Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the same as my problem with The Almost Moon: I didn’t respond to it. Lawrence’s writing felt self-indulgent and self-serving, and his characters felt half formed and unnecessarily complicated. The conflict in the plot came to an abrupt and easy conclusion, so much so that it felt like an afterthought.

I would not recommend this book. I think there are better examples of Realistic literature, better examples of subversive literature, and better things to do with your time. I know there are people who loved this book, so maybe I’m in the minority, but it just was not for me.

After this and Brave New World, my father said to me, “man, Lana, you’re gonna definitely spark some conversation if you keep bashing the classics.” I would like to point out that if Lady Chatterley’s Lover was that much of a classic, I already would have read it in class.

Before I close the book on Lady Chatterley’s Lover, I do want to emphasize that even though I am characterizing it as a Realistic novel, many would not. I might be on to something with my analysis – but I’m out of college now, so I’m not going to fight too hard for it. That’s what I have a blog for!

Next Review: Middlesex By Jeffrey Eugenides (Estimated Posting Date: Friday, April 18th)

**All quotes and annotations refer to this version of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, published by Bantam Classics in 1983**

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