Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence. Highly recommended.
The most well-drawn character in this novel is not Lady Chatterley (Connie, an INFP personality type), her lover Mellors, her husband Clifford, Clifford’s nurse, or any human. It is Clifford’s hometown Tevershall and the surrounding coal district. His home Wragby stands where the great Nottingham Forest of legend once dominated the landscape. Now it is coal — mines, colliers, colliers’ shanties, colliers’ towns, and, most of all, money and ennui. It is dead, as seen through the eyes of Mellors and Connie — dead, lifeless, and grim, slowly sucking away at what is left of humanity and of human tenderness. The only idyllic place is the remnant of the Forest where Mellors is gamekeeper, and even it reeks of the smell of coal and of money and of the folly of money. The colliers and those who command them, the Cliffords, are soulless, dead, and, tellingly, impotent in the most important ways.
D. H. Lawrence has a unique voice and tells this tale in a unique way, albeit heavy-handedly in places. His characters’ sermon-like conversations are sometimes hard to swallow as realistic. But the frustrations and the spiritlessness of the people are real enough and save the novel from becoming too much of an intellectual exercise or a diatribe. I found myself wishing for the more subtle touch of a Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, another novel in which a human story is told against a larger setting, or even of a Tolstoy, but this is more of a story-in-a-box — a limited box. Recommended if you can suspend belief a bit; if you are looking for a good story rather than a great one; and if you are looking not for puerile pleasure in Lawrence’s liberal smattering of “naughty” words, but for a place to begin start asking the questions. There are no answers here, but there is the foundation for a beginning.
3 July 2000
Copyright © Diane L. Schirf