Sunday, January 2, 2011

Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence

Gudrun and Ursula Brangwen are school teachers in the village of Beldover who begin relationships with Gerald Crich and Rupert Birkin, respectively. Women in Love recounts the ups and downs of their courtships, the desire and ambivalence and fear of beginning a new relationship.
I was struck by Lawrence’s stunning and quite brilliant descriptions. He is an expert scene setter, a genius at painting pictures of memorable and gorgeous vividness. The scenes I loved the best were the chapters focusing on nature – the water party and the various descriptions of the snow and ice in Austria.
This book is also has fiercely drawn characters, characters of extremes, characters with all their faults and weaknesses exposed. Lawrence risks readers hating these characters by truthfully portraying their ugliness and darkness. And I have to say I didn’t really like any of the characters as I strove to understand them and found myself arguing with them in my head.
The power struggles between men and women are dismayingly emphasized and left me with the feeling that Lawrence had little hope for the state of marriage or partnerships. The constant wavering and arguments over the meaning of love, the futility of committed relationships, the intense fear that leads to tedious pronouncements by the characters and cringe-worthy decisions is the major thread of the novel.
At first this quote by one of the characters described how I felt about the book:
“I really do not want to be forced into all this criticism and analysis of life. I really do want to see things in their entirety, with their beauty left to them, and their wholeness, their natural holiness.”
On reflection, however, I do believe Lawrence has much of importance to say on the subject of relationships and he brutally depicts the negativity of relations between the sexes in an honest way that I haven’t seen portrayed in quite this way.
In the end, Lawrence’s writing saves the day and will carry a reader through the tough spots (including his ridiculous descriptions of sex) and you’ll come out the other side not being able to forget this passionate book.

-Published in 1920


  1. I've been waiting for a reliable account of this novel. Great start for this project, anbolyn! Smart to begin with one of the iconic authors, too. Tell me -- are we focusing on English lit? Or including the US and the continent? And here's another thought: I've got Calvin Tomkins' "Living Well Is the Best Revenge" on my pile. It's about Hemingway and Gerald & Sara Murphy in the South of France. Not written during our time frame but maybe useful background. What do you think?

    Very excited about this!

  2. Nope, no focus on any one country or area. Everything interwar is fair game including non-fiction about that time period. The Tomkins book sounds wonderful - thanks so much for your interest in the project!

  3. I've wanted to read this since I read Sons & Lovers but I wonder if I need to read The Rainbow first. Have you read it? I found S&L such an absorbing read, I really want to read more Lawrence someday.

  4. I haven't read The Rainbow yet and I don't think you need to read it before Women in Love. I do want to read it, though, some day. I think it will be fascinating to have a look backwards at how Ursula and Gudrun were raised.