Women in Love

by D. H. Lawrence

Hardcover, 1989

Call number




Viking Adult (1989), Edition: First Edition, 464 pages


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: Dive into a provocative coming-of-age story that challenged the vestiges of England's Edwardian-era sexual mores. A continuation of a fictional arc that D.H. Lawrence began in a previous novel, The Rainbow, Women in Love explores the romantic entanglements and love affairs of the sisters Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen..

User reviews

LibraryThing member iansales
This is a sequel of sorts to The Rainbow, inasmuch as it continues the story of Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen from that novel. Wikipedia claims the two books were planned as one big novel but split by the publisher, but the introduction to my edition of Women in Love contradicts this – in
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Lawrence’s own words. He was driven out of London in late 1915 by The Rainbow obscenity trial, a libel suit and his vocal opposition to the Great War (which made him a lot of enemies in London society), and settled in poverty in Cornwall. After recovering from illness, he started work on Women in Love – “a sequel to The Rainbow, though quite unlike it”. Certainly, the two books are not big on rigour, and Women in Love might be better considered an entirely new novel whose leads share their names, and some background details, with the Brangwens of The Rainbow. Lawrence apparently wrote it very quickly, but it took four years before it saw print. Gudrun is an artist, returned to the family’s Nottinghamshire home village after a few bohemian years in London. Ursula is a teacher in a local school. She is attracted to school inspector Birkin (a stand-in for Lawrence himself), while Gudrun takes up with Gerald Crich, son of the local coal-mining magnate. The novel charts the two couples’ relationships through a series of (mostly) tragic incidents. You don’t read Lawrence for the plots, which is just as well as he tends to meander. And his characters usually read like they’re dialled up to eleven (so many! exclamation marks! It seems somewhat excessive to a modern reader). But there’s also lots of philosophising and discussions of Lawrence’s often bonkers ideas on art and life. Birkin especially is fond of lecturing the other characters, often at great length. And, of course, there’s Lawrence’s lovely descriptive prose. Women in Love is a… meatier novel than Sons and Lovers or The White Peacock; but it’s also a novel that disappointingly seems to treat the working-class like noble savages (and especially disappointingly so after Sons and Lovers). With its cast of minor gentry, teachers and artists, Women in Love is very middle-class, almost as if Lawrence’s years in London turned him into a social climber (and Birkin suggests as much in Women in Love). I have that absolutely enormous three-volume biography of DH Lawrence on my bookshelves. One of these days I’ll have to read it.
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LibraryThing member Luli81
The best book I probably will ever read. I think I fell in love with Lawrence and his ideas. Am I sick?
LibraryThing member bookwoman247
Women in Love is the story of the Brangwen sisters who are very different in their approaches to life and relationships. The novel centers on Ursula's relationship with Birkin and Gudrun's relationship with Gerald Crich, son of the owner of the town's coal mine.

This is my first foray into
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Lawrence's work, and it will not be my last! In spite of the angst and over-analytical tendencies, it is the most lush, sumptuous writing I've ever had the pleasure to read. I loved it!
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LibraryThing member gbill
Lawrence wrote Women in Love as a sequel to The Rainbow, continuing on with the story of the Brangwen sisters Ursula and Gudrun. It picks up where he left off, with the sisters in their mid-twenties, and Gudrun asking Ursula if she truly does not want to get married and have children. Soon both are
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involved with men, Ursula with intellectual school inspector Rupert Birkin and Gudrun with an heir to a coal-mine, Gerald Crich.

Lawrence was a bitter man when he wrote the book, following censorship of The Rainbow and the deepening of the atrocities in WWI. Women in Love is darker and less optimistic as a result, and the alienated Birkin is widely held to represent Lawrence. The relationships of both couples are stormy to say the least, and as with Lawrence’s other books, sexual desire, subconscious forces, and the dark side of the relationship between men and women is on full display. He is also open about homosexual desire, this time between men, which apparently reflected his own apparent real-life romance with a farmer while writing the book.

At his best, Lawrence creates scenes which last in the reader’s memory. For me the best of these in Women in Love was when Ursula and Birkin are out for a drive and pull over to have a giant fight, pause briefly as a bicyclist pedals by, and then resume to have her throwing his gift of three rings into his face and walking off down the road. At his worst, Lawrence is too heavy in his prose and in his cynicism; a lighter touch here would have been more effective.

On brotherhood:
“Your democracy is an absolute lie – your brotherhood of man is a pure falsity, if you apply it further than the mathematical abstraction. We all drank milk first, we all eat bread and meat, we all want to ride in motor-cars – therein lies the beginning and the end of the brotherhood of man. But no equality.”

On childhood:
“Oh God, could one bear it, this past which was gone down the abyss? Could she bear, that it ever had been! She looked round this silent, upper world of snow and stars and powerful cold. There was another world, like views on a magic lantern: the Marsh, Cossethay, Ilkeston, lit up with a common, unreal light. There was a shadowy, unreal Ursula, a whole shadow-play of an unreal life. It was as unreal, and circumscribed, as a magic-lantern show. She wished the slides could all be broken. She wished it could be gone for ever, like a lantern-slide which is broken. She wanted to have no past. She wanted to have come down from the slopes of heaven to this place, with Birkin, not to have toiled out of the murk of her childhood and her upbringing, slowly, all soiled.”

On death:
“But the great, dark illimitable kingdom of death, there humanity was put to scorn. So much they could do upon earth, the multifarious little gods that they were. But the kingdom of death put them all to scorn, they dwindled into their true vulgar silliness in face of it.”

On knowledge:
“If I know about the flower, don’t I lose the flower and have only the knowledge? Aren’t we exchanging the substance for the shadow, aren’t we forfeiting life for this dead quantity of knowledge? And what does it mean to me, after all? What does all this knowledge mean to me? It means nothing.”

On love, and solitude:
“At the very last, one is alone, beyond the influence of love. There is a real impersonal me, that is beyond love, beyond any emotional relationship. So it is with you. But we want to delude ourselves that love is the root. It isn’t. It is only the branches. The root is beyond love, a naked kind of isolation, an isolated me, that does not meet and mingle, and never can.”

On life:
“…how known it all was, like a game with the figures set out, the same figures, the Queen of chess, the knights, the pawns, the same now as they were hundreds of years ago, the same figures moving round in one of the innumerable permutations that make up the game. But the game is known, its going on is like a madness, it is so exhausted.”

And this one, which I love:
“She thought of the Marsh, the old, intimate farm-life at Cossethay. My God, how far was she projected from her childhood, how far was she still to go! In one life-time one travelled through aeons. The great chasm of memory, from her childhood in the intimate country surroundings of Cossethay and the Marsh Farm – she remembered the servant Tillly, who used to give her bread and butter sprinkled with brown sugar, in the old living-room where the grandfather clock had two pink roses in a basked painted above the figures on the face – and now, when she was travelling into the unknown with Birkin, an utter stranger – was so great, that it seemed she had no identity, that the child she had been, playing in Cossethay churchyard, was a little creature of history, not really herself.”

On rambling:
“At moments it seemed to him he did not care a straw whether Ursula or Hermione or anybody else existed or did not exist. Why bother! Why strive for a coherent, satisfied life? Why not drift on in a series of accidents – like a picaresque novel? Why not? Why bother about human relationships? Why take them seriously – male or female? Why form any serious questions at all? Why not be casual, drifting along, taking all for what it was worth?”
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LibraryThing member Dreesie
I didn't find this book exactly bad, per se, it's just another character-driven novel (I prefer plot-driven, personally). But I won't say it's well written either. It's kind of a hot mess, honestly. Darkness! Loins! Love! Hate! Indecision! Sneaking! Unhappiness! Indecisiveness! And did I mention
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Darkness? Various plot lines lead nowhere--what is the point, exactly, since there isn't even an overarching plot that needs a bit of info to work.

This book is so obviously intended to have symbolic meaning. Of what, exactly, I can't say, but there is lots of darkness and then green, when Birkin and Ursula sneak and spend the night in the woods, as an example. What does Hermione represent? And the sisters both being teachers? And Winifred? (And how old is Winifred? 10? 13? 17?). Honestly this reads more like a YA book to me, and i am so glad I didn't read it in an academic lit class, because I am terrible with hidden meanings etc. Though if I had read this in high school English, I can guarantee my friends and I would have jokes about it even now, 30 years later (like Piggy being crushed by the styrofoam rock in the movie version of Lord of the Flies).

So anyway, it's done. I am a little curious about the precursor, as I found Ursula and Gudrun's stories to be interesting. Single sisters in their mid/late 20s still living at home while both being teachers, and their dad was too? Shouldn't he be trying to marry them off or something? So much of this book struck me as unusual--maybe it wasn't, but I guess I have not read or studied a lot about early 0th century England. So maybe it's me.
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LibraryThing member Garrison0550
I keep this book out in my workshop now. Whenever I need to get wood glue off my fingers I just rip out a page.
LibraryThing member PilgrimJess
"Instead of chopping yourself down to fit the world, chop the world to fit yourself."

Women in Love is the sequel to The Rainbow and follows sisters Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen struggle to balance independence, love, and marriage at the beginning of the twentieth century but I don't believe that it
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is absolutely necessary to read it's predecessor before tackling this book. I didn't.

Ursula and Gudren are in their late twenties and have established independent and comfortable lives with their fairly liberal parents in an anonymous mining town in the Midlands. Ursula is a schoolteacher whilst Gudrun is a sculptor who has recently returned from London. Gudren does a little teaching at the school but finds her home-town dull and claustrophobic until Gerald Crich, a handsome mining heir, catches her eye. Meanwhile Ursula finds herself captivated by Gerald's best friend Rupert Birkin.

Rupert loves Gerald but neither men can envisage an enduring relationship between two men. The two of them have a naked wrestling match but whilst each man admires the other physical attributes it goes nowhere.

In many respects the title of this book is a bit of a misnomer as it is soon becomes apparent that neither woman are in love rather this is a novel that explores psychological drama between the sexes looking at feelings and thought processes through sensual language. Lawrence is however, also making a social commentary with this novel; the meaning of love in particular how the two differing sexes view it, intellectualism and nature, the need for social reform in regards to societal expectations versus individual sentiments and the desire/ aversion for marriage.

This is certainly not an easy read. Firstly I don't agree with the author's views on marriage (I have been married to the same woman for over thirty years which may colour my views) whilst some of the long philosophical sections of the text were tedious at best. Yet every time I decided to read one more chapter before throwing in the towel I would find myself being drawn into the plot again and the conclusion was both unexpected and dramatic. I am glad that I have finally gotten around to reading it but it is not a book that I am likely to revisit.
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LibraryThing member sadiebooks
one of lawrence's best. i read it before lady chatterley's lover and kind of liked it better.
LibraryThing member urduha
I've tried to read this twice and I keep not finishing it. I am still very curious to find out what happens so I am attempting this one again.
LibraryThing member bexaplex
Women in Love is incredibly morose. Since Lawrence leaves the war out of the story (although the book was written during the Great War) the characters' lassitude and hopelessness is totally unexplained. I can't think of why I've kept this book so long, since reading it is like spending a dinner
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party with an unhappy drunk. Perhaps I thought the moroseness was deep?
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LibraryThing member Shannan79
While this book had no plot, It basically described and question many types of love. I found the language beautiful but hard to understand at times. Basically its about tow sister Ursula and Gudrun. Ursula falls for Birkin and he asks her to marry him. Meanwhile Gerald and Birkin have an intimate
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affair with each other. This book was probably banned because of the homosexuality in the novel. Lawrence can be bold and sometimes offensively sexual for his era.

I really did not like this book because it jumped around a lot. I was told that I would have probably would have like it if I had The Rainbow first. The best part of this novel would have to be the end because it was shocking I had to reread the last chapter to get over my shock.
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LibraryThing member Esquilinho
Not the Rainbow sequel I had expected...: Hmm, bit unsure about this one. In many ways, it seems like DHL trying to share his own philosophy and opinions with the world at large, probably in some attempt to justify himself. Granted, some of his views are inspired and have given me a lot of food for
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thought, particularly in terms of my own attitudes to relationships. However, some of the ramblings of Birkin and Criche are incomprehensible nonsense. What is striking however is the continued relevance of his opinions of Britain/the British, he could have written this yesterday.I greatly enjoyed the Rainbow and at the time I read that novel, I felt that Ursula Brangwen was someone I could really relate to, and indeed love.
Unfortunately, I found her character to be scarcely recognisable in Women in Love and largely ignored by Lawrence in his examination of the male characters.
Anyone, like me, hoping for a sequel to the Rainbow would be sadly disappointed.
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LibraryThing member uhhlanna
The first Lawrence novel I read--the characters aren't that fantastic, but his writing style is really gripping and impressive, so I enjoyed it! I felt sophisticated when I recognized his allusions to the pyschological or theoretical realms.
LibraryThing member YogiABB
I just finished "Women in Love" by D.H. Lawrence. It was written in 1920 and is set in the early 1910's, before the first World War, and concerns the lives of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen who live in a small coal mining town in England. Gudren, who is an artist, falls in love with Robert
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Crich, a businessman. Ursula falls in love with Robert Birkin, an intellectual. A good summary of the book is here. The book is about relationships, between men and women, and between men.

The book has a racy reputation but it is very tame by modern standards. It was banned in Britain for 11 years after its publication.

My impression of the book is that it is a torrent of words, a regular Niagara Falls. Lawrence sets up the various scenes completely including the emotional state of the parties involved and then puts the scene in motion. I thought he was great at picking out the nuances of a relationship, from deep attraction, to mild irritation and of describing how people in a group interact. He set up some scenes that seemed fairly innocuous and then suddenly something happens, a punch is thrown, a horse kicks up, somebody drowns. To do all this requires the deluge of words, words of all types. I read the book on my Kindle because it is free and that was handy because of the built in dictionary.

I enjoyed the book but it is not light reading. The information density in the prose is thick and if you don't pay attention to it then the subsequents scenes don't make much sense. Anyways, I'm glad that I read it and can now tick it off my life TBR list and I don't think that I'll be reading much more of his stuff. I am not smart enough.
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LibraryThing member JVioland
A disappointing read. It is disjointed and does not flow well. A possibly repressed homosexuality (or is it normal masculine sensuality?) pervades the book. Too contrived to work.
LibraryThing member Kristelh
This is a book by D. H. Lawrence that he considered his best work, in it examines relationships and societal expectations between men and women, and even men and men. There is not much plot and it is heavy on character development. The author spends way too much time talking about love on some meta
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level that leaves the reader exhausted as does the back and forth of these relationships between two women (sisters) and two males (best friends) in this industrial town of coal mining on the edge of Sherwood Forest. What I liked best about the book is that Birkin really is Lawrence. Gudrun is Katherine Mansfield (author of The Garden Party (1922) and Urusula is Lawrence's German wife (Frieda) and Gerald is Middleton Murry, Lawrence's closest friend. So that is how I experienced the book (the going on by Lawrence about love/not love was exhausting but I enjoyed the character study). There wasn't much of a plot but what there was involved some major events (the diving, the wandering about the mountain) and a whole lot of symbolism. Coal (industrial) soiling everything. And a lot of use of the words "inchoate, paradisial, sang froid". I was okay with the ending. I think the loss of friendship can be devastating. I have read other books by the author. I think this one, while it is Lawrence's favorite, is not mine but I did enjoy the window into Lawrence's life and the life of Katherine Mansfield in the pre 1920s. I am not sure whether this book contributes to literature today other than as a classic would contribute and it certainly is not controversial today as it was when written.

Rating 3.66
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LibraryThing member Hebephrene
Poor Lawrence. This is one of the most "dated" novels I have read in a long time. Virtually every stylistic aspect of the novel is deeply out of favor now making it a hard, often comic slog. Apparently it was written in a very short period of time. Two months or something and it feels it. Often a
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descriptive term is repeated not just on the same page but within a sentence as if the author was in such a hurry he couldn't take the time to find a word that might add to the specificity. This novel is the true source of many thousands of bodice rippers with hilarious overwriting about a man's luminous loins. Oh, the loins! The character Birken rivals Bloch in Proust as the most sadly abstracted character in literature, going on during long speeches about some ideal notion of autonomy in a relationship which leaves him tongue tied. Also given when it was written and Lawrence's later fondness for psychological theory the word "unconscious" appears many many times almost always used in a fashion that indicates that either the meaning hadn't gelled or he didn't get it. Another tragic aspect is that Lawrence is particularly ham handed when it comes to distinguishing whether the reaction originates in the character or in the narrator. He goes from omniscient to extremely close third diminishing both. Many other writers had mastered this so it's not as if he couldn't have figured it out, it just wasn't important. But what sticks out most is how bogged down he becomes recording every over the top quiver of a character. A routine encounter can take pages since we must check in on each participant's response and a character in Lawrence's world can whip-saw from love to hate in a manner of a few seconds and nobody has a tepid response to anything. It's so dated it feels at times like a Monty Python send up of people with over active glands. Oh, the luminous loins indeed. I have been hearing about Lawrence and of course was brought up on the less than disciplined films so sadly this is the one book I will be reading. He still enjoys a major reputation, despite.
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LibraryThing member tommi180744
Very disappointing!
For an alleged breakthrough masterpiece of the era it seems to lack most of the literary elements that would justify the claims made for Women In Love.
If Lawrence seriously believed the conversational chat-up monologues he produces in this book won the affection of females then
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not only were they women of an altogether different era (granted), but surely of a near alien species who were attracted to dry, insipid meandering thoughts of conceited, self-absorbed near dead in mind and body males.
The 2 relationships were very unconvincing: the hints of sensuality that so engaged and enraged many when WINL was first published whilst understandable for the period make for dull reading today. Others of the author's period covered much more effectively such topics as human desire and the excited body.
I suppose I also resented that this was written by an author who flunked any participation in the grief-strewn, human calamity of WW1: And it shows in his writing - the violence between leading characters, both mental and physical, is of a high-brow taste that no one having experienced the frontline or even a staff post in gay Paris could possibly describe in so tediously drawn out scenes that had 'false premise' at their core. Much of its description of the main characters is not insightful but incredulous for its lack of perception of the human personality.
Lawrence was a gifted novelist and wrote some very fine works: I have to disagree with so many others and declare this was definitely not one of them!
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LibraryThing member EnockPioUlle
Great writing that drags forever, making it a strong contestant for the most boring novel ever by a notoriously famous author. Before you even think of it, look somewhere else, unless it's a mandatory read-for-school assignment. What was somehow my case. Later in life I might try "Sons and lovers"
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and once more "Lady Lady Chatterley's Lover".
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LibraryThing member DanielSTJ
This was a great novel by Lawrence. He managed to convey so much with his words and some passages are elegant, graceful, and wonderful in their bearing. The characters are complex, multifaceted, and intriguing and the plot is never stale or boring. This is one to read if you enjoy classics, by all
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means. It's totally worth it.

4 stars!
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LibraryThing member TobinElliott
No rating, because I realized, after yet another character pontificated on something about life—something about beetles? —that I realized I'd gone through several minutes of literally not picking up on what was happening, because I simply didn't care.
LibraryThing member Andy5185
This novel explores the lives and loves of the Brangwen sisters as introduced in the previous work The Rainbow. (You don't have to read The Rainbow first.) This is an exquisitely written story that questions and examines the roles men and women play in their lives and with each other. The wider
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societal expectations are also addressed. Scholars say Lawrence was trying to show the ill effects of industrialization on the psyche, but for my early 20's mind it was simply a drama-filled story about complicated people and relationships. It totally turned me on to Modernist literature.
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LibraryThing member Cecrow
D.H. Lawrence's novel about the hopelessness of attaining ideal love. I imagine him inspired by arguments with Frieda Weekley that match the scene of the twenty-third chapter, 'Excurse' - in which Ursula and Birkin have their petty fight that is brilliant for its verisimilitude - and feeling that
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love is really only a hopeless joyride of emotional pinnacles alternating with illogical battles, so let's write a novel about that.

Unfortunately that chapter features all the verisimilitude I could find, and the only part I felt he got right. I can't relate to Lawrence's way of thinking, or his characters' way of thinking, whichever it may be. These thoughts and conversations do not seem realistic to me. The characters are oppressed by everything that matters - beauty, love, knowledge, family, society, each other. The only thing they let stand is their questing after an undefined "truth" and wrestling with whatever that means. I'd only read "Sons and Lovers" prior, many years ago, and came here to give Lawrence a second chance. This is supposed to be his best work. Why then, the amateur mistake of diving headfirst into philosophical arguments among characters I haven't yet gotten to know well enough to bother my head about what they're arguing about? Yet it is only through their (tedious) arguing that I was able to compose their respective characters. It took me a hundred pages just to begin understanding the five leads and their differences.

Birkin is unsure what he believes in, he only knows he doesn't like the world as it presents itself. He wants ultimate truth and purity, something that lies beyond everyday emotions, but he can't define it to his or anyone else's satisfaction. His love match Ursula is more traditional, believing in the power of love that conquers all and as an end in itself. Her competitor Hermione is the most self-centered, viewing the world as a structure built around herself to which all must align or be brought into alignment by her will. Ursula's sister Gudrun is sensitive to the drawbacks of being a woman, desirous of freedom, jealous of men's power. Her love interest Gerald views the world as an industrialist might, to be used at his pleasure, but having accomplished that he finds himself at a loss. He also appears to be wrestling with his homosexuality, which he is unable to recognize or assert. None of these characters succeed at finding full satisfaction in love, or are able to fully equate the word 'love' with the concept their hearts yearn for.

All well and good. But then, as they act this out, some absurd emotional twist happens, like Ursula's sudden descent into ruminations on death and inexplicable hatred for Birkin out of nowhere, and I think I just don't understand what Lawrence is doing at all. He wants to splash a dose of realism over the picture of romantic love, fine; but does realism have to mean irrationalism? Or is he saying women are just plain irrational and that's the whole problem? Because only a couple of chapters later, for no reason (again) Ursula has done another flip: "he had lost his significance, he scarcely mattered in her world." No hate, no nothing. Another chapter: now he's off to France without her, so now she's going to die without him. Oh, please. Is this the best and most convincing way to demonstrate the flaws of 'ideal love' through narrative? And it isn't just the women. The men don't exhibit these sudden twists but get caught up in their determined desires for something beyond the immediacy of what love has to offer, and obsess over it. I might buy Lawrence's hypothesis, but these 'proofs' are useless. There's no realism in this realism.

Then there's the irritating language he uses. He's reluctant to portray the act of falling in love, preferring to it the idea of placing others under one's power. I've never known an author to so generously use the word "loins". Everything between your waist and your knees is your loins, according to Lawrence. Perhaps that's as daring as he could manage prior to Lady Chatterley? And the dialogue tags that grate on my nerves, with people crying out, jeering and retorting all over the place. Nope, can't do Lawrence anymore.
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LibraryThing member justmeRosalie
I don't remember what this book is about except somebody wanders off into the mountains to die. Maybe I read it at an inexperienced age. But it was very disappointing because Lawrence's SONS AND LOVERS had been such an intimate and poignant experience. There some books I go back to and re-read to
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get a new take on because years have passed since I read them, but this isn't one of them.
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LibraryThing member LDVoorberg
Phew. Finally finished.
It's a tough one to get through. A lot of profound, accurate theses throughout, but what the book is about and how it is strung together is a bit above my head.




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