Sons and Lovers

by D. H. Lawrence

Other authorsHelen Baron (Editor), Carl Baron (Editor)
Hardcover, 1992

Call number




Cambridge University Press (1992), Edition: Unexpurgated edition, 464 pages


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: Widely regarded as D.H. Lawrence's masterpiece, Sons and Lovers is a sprawling, multi-generational look at family relationships, class dynamics, and the intimate ties with others that pull young adults toward independence. This largely autobiographical novel made Lawrence's reputation as a writer�it's a must read for fans of classic literary fiction..

User reviews

LibraryThing member Cauterize
Paul Morel grows up in a mining village in England, the son of a collier -- whom he hates. His mother is slightly more of a genteel lady, and Paul and her are devoted to one another. The book is a portrait of the Oedipal complex and how it affects Paul's relationships with women his own age, and
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the life of the labouring class as they try to move up to middle class around the start of the 20th Century.

This book had been on my TBR shelves for a long time, and I finally sucked it up and started reading it. It ended up being one of the most boring weeks of my life. I only kept reading this book because it was a "classic" and I had never tried the author before. Generally, I try not to chuck anything that falls under these two traits as I always hope the book will improve or I will start to "get" it. But no, I hated it. I have pages of notes in my book journal about how I felt Lawrence's writing was the most boring thing I've ever read. A lot of the book is dedicated to everyone taking walks in the woods, strolls through the farm land while they look at nature. Miriam would see a bush and then feel "rhapsodies" and "ecstasies" every time she looked at it. Then she would make plans to show Paul the next time he visited her farm. Then the story would have Paul take that walk and swoon over the stupid plant as well. Three of the characters even judge each other about how they like to pick flowers.

Also, Lawrence likes to talk about everyone trying to hold/take everyone else's soul. Stuff like, (paraphrasing) "Miriam's soul quickened at the sight of Paul looking at her flower. Perhaps now she would be able to hold him, she could feel his soul straining towards herself", "Mrs. Morel felt that Miriam would never be able to hold Paul. Miriam would try to hold Paul's soul while giving nothing of her own". I ended up writing things like: 'Miriam = soul-sucker; Miriam = vampire... haha'. Characters constantly contradict their previous assertions, with no explanation why... or even an indication if we were supposed to notice. It's frustrating when you have to read pages and pages of how Miriam loves Paul and wants to love and submit to him with all her soul, and then *poof!*, she says she always hated her love for him and that she knew they would break-up. ARGH. All these problems would cause little things start to bug me; at one point, the book went on and on about how Paul's handwriting was terrible no matter how hard he tried to improve it. But I just didn't this whole kerfuffle was realistic since Paul is an accomplished painter. I just have this notion that if people who have enough skill to professionally paint, they probably could write legibly if they tried.

I did like the inside look of the lower classes and the struggle to move up in station. I've never read any books from this time period, and the book was very detailed about the daily life of a collier and his family.

As a side note: I have the Wordsworth Classics 1993 edition and it is full of printing errors. If you want this book, spend your hard-earned cash on a different edition.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
This is my first D.H. Lawrence book, if you don’t count Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which I read in my early teens. I plunged in without doing any research first, and was therefore unaware that the story was autobiographical, though I doubt this would have ultimately altered my impression of it.
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Among the things I found appealing in this book are the descriptions of working class conditions and the struggle of Mrs. Morel to make the best out of difficult circumstances. I also enjoyed the way Lawrence delves into the minds of each of the characters, which seems to give the story multiple layers. However I had a hard time understanding the Nottinghamshire Dialect or why Clara—who is presented to us as a man-hating suffragette—would so easily accept to become Paul’s mistress. Some passages describing the scenery and the flora were a little bit tedious to my liking but ultimately this novel has so much substance that I was willing to pause and read about the local vegetation once in a while.
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LibraryThing member sammii507
This book...

Ugh, I can't really think of enough bad things to say about it.

It was boring. It was insanely sexist. The main character was a selfish jerk with very few redeeming qualities. There was no plot. Women were used as plot devices at best, plot devices that were generally responsible for all
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the ills in the world. Abusive men were forgiven and the women blamed in their place. The main character used women for mindless sex and then got angry at the women when they didn't want to "belong" to him. In addition, I wasn't overly impressed with the writing style, blah. It was flowery and stupid at some points, while being repetitive and banal in other places.

A terrible, terrible book.
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LibraryThing member MoniqueReads
It is always difficult to write a review on a book that was just okay. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence was just okay. The books is not a page turner. It doesn't make you want to just read and read until you get to the end. But it is easy to lose yourself in the pages and not notice the time go by.
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It's like Steinbeck's East of Eden in that perceptive (or East of Eden is like Sons and Lovers).

Sons and Lovers is a nice example of a character based storyline. There really is not plot. The story is a look in the life of Paul Morel. The story begins when his parents meet. Lawrence describes the circumstance of Paul's up bring and how he becomes the man he is.

The story mostly surrounds the complex relationship Paul has with his mother. They have a strong interdependent bond. The back of the copy of the book that I read called it Oedipus complex. But (for me) it seemed more like Paul was a mamas boy. They both provided each other with something that was initial missing in there lives. Paul provided comfort, understanding, and a listening ear to his mother. She provided him with a sense of direction. There was never the since that Paul wanted to get rid of his but rather that his father couldn't (or wouldn't) provide his mother with what she needed, so instead he did it.

There is also the relationships that Paul develops with two women, Clara and Miriam. Like the relationship with his mother, the relationships he has with these women are also based on co-dependency. With Miriam it is emotion and with Clara it is sexual. Paul seems to know this and the women seem to know this, yet they continue on with these relationships. It is a little frustrating. There is never the since that Paul is developing as a person, that any of the central characters are developing as people (except Clara, a little). They all seem to just go on and on with the same patterns of behavior. It gets a little tidiest after awhile.

The writing is great. Like a lot of classics Lawrence is good at giving details, sometimes to much detail. As stated earlier this book is not a page turner. It is really easy to put down and forget. Yet, it is also just as easy to pick up and finish were you started off from. The pages seem to pass by quickly and it never feels labor intensive.

Pros: Character based, Writing, Relationships
Cons: A lot of descriptions, Character based, Relationship

Overall Recommendation:
Sons and Lovers is a great example of a character based novel. It would not be the first classic that I would recommend if asked but it would be someone in the middle of the list.
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LibraryThing member richardderus
I was in a foul humor, so I decided to take it out on a book I hate.

Rating: 0.125* of five

BkC51) [SONS AND LOVERS] by [[D.H. Lawrence]]: The worst, most horrendously offensively overrated piece of crap I've read in my life.

Yeup. Since I'm in a real bitch-slappin' mood, here goes.

The Book Report:
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Sensitive, aesthetic nebbish gets born to rough miner and his neurasthenic dishcloth of a wife. She falls in love with her progeny and tries to Save Him From Being Like His Father, which clearly is a fate worse than death. So, lady, if you didn't like the guy, why didn't you just become a prostitute like all the other women too dumb to teach did in the 19th century?

Things drone tediously on, some vaguely coherent sentences pass before one's eyes, the end and not a moment too soon.

My Review: Listen. DH Lawrence couldn't write his way out of a wet paper bag. The reason his stuff is known at all today is the scene in Lady Chatterly where the gamekeeper bangs her from behind. Oh, and those two dudes wrestling naked in front of the fireplace in Women in Love.

Believe me when I tell you, those are *the* highlights of the man's ouevre. The hero of this book, Paul MOREL, is named after a bloody MUSHROOM! He's as soft and ishy and vaguely dirty-smelling as a mushroom, too.

Lawrence was one of those lads I'd've beaten the snot out of in grade school, just because he was gross. Weedy and moist are the two words that leap forcefully to mind when I contemplate his sorry visage, which exercise in masochistic knowledge-seeking I do not urge upon you.

If you, for some reason, liked this tedious, crapulous drivel, then goody good good, but if we're friends, I urge you not to communicate your admiration to me. It will not do good things for our relationship. I more easily forgive Hemingwayism than affection for this.
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LibraryThing member RussellBittner
Sons and Lovers may well be (considered) a classic. But from my limited perspective, I’d have to say that it is not without faults — and plenty of them.

For one thing, there’s the dialect of northern England, which I find almost impenetrable. While there’s nothing ipso facto wrong with using
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regional dialect in dialogue, a little goes a long way. Lawrence — and we — would’ve been better served if he’d merely hinted at the dialect, but otherwise written in standard English.

A bigger problem, however, is D. H. Lawrence’s syntax and, occasionally, vocabulary. I quite honestly felt at times as if I were reading someone whose native language wasn’t English. Fluent, yes — but just off enough to raise a suspicion or two that the language wasn’t really his. I give as just one example (of which there are hundreds) the following pair of paragraphs from p. 138:

“But, in spite of himself, his blood began to boil with her. It was strange that no one else made him in such fury. He flared against her. Once he threw the pencil in her face. There was a silence. She turned her face slightly aside.

“‘I didn’t’ — he began, but got no further, feeling weak in all his bones. She never reproached him or was angry with him. He was often cruelly ashamed. But still again his anger burst like a bubble surcharged; and still, when he saw her eager, silent, as it were, blind face, he felt he wanted to throw the pencil in it; and still, when he saw her hand trembling and her mouth parted with suffering, his heart was scalded with pain for her. And because of the intensity to which she roused him, he sought her.”

Is the above egregiously incorrect? No, of course not. It’s just a scintilla off. But multiply that scintilla by a thousand, and you have the beginnings of a glare. I mean, the succession of brief sentences in the first paragraph is hardly evidence of grace. Moreover, is “blood began to boil” not a rather obvious cliché? Is “no one else made him in such fury” really English? Can one feel weak “in all (one’s) bones” — even in the bones of the middle ear? Can a bubble be “surcharged?” And why the repetition of “still?”

While we don’t see an instance of it in these two paragraphs, his adverbs are sometimes all over the place — again, an understandable peccadillo for a non-native speaker, but not for a native English-speaking writer! And while the rules of punctuation have certainly known the shift of a goalpost or two in the course of the last several centuries, this book was first published only 101 years ago. Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers, however, sometimes reads as if it pre-dates Fielding — or even Chaucer!

I, personally, just don’t get it.

But to beat a dead horse yet deader, allow me two more illustrations of my point. On p. 324, we find this: “(h)is mother had been used to go to the public consultation on Saturday morning, when she could see the doctor for only a nominal sum. Her son went on the same day. The waiting-room was full of poor women, who sat patiently on a bench around the wall. Paul thought of his mother, in her little black costume, sitting waiting likewise. The doctor was late. The women all looked rather frightened. Paul asked the nurse in attendance if he could see the doctor immediately he came. It was arranged so. The women sitting patiently round the walls of the room eyed the young man curiously.”

And then again on p. 346: “(s)uddenly the door opened, and Annie entered. She looked at him questioningly.

‘Just the same,’ he said calmly.

“They whispered together a minute, then went downstairs to get breakfast. It was twenty to eight. Soon Annie came down.”

I mean, never mind the barbarous sight and sound of “questioningly.” Was Annie’s first descent to get breakfast (in the company of Paul) just a figment of Paul’s imagination? Or did she come down with him first in the flesh, and secondly only as an apparition? Yikes!

One of the odder things I found in this story is that Lawrence’s characters burn — and I mean burn — hot and cold in the space of the same paragraph…over and over again. I had a rather uncanny sense that I was reading a monograph on romance among the bipolar set. I mean, is this any way to tell a love story, especially when the coup de grâce of that story is clearly oedipal?

And finally, the inevitable Oops! in this text. Yes, I know … it’s annoying. But should we forgive the copy editors of a “classic” when that classic has been around for over a hundred years — in other words, has had plenty of time to collect not only dust, but also corrections? On p. 223, we have “‘Very well, then. They (sic) why talk about the common people?’” On p. 276, we find “‘(t)hat’s what one I must have, I think,’ he continued.” And finally, on p. 309, we find “(s)he invariably waited for him at dinner-time for him to embrace her before she went.” Methinks she’s doing a tad too much waiting. For him, that is.

And did I mention that Lawrence’s choice of words to italicize (which he does plenty of, by the way) is nothing less than bizarre? Or are Lawrence’s 19th century English ear and my 20th century American ear so radically different?

All of the above notwithstanding, is the writing memorable? At times, absolutely — and I suspect I’ll remember this novel, in substance if not in detail, for the rest of my life. Take, for instance, the following two examples (and please forgive the length of each, but I wanted to give Lawrence is due):

“Their two hands lay on the rough stone parapet of the Castle wall. He had inherited from his mother a fineness of mould, so that his hands were small and vigorous. Hers were large, to match her large limbs, but white and powerful looking. As Paul looked at them he knew her. ‘She is wanting somebody to take her hands – for all she is so contemptuous of us,’ he said to himself. And she saw nothing but his two hands, so warm and alive, which seemed to live for her. He was brooding now, staring out over the country from under sullen brows. The little, interesting diversity of shapes had vanished from the scene; all that remained was a vast, dark matrix of sorrow and tragedy, the same in all the houses and the river-flats and the people and the birds, they were only shapen (sic) differently. And now that the forms seemed to have melted away, there remained the mass from which all the landscape was composed, a dark mass of struggle and pain. The factory, the girls, his mother, the large uplifted church, the thicket of the town, merged into one atmosphere – dark, brooding, and sorrowful, every bit” (p. 237).

“A flush came into the sky, the wan moon, half-way down the west, sank into insignificance. On the shadowy land things began to take life, plants with great leaves became distinct. They came through a pass in the big, cold sandhills on to the beach. The long waste of foreshore lay moaning under the dawn and the sea; the ocean was a flat dark strip with a white edge. Over the gloomy sea the sky grew red. Quickly the fire spread among the clouds and scattered them. Crimson burned to orange, orange to dull gold, and in a golden glitter the sun came up, dribbling fierily over the waves in little splashes, as if someone had gone along and the light had spilled from her pail as she walked” (p. 310).

Please forgive the paltry two stars, but I hold "classics" to a higher standard.

Brooklyn, NY
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LibraryThing member janemarieprice
What an amazing book this is! The character is one which we can all relate to in the beautiful coming of age story. The plot is indicative of the time it was written but the themes go far beyond that.
LibraryThing member Ibreak4books
I didn't like Lawrence when I was a youngin, but now that I am a little older, I totally get it--the sexes cannot live in harmony, but we are drawn to the the "otherness" of, well, the other. Superb prose. Superb conjuring of nature, and that most illusive of all things--the mother/son relationship.
LibraryThing member pmf
No one looks deeper into nature and human nature than D.H. Lawrence.
LibraryThing member JudyCroome
First published more than a century ago (around 1913), it's no wonder that SONS & LOVERS has become a classic.

The repetitiveness of the writing (if I had to read once more how "bitter" one of the characters were, or how much one character "hated" another I'd have screamed!) did not detract from
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the sheer brilliance of Lawrence's characterisations of the slyly poisonous mother and her castrating effect on the men in her life.

Gertrude Morel's disappointment in her marriage to the rough miner Walter Morel (the character I felt most sympathy for) soured her into becoming a manipulating, horrible woman who lived out her romantic fantasies through her sons.

First, her eldest son William who, in his struggle for an identity and life separate from his mother's passions, almost broke free of her control by choosing a wildly inappropriate lover. His unhappiness had tragic consequences, which turned Mrs Morel's hopes onto her son Paul, the main character of the book.

Sensitive, romantic, artistic Paul was a sitting duck for his mother's emotional blackmail: the inner battle he waged trying to establish some sort of manhood and masculine identity under her powerful influence drives the story forward. Ultimately, it led him into cruel power struggles with the two lovers in his life. He treats both Miriam and Clara shockingly, reflecting the emotional abuse his mother inflicts on both her sons and her husband.

SONS & LOVERS is worth the struggle to read : the language is dated and requires concentration and, as mentioned above, there is a lot of repetition. The descriptions of life in a mining village, the poverty, the daily struggles were, however, well depicted (and resonated deeply as I come from a 3-generation mining family).

However, there is so much spite and anger underlying the story it was almost an unpleasant read, leaving a sour taste in my mouth. To see how damaging a mother’s influence can be, not only for her son, but for his lovers as well, made for painful, if interesting, reading.

Lawrence's depiction of the relationship between Paul and his mother, of how Mrs Morel subtly and selfishly uses her immense personal power (disguised as a fragile and delicate femininity) to set up her sons in opposition to their father, is a masterpiece in describing the psychological phenomenon known as the Oedipus complex. This gripping aspect of the story is what kept me reading and is why I highly recommend SONS & LOVERS.
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LibraryThing member missizicks
A story about love, relationships, and disappointments, told in rich language, evoking a time and a place in British history that is at once foreign and familiar. That specific way of life, the grinding life of a miner and the ways in which mining communities rubbed along, has disappeared. The
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experience of people struggling to exist through low paid jobs, the tensions within families under that sort of economic stress, are still present. Although set in a different era, there is much that is relevant to modern life. Lawrence writes about people, and the way in which they deal with life. He has great insight into human nature and motivations behind behaviour. He writes fairly about both men and women, recognising that both genders are just people, and there is good and bad in both. I was at times transported by his writing, there with the Morel family in every moment Lawrence describes. He understands the dynamics of family life. He also understands the hopes and disappointments of love. At other times, when he indulged himself too much in ruminating on his own personality through the guise of Paul Morel, he bored me.
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LibraryThing member andersonden
The use of language was novel at the time of writing. It's since become a part of the English language canon. A highly autobiographical novel but in the third person so the inner lives of the characters are a little more accessible. I liked it more than I thought I might as I am not a big D.H.
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Lawrence fan.
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LibraryThing member greeniezona
It took me approximately 500 years to read this book. Partly because it was long, partly because it was slow in places, but mostly because my copy of the book (where did I get it? and why did I bother?) was full of underlines and notes in the margin. Clearly, it was an assigned text, I'm going to
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guess high school (really? what were they thinking?), and whoever was forced to read this book found it as tedious as I found their notations. I kept telling myself not to read them, but couldn't help it, and they were SO INSIPID that I would have to put the book down in disgust. (Real life example: "hyper-sensitiveness" is underlined -- in the margin it says "sensitivity to an extreme degree.")

Really, I should have ditched this copy and found another, because it's hard for me to differentiate my impatience with the text from my impatience with the notes. But I kept plodding slowly on. And I did find things to admire. Lawrence's sentences and descriptions are skilled and often beautiful. But for all the descriptiveness and detail in just how the relationships between people get so tortured and complicated, I never really felt like I understood or could empathize with any individual character directly. Maybe Mr. Morel I understood the best, which is odd, because he clearly seemed designed to be the least sympathetic.

I don't know. Towards the end I found myself moved by the book, but now, a few weeks later, I feel very meh about it all.
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LibraryThing member kishields
I'm not a student of Lawrence and can get annoyed with his talkiness especially about the dynamics of love and sex. However, I loved this book for many reasons. First, the description of the coal mining society of England in the early 20th century, which is vivid and particular. Second, for the
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depiction of the relationships between Paul's mother and her children, including her grief at one event and Paul's grief at her loss. And finally for Lawrence's really wonderful ability to describe natural beauty with such passion that the reader can feel, see and almost smell the trees, grass and flowers he obviously loves so much. I believe this is one of his most personal books and I found it a great introduction to his other works.
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LibraryThing member wiremonkey
I thought I had read this book but I hope to heaven that I didn't because I didn't remember a single thing from it. In pure Lawrence style, sometimes achingly lyrical, sometimes achingly annoying and embarrassing, it is still a good read as well as an intense portrait of the oedipal relationship
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between mother and son.
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LibraryThing member BetaCummins
This was my first D. H. Lawrence. I was, simply put, charmed. His detailed descriptions of places, characters, personalities, situations, feelings, are very grasping in their own smooth ways. It seems all classics hold that very descriptive factor that will eventually bore you or put you to sleep.
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Not this one.
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LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
Fairly interesting, although I admit a tad dry at times.
LibraryThing member BrokenSpines
Characters appear out of no where in this poorly edited version which made it a very confusing read for me at age 19. I understand now there is a new version with the editing corrected.
LibraryThing member xine2009
Interesting recreation of Lawrence's youth, excellent portayal of his mother. Women characters lamentably stereotyped, except mother. Protagonist disagreeable, a user. Lawrence probably reveals himself unintentionally in this. But well-written and engrossing.
LibraryThing member JimmyChanga
indulgent and personal and true. but in a good way. I really loved this one.
LibraryThing member jayne_charles
Quite an oddity among 'classics' of this age - it started off fairly prim and proper, and then once it got beyond half way if I'm not much mistaken there was sex on every other page. More or less.

If DH Lawrence wrote this from personal experience I can only conclude his mother was one scary lady.
LibraryThing member Luli81
Another of Lawrence's gems.
Not as good as Women in Love, but still worth reading.
In this work you can easily notice one of Lawrence's obsessions. The love for his mother.
LibraryThing member branfulness
First part of this book is about the family history of the Morel family, or Mrs Morel's sons. Second part is about Paul Morel's lovers. It is a bi-focal novel, so to speak.
I am rather interested Miriam's apathy to body love, which reminds me of Aritha in Gide's "Narrow Gate." Paul cannot be
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satisfied with Miriam nor Clara. He must recognize his unique way of existence.
When I first read this at 19, it felt quite long and tedious. Now I can allow for the detailed descriptions in the first part of the book and I can wait for the drama to build up. But if you are young and reading Lawrence for the first time, I advise you to avoid this.
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LibraryThing member bennyb
A very long piece of literature. I found this quite hard work to finish. Worth a read if you are interested in Freudian ideals. I prefered Lady Chatterley's lover.
LibraryThing member martensgirl
I read this book as I had enjoyed Lady Chatterley's Lover. I found this book a little disappointing. At its centre is the stiflng relationship between Paul Morel and his mother. The first half of the book concerns the marriage of Paul's mother to his father, and how she is disappointed with
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domestic life married to a miner who drinks heavily. The second half explores Paul's attempts to form romantic liaisons whilst still being a mummy's boy. It is beautifully written, desperately sad, and about 200 pages too long. It moves too slowly for modern tastes.
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