by D H Lawerence
ISBN 1 85326 007, first published in 1920, buy it on Amazon.
Women in Love (1920) captured me from the moment I read the first line:
Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen sat one morning in the window-bay of their father’s house in Beldover, working and talking.
I was intrigued by the characters’ odd names and wanted to know more about them. Admittedly, it isn’t the best first line for a novel, but we can ignore that because what can be found within the pages of this book is sumptuous, passionate, and pure brilliance.
The back-cover states that:
Women in Love is, however, a profound response to a whole cultural crisis. The ‘progress’ of the modern industrialised world had led to the carnage of the First World War. What, then, did it mean to call ourselves ‘human’?
Lawrence was born in 1885 in Nottinghamshire, in the coal mining town of Eastwood, to working class parents. Lawrences’ career began with poetry and flourished in a variety of different forms. Women in Love is preceeded by The Rainbow (1915), which focuses on three generations of the Brangwen family. Tom Brangwen (Ursula and Gudrun’s grandfather) is the first central character. I can’t comment on this book, however, it is where the reader is first introduced to Ursula, who studies at university to become a teacher in an industrialised world completely juxtaposed to her grandfather’s.
The Rainbow was censored on 13 November 1915 and over one thousand copies of it were seized and burned – Lawrence’s depiction of explicit sexual needs and desired was the cause – the book was not available in the UK until 1926.
“What! Nothing? Just because humanity was wiped out? You flatter yourself. There’d be everything.” – Birkin
Women in Love is The Rainbow’s sequel. It too is full of these needs and desires that made The Rainbow so controversial. It is here that we are introduced to Gudrun, an artist who craves a somewhat unstructured and ‘bohemian’ type of life. We follow the sisters as they fall in love with the two male protagonists; Rupert and Gerald. Gerald is a rich industrialist, and Rupert, an intellectual suffering with his own demons. There are themes of homosexuality between the two male characters cumulating in an intense wrestling scene. Rupert’s need for the perfect relationship between man and woman, as well as man and man, is a driving factor throughout the novel.
I initially enjoyed Lawrence’s writing, he wasn’t afraid to be overly descriptive when he saw fit. He was no Tolkein, however, and his writing flowed wonderfully (note: I’m a massive fan of Tolkein). The dialogue was interesting and easy to understand. I quickly became engrossed in the happenings of the story, and often unwillingly put the book down when real life called. Immediately I was drawn to Gudrun, however, as the novel progressed I found myself much more aligned with Birkin.
“Life has all kinds of things. There isn’t only one road.” – Birkin
Picking through all of the quotes that I loved the most I found that the majority came from Birkin. I felt connected to his restlessness, his intellectualism, and his desire for something more. It makes me sound like a bit of an intellectual snob (which I definitely am not), and actually, there were times that I didn’t like Birkin, but I grew attached to him more and more. I felt for him and his needs, and was emotionally invested in his life. There was a single moment between himself and Ursula that made me weak, and melt. Yes, he was my favourite character by far.
“It is all possessions, possessions, bullying you and turning you into a generalisation.” – Birkin
I read the book for escapism, I felt transported into a different time, something that had been lacking in previous reads – for me anyway. Admittedly the final twenty pages of the novel dragged on in comparison to the way I was absorbed by the rest of it. The ending, well, that was unexpectedly perfect and overwhelming.
Women in Love was a beautiful read. It transported me to moments dense with meaning. There was no sentence that was meant to fill the page. All of it I enjoyed. I finished the novel feeling exhausted and emotional.