You either like an author’s style or you don’t. Some novels you start to turn the pages and you are hooked and can’t stop reading until you reach the last page. Other stories start slowly and gradually develop until you are left fulfilled and pleasantly surprised. And no two human beings are the same, so what works for one might not work for another.
I’ll start by saying what I liked about the novel. I’m glad Lawrence had no qualms about the sexual interplay and was graphic to a shocking extent for the time period involved—early 20th century England. In keeping with older works, like Harding’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, there is an attack on modern industry, specifically the hardships of the coal works. There is also an attack on the upper classes and how they viewed and treated the middle and lower working classes.
Through Clifford, Lady Chatterley’s husband, Lawrence reveals the horrors of war, as Clifford returns from war severely handicapped and unable to feel or move his legs—he moves around in a wheelchair and a machine. Lady Chatterley—Connie Reid—is subjected to her husband’s will and is forced to take care of him at the start of the novel. The author reveals how Connie is bodily and spiritually reduced by this relationship in which her husband attaches to her and sucks the energy and life out of her whilst he pursues his interests in writing and simultaneously lords it over the coal workers toiling at his father’s mine.
Love and the liberation of Connie’s spirit enter her life in the form of a middle to lower class employee, the gamekeeper of the Chatterley estate, Oliver Mellors. Oliver is everything Clifford is not. Clifford embraces his upper class roots and soon reveals his overbearing and clingy nature. Oliver, though he was given the opportunity as a young lieutenant to escape his working class roots, shuns the hypocritical eunuch-style gentlemen of the upper echelons of society, and rather embraces his male nature and the freedom to access his primitive passions and sensualities.
Connie embraces and learns to worship the wild, savage passion of her lover and gradually peels away the layers of dominance Clifford has woven into her: it’s as if she pulls each root away and heals the wounds with Oliver’s lovemaking.
Though there is love in this novel, and the usual ideas revolving around the deleterious effects of industry, the male and female struggles that existed in all strata of society, the clash of the classes, Lawrence’s novel was a hard read for me, and did not manage to excite me enough to award him with a four star. Some parts of the book I flicked over, those parts where I felt that Lawrence was philosophising too much, and concentrated rather on the relationships between the characters. I suppose I fall in that smaller category of readers that would describe D.H. Lawrence as talented but not great, having written a nice (not thrilling) tale.
Despite my feelings concerning the novel, I am eager to admit that I found the 2015 movie version of the novel, starring Holliday Grainger and Richard Madden, lovingly created and interesting, but not very true to the novel as there was some flourishing of the characters and emotions portrayed between Connie and her husband which were not made reference to in the novel. Also, the actor chosen to play the role of Clifford’s nurse is much younger than the character in the novel. But, overall, a satisfying movie version of the novel.