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Sons and Lovers (Review)

great-works-4

Sons and Lovers
D.H. Lawrence
481pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
November 2007

If you've never read Lawrence, this is a good place to start—Sons and Lovers is an early novel, more conventional than his later works. It is also somewhat autobiographical.

The book recounts the struggle of young Paul Morel, the son of a miner, to establish himself in the middle-class and to break free—or not—of his mother's domineering love.

It's also the story of Paul's mother, a woman of refined tastes who finds herself trapped in poverty and a loveless marriage. To compensate, she turns to her sons, first William, then Paul.

Sons is an incredibly rich work, and you can approach it in a number of ways: as a coming-of-age story; a psychological study of family conflict (Oedipus...hello?); an examination of class; a critique of industrialism; and a romance, in which three women (one's mom) fight for Paul's love. One of Lawrence's themes in this work (and many others) is the degree to which love must be grounded in both the physical and spiritual.

It's as much fun to read about Lawrence himself as it is to read his works. He is an endlessly fascinating character whose writing and personal life achieved notoriety. Although tame by today's standards, two of his works, The Rainbow (1915) and Lady Chatterley's Lover (1928), were banned for their of sexual content. In 1912 when he was 27, Lawrence ran off with a married woman and mother of three, Frieda Weekley, six years his elder and the wife of one of his professors. They eventually married and remained together till Lawrence's death in 1930.

See Lady Chatterley for a biographical sketch. Also take our LitCourse 9 (symbolism), which features Lawrence's short story, "The Horse Dealer's Daughter."

Although in and out of literary fashion—initially, because of his open treatment of sexuality, occasionally, because of his overblown writing, and more recently, because of his depiction of women—Lawrence is, nonetheless, admired for his imagination, innovation, wide ranging intellect, and large body of work. Sons and Lovers is considered his masterpiece (second only to Women in Love) and is found on many "100 best books" lists. It's a great read—truly.

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