And the story begins with a controversy. D. H. Lawrence's, that's David Herbert if you ever wondered, Lady Chatterley's Lover spent many years flagged by censors around the world. Withholding texts because they are deemed 'unacceptable' makes them all the more tempting nonetheless. Lady Chatterley's Lover was noticeably banned for excessive use of vulgar language and, obviously, the obscene sexual content it's famous for. Flash forward to modern day 2016. Lady Chatterley's Lover is permitted on bookshelves in multiple locals. What isn't permitted on bookshelves nowadays? Much like To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, the controversial nature of this novel is what caught my attention first and foremost.
Yet, this novel has been on my radar for some while. Earlier this year, I watched the BBC mini-series of Lady Chatterley's Lover starring Richard Madden and Holliday Grainger. The story was not at all what I expected and I vowed that I would finally get my hands on the novel. About a month from that point, I was ordering the lovely edition you saw in the photograph. All there was left to do was wait for it to arrive and then read.
Constance "Connie" Chatterley is trapped in a loveless marriage, by her own definition. Sadly, her husband Clifford was paralyzed during the First World War making intimacy with Connie fruitless. Desperate to rediscover her sexuality amidst her frustrations, Connie seeks out a lover. Gamekeeper Oliver Mellors fills the role. Together they embark on a socially unacceptable affair to discover what elements of life and the body are necessary to be in love and to love in return.
Okay, sounds intriguing right? Let's start with the censorship issue from a modern perspective. I have heard this novel used in university English literature classes as the quintessential 'sex book.' What do I mean by this? In essence, that this book is the Harlequin Romance novel of the 1920s and it is still considered raunchy, erotic, and untamed by today's standards. Well, we live in a society where books such as Fifty Shades of Grey thrive openly in book markets. I will say, I have never read any of E. L. James' novels entirely, though have read excerpts. Therefore, I know the type of language and erotic description which exists. Comparatively, Lady Chatterley's Lover is chaste. Of course for it's time, it was blush worthy. But, today, the characteristic which turned me off the novel most was the vulgar language. The language continued to get more and more vulgar and frequent as the book continued. I don't mind a few swears now and again. A large amount, however, feels unnecessary and mainly for shock value.
A characteristic of this novel that I struggled with was it's characters. I hated them all. A couple of times during my read I considered stopping altogether because I found them that irritating. Connie is by far the worst in my opinion. To paraphrase a description of her character: Connie has no real problems in life. She need only look around and realize her concerns are trivial. Sounds a bit harsh, I know. But it is the truth. Connie's need to find sexual refuge with Mellors is all she cares about. She grows cold to her disabled husband as if him not being able to sexually satisfy her is his intention. I'm sure he would have loved to step up, but wait, HE'S PARALYZED from the waist down! Not to mention the social and political issues confronting her English town are viewed as unimportant in comparison to her romantic whims. I could not get behind Connie as a character and am even a little perturbed talking about her any longer. We'll move on.
The other main character, Mellors, was interesting. His affection towards Connie is shrouded by a number of failed relationships and a wife who keeps reappearing to torment him. Although he is suppose to love Connie, he seems to only tolerate her presence or her conversation. When not engaged in some sexual act, their scenes together were dry, boring, and nonsensical. Were they in love? Could have fooled me.
The final blow to an underwhelming read was the conclusion. Without exaggeration, I felt as if the last chapter of my copy was removed. Connie and Mellors still linger in a limbo type state while each strives to get divorced from their respective partners. They are still not living together and are barely seeing each other. Even though the story may suggest the romance of Connie and Oliver is the forefront of the novel, the ending confirms it is not. The deeper political and social injustices of the 1920s in England are instead what really matters in this novel. Should one follow the body's desires or the mind's? These type of questions. By having the characters stagnant and without resolution, I believe it exemplifies this factor. Although, considering Connie cares little for these types of issues, I wonder if this book would have even been appealing to her?
I expected more from this classic novel. I wanted to see a more dynamic relationship between the two characters. Sure their intimacies were scandalous at the time of publication. Without scandal, they reveal the holes in this narrative. The writing style, when not describing sex, was slow and crowded with primary and secondary characters lacking dimension. I have made up my mind to donate my copy to the local library. Personally, I cannot look upon it without getting miffed.
All in all, this is a classic I will not return to again.
My Rating: 3.5/10