Genre: Romance, Classics, Erotic
Narrative Style: Third person from different viewpoints.
Synopsis: Clifford Chatterley is confined to a wheelchair after the first world war. His wife Connie is bored and restless. They would have been ill-matched even without the added strain of Clifford’s paralysis. When the new games keeper arrives on the estate, she starts an affair with him.
Time on Shelf: Quite a while. I downloaded this because I thought it would be interesting to read and compare to modern erotica. I was put off, however, by my other attempts at reading Lawrence which had been unsuccessful.
Like most people, I was curious to read this because of the furore that it caused. I watched the 2015 BBC adaptation which features Richard Madden as Mellors (rather generous casting I would say) and was suitably sexy. I realise that this was never going to be Fifty Shades of Grey (Not that I liked that book anyway) with sex every two minutes but Lawrence’s prose was terrible and really the story wasn’t complicated enough for the number of pages that Lawrence gives it.
It’s hard to say whether this book would be read by anyone if not for the sex. Lawrence’s style is well and truly out of fashion, I suppose and thank goodness for that. There were little affectations that I found immensely annoying. For example, ‘And besides, he felt cruelly his own unfinished nature. He felt his own unfinished condition of aloneness cruelly.’ This repeating of little phrases happened quite often and made me want to throw the book away every time it happened. Then there was the exclamations. I don’t think I have ever read a book which overused the exclamation mark quite so much. Here is a particularly bad example. ‘The awful mill-posts of most females! really shocking, really enough to justify murder! Or the poor thin pegs! or the trim neat things in silk stockings, without the slightest look of life! Awful, the millions of meaningless legs prancing meaninglessly around!’ It was exhausting. I’m just glad I didn’t have to read it out loud.
Connie was always feeling things in her bowels or in her womb. (‘On this spring morning she felt a quiver in her womb, too, as if the sunshine had touched it and made it happy.’) That was annoying but maybe we can forgive Lawrence seeing that he was writing 100 years ago and he does allow that Connie has very real sexual feelings which she follows. The sex is a bit cringey (inevitably, I suppose, given that there is often something a little odd and awkward about sex written down and we think about things so very differently now.) particularly in the beginning with Connie’s first lover, Michaelis where orgasms are referred to as crises and Michaelis has little care for Connie’s pleasure.
It doesn’t get much better with Mellors. For a start, he shifts between dialect and Standard English at will. Lawrence’s attempts at writing down his dialogue are incomprehensible at times. Lawrence is as much in thrall to Mellors and his penis as he is to Connie and her body parts so the descriptions are, at least, equally absurd. The couple talk to each other like no real life people ever (in fact, this is true of all conversations and all characters. Did Lawrence ever actually talk to people?) and fall in love physically on the floor of Mellor’s hut.
The themes of this novel are quite interesting – the relationship between the classes as well as that between the sexes are dissected thoroughly – but the awfulness of the prose spoiled it all for me. I couldn’t take it seriously. Shame, really.