If you’re not aware #ClassicsCommunity is an initiative spearheaded by Lucy @LucytheReader to encourage people to read more classic books in 2020. My personal goal is to read one classic a month. It’s not very fancy or complicated but I think It will be very achievable which is the direction I want to head in.
In January I decided to read Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence. This book has a bit of a complicated publication history which I will very briefly explain. It was published pirvetly in Italy in 1928 as the excplict themes of the book were off-putting to major publishers, and the unexpunged version was evetually published in 1960 by Penguin Books. This decision lead to an obscentity trial which Penguin won, and the sold 3 million copies soon after. Obviosuly these’s a lot more to this story that it’s turmultuous background but I find it fascinating and wanted to give you the bare bones of it.
But what is Lady Chatterley’s Lover about? Well, it’ about what is expected from the title. Lady Constance Chatterley finds herself young and married to a husband who takes very little interest in her in the physical sense and falls in love with Oliver Mellors, the groundskeeper. If you’re wondering how explicit their relationship is, given that there were different standards in the 1920s, then the answer is very. I was so surprised about how explicitly sexual this book is. Honestly, it’s pretty comparable to current day steamy romance, which I am partial to from time to time. As a result, the book feels incredibly current despite the 1920s setting.
I knew pretty early on that it was a five-star book for me, which is my highest rating, and it was a relief because I do now own three copies (the audiobook, a free kindle book, and a Penguin Clothbound Classic). Lawrence does a fantastic job of balancing the explicit with these very serious discussions regarding social class, and fitting into society, which I gather from a quick bit of research appealed to him on a personal level. Eventually, I hope to get around to reading the non-fiction biography, D.H. Lawrence: The Life of an Outsider, so that I can learn more about this writer who has fascinated me from only one book.
In addition to this, the narrative is relayed with such exciting subtext, one example which was particularly interesting to me were the roles of dominance and submission as I wrote an essay on these themes in Jane Eyre for my MA class. It’s the subtext that will keep me going back to this book again and again because I know that although I picked up on some of it this time, there is so much more to find and analyse.
I’ve spoken told you about the narrative, the themes, and the subtext, which are all aspects which really interest me as an academic, but there is another side to this book, and that’s the human side. Above all this is a very human novel because the characters are very human. Constance, or Connie, our protagonist is not perfect, but she is human, and that’s all the more endearing to me as a reader. Even though Lawrence makes her defection from Clifford, her husband, completely understandable for the reader, there is no real villain in this story. Unless perhaps societal conventions are the villain? (Perhaps there is an essay in that?) Clifford, though we do not see as much of him as we do of Connie, has interests and passions and even physical desire, they’re just not attached to the sexual desire which Connie feels. In fact, he comes across as potentially asexual, or somewhere on that spectrum (I’m afraid my knowledge is slightly lacking in this so if you know any better feel free to correct me in the comments), which is fascinating for this period. Lawrence was very clever in this way as his characterisations rescue this from being a sensation novel, or a pulp novel, but to be something much more real, and above all much more human.
For the longest time, Jane Eye was my favourite book, then two years ago it was demoted to my favourite classic. For the moment it still has this status, but I would not be surprised to see Lady Chatterley’s Lover usurp this title once I’ve read it a couple more times. There is a special feeling of reading a book and knowing before you’ve even finished that it is going to be a favourite and that is how I felt reading this.
What about you? Have you read Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and if so, what did you think? Have you read any other D.H. Lawrence, and if so, do you have any recommendations regarding which one to pick up next? Or, what was the last classic that you’ve read? Let me know in the comments!