Let’s Get Literal – Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence

List Item: Read 100 of the greatest works of fiction
Progress: 53/100Title: Sons and Lovers
Author: D.H. Lawrence
Year: 1913
Country: UK

Okay so originally I was going to start the new year by tackling the literary equivalent of the enigma code by reading Finnegans Wake, but life is too short to be reading that in the middle of winter. So here I am starting the year off with the first of two books by D.H. Lawrence, who is probably most famous for the banned book Lady Chatterley’s Lover. 

Sadly, the infamous book is not on the list (although I might end up reading it at some point in the future), but that doesn’t mean that I won’t enjoy his other less controversial works. So let’s have a look at the book that many consider to be his masterpiece: Sons and Lovers. This is a semi-autobiographical novel… which does make be greatly question the author’s relationship with his mother.

The tale of Sons and Lovers follows the lives of the Morel family – notably the two eldest sons Paul and William, the former being the main character. Having grown up in poor surroundings as the sons of a illiterate coal miner and an intelligent woman who ‘married down’, we follow Paul and William as they grow up, strive to make a life for themselves and have their own shares of women troubles. Here’s the key thing though – these women troubles arise primarily due to some serious Oedipal problems.

It’s interesting to see a book like this, where inspiration has been directly taken from the author’s life, that features a main character with an Oedipus complex. It also makes their relationships with woman a frustrating read at times, because you want to scream at him for being so fickle with them. The relationship between Paul and Miriam is especially sad because of the way he strings her along for near 8 years and just cannot bring himself to marry her (because he can’t be tied down and because his mother is the most important person in his life).

I want to make it clear though that these parts are frustrating in a good way. This was one of those books where I found myself looking forward to the commute so that I would be able to dive back in. There’s a voyeuristic thrill in reading about the lives of the Morels that makes this book so easy to devour. Speaks to how well D.H. Lawrence’s writing stands up some 106 years after being published. It might have also helped that this book lost about 10% of its content at the hands of a good editor. Having read a number of overlong books (Clarissa I am especially looking at you) I really feel the need to compliment the work of a good editor.

Having enjoyed Sons and Lovers there is a really temptation to make my next read Women in Love, but instead I’m going to return to the comics list for a spell because the hub has been agonising over his pick for a while. Maybe I’ll return to prose via D.H. Lawrence in the near future.

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