- Title: Sons and Lovers
- Author: D.H. Lawrence
- Published: 1913
Sons and Lovers is a story which ‘concerns childhood and adolescence and all that go with them, including fear, shame, self‑consciousness, emotional hypersensitivity, sexual awakening’ (Morrison, 2013).
The book focuses upon Mrs Morel, and her youngest son Paul, as well as the relationships he has with two different women in the town: Miriam and Clara. Paul and his mother have an intensely close relationship, and the two behave as lovers – hence the title – which then has an impact on the way Paul sees the world and forms relationships with others.
Sons and Lovers has Lawrence’s clear imprint upon it; the use of Nottinghamshire dialect, characters from a working-class background, the setting of a mining town, and touching on themes such as class, gender, and sexuality.
Yet despite Lawrence’s clear coverage of Paul’s Oedipus Complex*, I found Sons and Lovers less sexually explicit than Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which was a relief!
*Oedipus Complex: A theory that the unconscious mind desires sexual relations with the parent of the opposite sex (e.g. sons being sexually attracted to their mothers)
Another difference between Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons and Lovers is that in Sons and Lovers, the novel follows the daily life of Mrs Morel and her family over a period of time and, well, that’s about it. As Paul flitted between Miriam, Clara, and Mrs Morel, I never got the impression that the action was building to anything. Thus, when the book ended, it just ended.
Furthermore, for a book which frequently refers to the gender inequalities between men and women, the portrayal of women in Sons and Lovers was not a positive one. It’s clear Paul uses his relationships with Miriam and Clara to satisfy his physical needs and not much else. Miriam regularly speaks of her desire not to be held back in life because she is a woman, yet spends her entire time moping around the non-committal Paul, only ever seeing her future in relation to his. We are told Clara is a suffragist, yet scenes of Clara expressing her feminist beliefs are omitted, and instead we are provided more details of Clara’s clinging to Paul.
I can understand why Sons and Lovers has received high praise from readers and critics alike; Lawrence’s writing is good, and his descriptions are detailed and lifelike. The theme of incestuous love between mother and son is certainly one most writers would steer well clear of, but Lawrence tackles it in an interesting way.
Morrison writes that ‘For those new to his [that is, Lawrence’s] work, Sons and Lovers is the place to start.’ (The Guardian, 2013).
Whilst I disagree with this, I can’t deny that I enjoy Lawrence’s writing, and there is no doubt in my mind that I will read more of his novels in future.
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this review, please click ‘Like’ and don’t forget to ‘Follow’ for more book reviews.