Book Review: Women In Love

Women In Love is the sequel to D.H. Lawrence’s novel, The Rainbow.

Women In Love follows the sisters Gudrun and Ursula Brangwen as they embark on adult life and pursue romantic relationships and other freedoms.  Gudrun begins an ultimately destructive relationship with Gerald Crich, whilst Ursula begins a loving relationship with Rupert Birkin. Various characters and events draw on parts of Lawrence’s own biography and experiences.

The book contains lots of social commentary, on topics such as the meaning of life, the need for social reform, and the desire for or repulsion of marriage. I don’t share many of the views Lawrence conveys through the voices of his characters, which made it difficult to read, as I felt his views on marriage were overly critical and harsh.

This novel feels “freer” and less restrained than The Rainbow though; characters do what they want and say what they want, which made some parts of the story more exciting and fun.

However, Women In Love is a psychological novel, meaning it is focused on feelings and thought processes, rather than following a straightforward plot. Subsequently, I found it difficult to read through and finish; I found I’d written ‘difficult to read’ a number of times when making notes for this review.

There are lots of sensational events, as well as plenty of sensual language and experiences – a lot of which I found quite odd. For example, nature is referred to as ‘the marriage bed’ (what?!) and at one point the characters decide to sit naked in a meadow, just because.

The ending to the novel was very abrupt and offered no resolution to anything, which made Women In Love quite tragic. The title is also an irony, as the book is supposedly about women in love yet most of the time, the women are clearly unhappy and clearly not in love. This made the overall tone of the book quite depressing, and less enjoyable as a result.

This is probably the most difficult D.H. Lawrence novel I’ve ever read. If you enjoy Lawrence’s writing style or if you have read The Rainbow, you may find Women In Love interesting. If not, I probably wouldn’t recommend.

– Judith

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Book Review: The Rainbow

The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence is a novel about three generations of the Brangwen family living in Nottinghamshire. Children are born, children grow up, children get married, but through all three generations, the Brangwens struggle to feel content within the confinement of English society.

The Rainbow is written in D.H. Lawrence’s usual style; stories of ordinary men and women, regional accents, countryside descriptions of Nottinghamshire and sexual encounters.

Nothing really happens beyond births, love affairs, marriages, and deaths. The book is more focused on characters and relationships, particularly between lovers or spouses. There are quite a few marriages, yet none of them are particularly happy – characters get married quickly out of infatuation, then grow to despise their spouse or manipulate them. This is quite a sad and unfortunate portrayal of marriage.

Lydia Brangwen, then Anna Brangwen, then Ursula Brangwen – the key women of each generation – take about a third of the narrative each, as the book describes how each of them become increasingly unhappy with their role in society.

In particular, Ursula struggles to fit in to society because of the confinements placed upon women. She doesn’t want to stay at home; she wants to work and make something of herself. She also doesn’t seem drawn to the notion of true love or marriage. Subsequently, she finds herself in love affairs that lead nowhere, as she struggles to find fulfilment for her passionate desires. At one point, Ursula even questions whether what she really wants is to just be promiscuous.

Despite the theme of unhappiness and desperation for a purpose in life, which pervades the novel, the book doesn’t offer any answers.

The Rainbow is quite bleak: nobody is ever truly happy and it doesn’t end with a resolution. I probably would not have read it, were it not a book on my university reading list. I’ve read other D.H. Lawrence novels before, such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Sons and Lovers, and for me, The Rainbow does not stand out as much.

– Judith

Book Review: Middlemarch

Middlemarch is a book by George Eliot, set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32, following the lives of a huge range of characters.

From Wikipedia:

‘The narrative is variably considered to consist of three or four plots of unequal emphasis: the life of Dorothea Brooke; the career of Tertius Lydgate; the courtship of Mary Garth by Fred Vincy; and the disgrace of Bulstrode. The two main plots are those of Dorothea and Lydgate.’

Middlemarch addresses topics such as courtship and marriage, as well as politics and facing the prospect of unwelcome change as a community.

I enjoyed the beginning of Middlemarch; Eliot’s writing is witty and sarcastic, which is particularly noticeable when characters quip about the sexes.

“I don’t see how a man is to be good for much unless he has some one woman to love him dearly.”

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“We must not have you getting too learned for a woman, you know.”

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Middlemarch is not a romance, unlike Austen’s works for instance. Subsequently, Eliot’s characters are more realistic than Austen’s stereotypical romantic characters. The people in Middlemarch speak and behave like real people, in ways that Austen characters never did, making foolish choices which then impacted the plot.

Having said that, I didn’t actually enjoy many of the characters in Middlemarch, or their respective storylines. I liked seeing the life of Dorothea unfold, but I simply did not care for the seemingly endless chapters set in offices, reading about Lydgate and Bulstrode discussing various administrative duties.

As I got about halfway through the book, Middlemarch became much more of a challenge to read and complete – creating a similar experience to when I read Anna Karenina or War and Peace.

I was glad to finally finish Middlemarch but ultimately, I don’t think it was the right book for me.

– Judith