“Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a tale of two eras, a tale of revolution, but above all a tale, told with a great tenderness, about the nature of selfhood.”
As a novel of its time, written in 1928, the both loving and deeply passionate affair of Lady Chatterley epitomises the individual struggle against the cold mass of a society in which “industry came before the individual” and illustrates a desire to uncover the very roots of relation and identity. It is a pleasure to read. Both poetic and compelling, Lawrence’s style lacks any air of pretension, allowing the story unfold naturally without the feeling that certain themes are being forced into your line of vision. The vast range of ideas that flow within the narrative create a richness which imbues the reader with a sense of excitement, of change and of possibility. Lawrence notes, in a line which greatly resonated with me, that "a woman has to live her life, or live to repent not having lived it" a powerful message to not just women, but to the whole of society, to truly live.
For someone to refer to the novel as merely one about sex, would suggest a narrow-mindedness that fails to acknowledge the vast impact of Lawrence’s writing. It was at first odd to come across scenes of such an explicit nature in a novel of such traditional framework, yet it was refreshing and allowed nothing to be held back in the name of prudence – everything that needed to be said was said in the most fitting way. Sex is not the overriding theme of the novel but something that allows for the frank exploration of other ideas.
As a publication of the 1960’s our orange-bound Lady sparked a revolution that was to change the face of society, reverberating through both literature and politics. It revealed a fear within the ruling classes and exemplified within the legal tradition a blindness and a refusal to acknowledge the unsettled nature of society outside a very narrow line of vision. It marked a transition from the cold and rather prudish 50’s into the colourful and liberal 60’s.
Allen Lane’s vision for Penguin was produce books of great worth at small expense, thereby opening up the world of literature to everyone. This ethos was maintained with his decision to publish Lady Chatterley, for it reinforced Penguin’s role in giving a voice to both authors and to the reading public. The result of the trial heralded a new age for both the freedom of speech and expression. It is incredible to think that one small novel could have played such a vital role in the readjustment of national values; the sheer power of words and ideas are not to be underestimated.
View my review on the Penguin minisite, plus lots of other brilliant stuff about the novel...