This semi-autobiographical novel is widely regarded as one of Lawrence’s finest works. With great sensitivity and perception, Lawrence draws on his own experience and explores the close emotional ties that were to dominate so much of his life. The Morel family, the counterpart of his own, live on the Nottingham coalfield at Bestwood (Eastwood). Gertrude Morel (Lydia Lawrence) is disillusioned with her husband, Walter (Arthur Lawrence), a coarse grained and hard drinking miner, and centres all her expectations on her sons, William (Ernest Lawrence), Arthur (George Lawrence) and especially Paul (D.H. Lawrence).
As Paul grows older, tensions develop in this relationship; and his passions for two other women, Miriam Levers (Jessie Chambers) and Alice Dax (Clara Dawes) become involved in a fatal conflict of love and possessiveness. Lawrence is particularly strong in his authentic depiction of a working class mining community and he captures the Midlands accent perfectly. He also records the acute class tension between the bourgeoisie, who own and operate the mines, and the proletariat who own nothing but their labour and are forced to work deep underground in dangerous conditions.
This class war is also fought in his own home as Arthur, who is proud of his working class origins, battles it out with his middle class wife, who has fierce aspirations for her children. Gertrude refuses to let her sons go down the mine, and this only serves to worsen her antagonistic relationship with Arthur. Paul is firmly on his mother’s side and comes to hate his father, who he regards as an uncouth bully. But his deep love for his mother also prevents him from forming lasting relationships with the other women in his life. This timeless classic explores one of Lawrence’s most enduring themes – what it means to love and be loved.
John Pateman- www.tbpl.ca
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