This week’s read brings us into the mining communities of Nottinghamshire, our Membership and Course Assistant Lisa, recommends DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers.
“You have a place in my nature which no one else could fill. You have played a fundamental part in my development. And this grief, which has been like a clod between our two souls, does it not begin to dissipate? Ours is not an everyday affection. As yet, we are mortal, and to live side by side with one another would be dreadful, for somehow, with you I cannot long be trivial, and, you know, to be always beyond this mortal state would be to lose it. If people marry, they must live together as affectionate humans who may be commonplace with each other without feeling awkward- not as two souls. So I feel it.”
This novel can be considered an in-depth portrait, painted with the finest of brush-stroke detail, of the life of one man, Paul Morel, beginning before he is even born into a working-class community and following him through adolescence and the strife of early adult life. His artistic ideals are at odds with his miner father but he is cherished by his equally hard-working and loving mother – and it is this enduring relationship which defines much of his path.
I first read Sons and Lovers when I was about to finish university; perhaps a subconscious choice given the stage at which it is set. In some senses I could align myself with Paul as he ventured out into the world, but the likenesses didn’t stop me from being thoroughly exasperated with him at points throughout reading.
For me the book speaks to the complexity of human bonds – particularly those which are tied irrespective of our own choices, though choice also comes into sharp focus through the romantic pushes and pulls exerted on Paul. It is the spotlight shone on the female characters, not least Mrs Morel, which makes the novel so memorable for me. They are not just lovers, but women in their own right.
Sons and Lovers is said to be the most autobiographical of Lawrence’s novels, and it feels almost impossible to read it and refrain from holding a mirror up, exposing that which we find regretful and awkward as much as what we admire in ourselves.