Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sons and Lovers - D. H. Lawrence

Sons and Lovers
Slowly but surely I am making my way through this 100 Best Novels list. Sometimes I can't believe I am a year and a half into this challenge and only a third of the way through. Other times, I can't believe I am this far in and have made so much progress. I definitely do not think I realized the magnitude of this challenge when I took it on. Probably for the best. I may not have attempted it otherwise.

And I have gained so much from it already. 

Sons and Lovers, my latest finished work from the list, is the first D.H. Lawrence book I had ever read. Lawrence is one of those authors I had never heard of before this challenge and now find myself surprised at that fact. After all, this book landed itself at #9 on the list and Lawrence has two others included as well.

This book shares the story of the Morel family. Gertrude Morel, the matriarch who married below her class when she chose Walter Morel, a coal miner. Their tumultuous marriage produces four children and she devotes herself to them, particularly her two eldest sons, William and Paul. The bulk of the novel deals with the relational complications that transpire as the boys age and begin love affairs of their own.

I won't go into particulars - the book is long and there would be a lot to cover. Suffice it to say that Lawrence portrays such truth in his depiction of each relationship. The relationship between mother and sons is a delicate balance of love, devotion, and a yearning to be free. William and Paul find it difficult to please their mother with their choice of lovers and, consequentially, the relationships between Gertrude and these young women are tense and uncomfortable.

As my friends and I live out this phase of choosing partners and integrating families, I found this book to be incredibly relatable. While everyone's experience in this area is different and represents a different degree of strife or ease, I have come to the conclusion that joining a family or welcoming a new member into your own is a process that is never totally smooth. There will always be bumps in the road, of whatever size. To see that same process played out, albeit more dramatically, in this novel from 100 years ago only solidified that theory for me. This challenge is not something that only modern families experience.

So much of it comes down to the reality of generational clash. I was exploring this idea a bit last night as well as I read Us by David Nicholls. As I get older, it has been something I have thought about more. Perhaps age does that to you. Each generation tends to think they have the market on wisdom. So, when parents or children choose to do things differently or choose a different type of path or partner for life, it is understandable that there is tension and even some resentment. I think fiction does such a wonderful job of fleshing out this issue without stepping on too many toes, especially when it is representing generations that lived so long ago as Sons and Lovers does.

Interestingly, Sons and Lovers is supposed to be largely autobiographical for Lawrence. Knowing that definitely makes me want to learn more about him as a person and the experiences he had which lead him to write such an emotionally tense novel.

I enjoyed the book, although I can't necessarily say it is one I will read again any time soon. I can see myself picking it up again when my own children reach dating or marrying age, if only as a reminder that I don't know as much as I think I do. After all, what is a good reminder for me now on the child-side of things will still be a good lesson when I stand in the parental role. 

Pages: 654
Date Completed: October 2, 2014

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