Classic. Erotic. Timeless.

This is Downton Abbey without the legacy money, phony peerage and domineering dowager, but still with the inbred arrogance. It’s much closer to the real story of British hypocrisy in class status, uninhabited marriage, hollow romance, desperate love and raw human need.

This book was part of the kick-down-the-door, 20th century vanguard that said, ‘Hey, the beautiful, erotic, sexual life hiding behind the social facade erected by ‘god-fearing’ hypocrites needs to be exposed, and writers can lead the way. The clash of taboos and norms in the first-half of the 20th century was no different than today, except now, a hundred years later, we openly talk, write and film the romantic, lustful and sexually honest stories because of D. H. Lawrence and a handful of courageous writers.

Written in 1928, banned until 1960 and the subject of a scandal trial under Britain’s Public Decency Act in 1960, D. H. Lawrence’s seminal book – seminal being an appropriate double entendre – is a historical cornerstone in erotic romance. This is real-life, unmasked by the truths Lawrence’s fiction dared expose in social class, economic success and literary conventions.

“The bitch-goddess, Success, was trailed by thousands of gasping dogs with lolling tongues. The one that got her first was the real dog among dogs, if you go by success!” – Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Lawrence captured the English industrial era’s hypocritical conflicts in love, sex and success, which transcend time and class, but he suffered less than ringing acclaim by doing so. Because it was not acceptable to use acceptable language and themes in portraying the raw honesty of marriage, affairs, sex and class difference. Today, it makes for great storytelling and has provided much material for movies. In fact, Lawrence’s story has been made into movies in 1955 (initially banned), 1981, 1993, and 2006. He would be proud.

In a nutshell

Perhaps the most poignant aspect in this story is how the truth resonates, how Lawrence weaves the reality of sex in relationships into the reality of life. Connie is married to Sir Clifford, part of England’s born-into-wealth, ‘upper-crust,’ but he has been diminished by a war injury that has left him partially paralyzed. He’s impotent, so she does what any normal, Darwinian woman would do, and finds lovers. First a writer, Michaelis, then a gamekeeper, Oliver. Both men are below Sir Clifford’s class but realistically above his sexual potency. He knows it, she knows it, and so it is. Accepted but hidden. A form of love blossoms between Connie and Oliver but, as in most affairs, the outcome rides on the mysteries of unrequited love. Throughout the sexual forays, Lawrence paints wonderful, conflicting passions – real-life stuff – taking readers into the inner spirits of the mind, heart and womb.

In the context of the 1920s and 30s, from a woman’s perspective, the blending of metaphor, euphemism and authentic emotions, is as sensual, stimulating, romantic, carnal and sexually magical as can be write. The sexual language – like “fuck” – never jumps off the page rather it’s as natural as … well, real life. This was the eloquence and boldness of Lawrence’s craft then and is the enduring character of his writing today.

“His body was urgent against her, and she didn’t have the heart anymore to fight…She saw his eyes, tense and brilliant, fierce, not loving. But her will had left her. A strange weight was on her limbs. She was giving way. She was giving up…she had to lie down there under the boughs of the tree, like an animal, while he waited, standing there in his shirt and breeches, watching her with haunted eyes…He too had bared the front part of his body and she felt his naked flesh against her as he came into her. For a moment he was still inside her, turgid there and quivering. Then as he began to move, in the sudden helpless orgasm, there awoke in her new strange thrills rippling inside her. Rippling, rippling, rippling, like a flapping overlapping of soft flames, soft as feathers, running to points of brilliance, exquisite and melting her all molten inside. It was like bells rippling up and up to a culmination. She lay unconscious of the wild little cries she uttered at the last. But it was over too soon, too soon, and she could no longer force her own conclusion with her own activity. This was different, different. She could do nothing. She could no longer harden and grip for her own satisfaction upon him. She could only wait, wait and moan in spirit and she felt him withdrawing, withdrawing and contracting, coming to the terrible moment when he would slip out of her and be gone. Whilst all her womb was open and soft, and softly clamouring, like a sea anenome under the tide, clamouring for him to come in again and make fulfillment for her. She clung to him unconscious in passion, and he never quite slipped from her, and she felt the soft bud of him within her stirring, and strange rhythms flushing up into her with a strange rhythmic growing motion, swelling and swelling til it filled all her cleaving consciousness, and then began again the unspeakable motion that was not really motion, but pure deepening whirlpools of sensation swirling deeper and deeper through all her tissue and consciousness, til she was one perfect concentric fluid of feeling, and she lay there crying in unconscious inarticulate cries.” – Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Lawrence not only confronts sexual dishonesty by employing seldom-used language and descriptions of sexual experience but also lays bare a British social and class context that is cruel and sterilizing.

“We fucked a flame into being.”– Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Like most contemporary love stories, this one poses the questions about staying in a loveless marriage; the conflicts between social class and universal sexual desires; how much to risk for the siren-call of sex; and the age-old dilemma of how much to risk for love?

“Sex and a cocktail: they both lasted about as long, had the same effect, and amounted to the same thing.”– Lady Chatterley’s Lover

This was D. H. Lawrence’s last novel but perhaps his most memorable. Sons and Lovers, written a decade earlier (another must-read ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥) brought him acclaim for his writing even though it was not a blockbuster at the time. Today, along with Lady Chatterley’s Lover,  it’s often on the top-one-hundred list of 20th century British novels. Written in an era when explicit sexual content was consider the devil’s work, Lawrence’s work became a foundation for making honest sexuality a part of great writing. For that, we should thank him, and read him.

Buy the book at the Love & Sexcess Bookstore.

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