Sons & Lovers

by DH Lawrence

In between newer books, Barry Library often select classics for us, which are always received with mixed feelings. Those of us who had not read them before, are glad of a 2nd chance. Those who HAVE read them before, find their impressions now, with the maturity of years, and from a different era, are quite different from their teenage years.

All of us agreed that the book was very well written, with excellent descriptions of the landscape, scenery, flowers, and the hardship of the times, but we felt the characters were not as successfully depicted. The mother of the family was a very strong character, from a cultured, affluent family, who had "married beneath her", and her husband soon felt inferior and inadequate. He took refuge in alcohol to bolster his ego, and, his aggression fuelled by drink, was cruel to his sons. They in turn despised him but worshipped their mother, and her relationship with all her sons, was so unnaturally strong as to be almost incestuous.

William was adored and seen to be his mother's favourite, and Paul, the main character was attracted to 2 ladies, Clara and Miriam. His mother disapproved of both, and did not think them "suitable". Paul also seemed to find them unsatisfactory, yet could not allow either out of his life, or search for someone else. We found endless descriptions of long conversations, and thoughts, about these ladies were tedious and frustrating, and never seemed to lead anywhere.

When the immensely strong matriarch eventually fell ill, the balance of power shifted, and the long, slow lingering death was very well portrayed. The painful end, after she was helped by Paul to take an overdose of morphine was quite horrific.

We found it difficult to mark this book out of 10, as is our custom. It was VERY well-written, and the graphic detail of the tedium of poverty, cruelty, really hard work, long hours, and repression, underlined the comfort and ease of our lives in the last half of the 20th century. But the book's content had no "feel good" factor at all, and was in fact quite depressing. So our enjoyment was much less than our acknowledgement of Lawrence's craftsmanship. (A few of us wondered why the book is no longer part of the A Level Syllabus.) So the overall score was a healthy 7.5 – but with a "spinach warning"! (Good for us but not enjoyable!).

This was totally unlike the scrumptious feast of homegrown Welsh strawberries and cream, and delicious cakes, provided by our hostess that evening – Thank You, Babs, you're a hard act to follow!