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Set In The Rural Midlands Of England, The Rainbow Revolves Around Three Generations Of The Brangwens, A Strong, Vigorous Family, Deeply Involved With The Land When Tom Brangwen Marries A Polish Widow,Lydia Lensky, And Adopts Her Daughter Anna As His Own, He Is Unprepared For The Conflict And Passion That Erupts Between Them All Are Seeking Individual Fulfilment, But It Is Ursula, Anna S Spirited Daughter, Who, In Search For Self Knowledge, Rejects The Conventional Role Of Womanhood These were the precursors to having a book banned 1 Talk about lesbian love2 Mention love between cousins3 Mention sex4 Have independent minded women, you know, those who didn t believe that they were put on this earth simply to procreate Speaking of women and societal expectations, even in these modern times, some believe that a married woman is supposed to act according to a prescribed norm that is different than a married man which way, I dare ask sometimes is she not supposed to have a voice is she expected to be void of personality Do tell , and she is expected to have two or three kids at her hip OyTo Ursula, it was as if the world had opened its softest purest flower, its chicory flower, its meadow saffron Give me a banned book any day, especially if it s from Lawrence At the close of every year, Lawrence and I have had this affair going on I snuggle up with his words to bring in the new year, and I m enlightened by his feministic approach in literature, particularly given the century I can t help it, I love men who view women as equals in fact, I married such a man eight years ago and I m proud to call him my best friend and partner But anyway, on to other ramblings Before this, there was Sons and Lovers, which is still my favorite, and Women in Love, which is part philosophical in its approach to life and love Out of the three, I would say this book, The Rainbow, has Lawrence s best prose style, so far Don t take my word for it, however, because I m still working my way through his works I ve read Lady Chatterley s Lover in snippets somewhere in undergrad or grad school, when you read a book and sometimes find yourself skimming the material just to get through the list, so that doesn t count Now I m reading for pleasure most times not even bothering to include books I read for work on GR , sipping words like warm espresso on a cold spring morning, feeling the boldness of black print on my tongue as I read aloudHe was the sensual male seeking his pleasure, she was the female ready to take hers but in her own way A man could turn into a free lance so then could a woman She adhered as little as he to the moral world The story traverses generations, starting with the Brangwens, a family of farmers It s quite possible to dislike the women at first, because of characterization, but with reading patience, it s easy to see the portrait that Lawrence paints Each husband or lover has some feeling of helplessness because he is with a woman who is independently driven, or psychologically unavailable Until he gets to understand her or appreciate her individuality, there is the normal drama of the love affair or drunkenness And then there is the moment they connect, both on a sexual and mental level, when their bond suddenly is so strong that even their children fight to penetrate itHe wanted to live unthinking, with her presence flickering upon him Yes, I would say that seeing the story unfold through characterization is why I enjoyed this novel It is a psychological journey of self discovery and of recovery from mental trauma Even when the middle drags a bit and a few pages seem like they could have been edited to make characters sound less whiny, Ursula comes on board and she makes everything else seem trivial Make no mistake, all this leads to Ursula Ursula is a main character in Women in Love, so if you haven t read Lawrence, I would suggest reading this before reading WomenAll this stir and seethe of lights and people was but the rim, the shores of a great inner darkness and void She wanted very much to be on the seething, partially illuminated shore, for within her was the void reality of dark space This is a three generation family saga, set in Nottinghamshire, starting in Victorian times and ending before fears of WW1 loomed Except that it isn t that the brief Introduction summarises all the key characters, careers, couplings, births and deaths Events are mere tools and waypoints, not the purpose or destination, because this is not primarily a story it s an experience of passions, clothed in elliptically floral, fiery, watery imagery, stained deep with Biblical themes But these are not conventionally Christian people they seek and submit to the forces of nature, their physical desires, free of guilt and shame They marvel at creation, and worship it and each other through the medium of their mingling, tingling flesh A deep, true sacrament Yet when this was banned shortly after publication, it was on the grounds of obscenity, rather than blasphemy lesbianism alluded to, though nowadays, any outrage comes from the fact that view spoiler one is the teacher of the other hide spoiler The situation was almost ridiculous But do you love him asked Dorothy It isn t a question of loving him, said Ursula I love him well enough certainly than I love anybody else in the world And I shall never love anybody else the same again We have had the flower of each other But I don t care about love I don t value it I don t care whether I love or whether I don t, whether I have love or whether I haven t What is it to me And she shrugged her shoulders in fierce, angry contempt.Dorothy pondered, rather angry and afraid Then what do you care about she asked, exasperated I don t know, said Ursula But something impersonal Love love what does it mean what does it amount to So much personal gratification It doesn t lead anywhere It isn t supposed to lead anywhere, is it said Dorothy, satirically I thought it was the one thing which is an end in itself When I think of epic masterpieces, I think of something of Tolstoyian length, an 800 to 1200 page monster that will consume your life for a month or two My Everyman s Library edition of The Rainbow weighs in at 460 pages, a rather modest number to achieve such a distinction as epic And yet here I am declaring this an epic masterpiece It has been decades since I ve read D H Lawrence I was reading The Unexpected Professor by John Carey, and he talked about a lot of books, but in particular, it was his discussion of spending a summer reading all of Lawrence s works that inspired me to consider returning to Lawrence Carey wrestled with Lawrence, not of the homoerotic desire type, but with his structure and style He couldn t really say he enjoyed him or liked him, but he couldn t stop reading him Aye, I understand that perfectly I would read a big chunk of this book and set it aside, only to return to it a few days later and read another big chunk I finally became exasperated with myself and decided to devote myself to Lawrence In a flurry of hot reading, where I was completely immersed in the damp, black soil and the twisted sheets of the sexual revolution happening in the Nottinghamshire countryside, I finished the book, leaving myself completely spent, completely satisfied, wishing I smoked because I was in desperate need of something to settle down my hammering heart and my frayed emotional psyche This is a story of three generations of the Brangwen family We have Tom and Lydia, then Anna and Will, and finish with Ursula and her torturous relationship with Anton Skrebensky Through these characters, Lawrence explores the larger concepts of what relationships really are and our expectations for them Certainly sex is a part of it, but what is interesting for me is the emotional reactions that people have to one another The misunderstandings, the misplaced passions, and ultimately with Ursula, a rejection of the need to submit to the suffocating baggage of a permanent, committed relationship Tom is the second husband for Lydia, which unbalances the relationship Tom is caught up in the grand passions of his desire for his wife, but she doesn t gulp her passions like he does She sips them She is measured because she, in so many ways, has been made older from her past experiences in than just yearsIt was not, he had to learn, that she would not want him enough, as much as he demanded that she should want him It was that she could not She could only want him in her own way, and to her own measure And she had spent much of life before he found her as she was, the woman who could take him and give him fulfilment She had taken him and given him fulfilment She still would do so, in her own times and ways But he must control himself, measure himself to her How many times do relationships fail because we try to change the person we are involved with into who we want them to be, or maybe we want to cocoon them as they are so that they never change from the person we first fell in love with Lawrence is adept at hitting the reader with these great moments of understanding when everything that had been so murky becomes so clearShe did not know him as himself But she knew him as the man She looked at him as a woman in childbirth looks at the man who begot the child in her an impersonal look, in the extreme hour, female to male Her eyes closed again A great, scalding peace went over him, burning his heart and his entrails, passing off into the infiniteAnna Lensky, who is Lydia s child by her first marriage but was raised by Tom Brangwen, marries Will Brangwen Like most of us, she is swept up in the romance of the courtship when desire supersedes all else That time when the possibilities are endless Once the reality of marriage hits and she can see the halcyon days of her childhood disappearing forever in the mists of the past, she starts to rebel She is sensitive and assumes much from Will s inability to always express himself in terms of reassurance She lashes out at what he loves, wanting him to share her growing misery Tom, for all intents and purposes her father, really puts a fine point on exactly what is driving Anna to make Will so miserableYou mustn t think I want to be miserable, she cried I don t We quite readily believe it, retorted Brangwen Neither do you intend him to be hopping for joy like a fish in a pond It is quite a shock to settle into quiet domesticity Anna wants for little, but for all that, there is certainly something missing The fresh linen feel of the courtship faze has been replaced by sheets that have been washed and washed again It is a question we all reach at some point in our lives, sometimes many points in our lives, Is this all there is Will is crazy about her, but doesn t always know how to tell her, and she takes maybe too much pleasure out of torturing him about his beliefs, but the fury this inspires does eventually prove to be an aphrodisiac So this all brings us to Ursula Brangwen, the oldest daughter of Will and Anna She has opportunities that no female has ever had before in her family She goes to college She holds down a job outside the home She experiences a level of independence almost equal to what she would have had if she had been born a man This isn t just given to her She has to fight her family for it As she feels herself become mired in the same marriage traps that her grandmother and mother surrendered to, she can t let herself submit She must escape She wants to exist independently, not only from a husband and her family, but from everyone She wants to always have choices and options to be who she wants to be without hindrances and to be able to seize the day without considerations She wants to be loved without commitment and love without being subjugated This was heady stuff to be published in 1915 Lydia submits to a marriage, but with her eyes wide open, and refuses to become what her husband wants her to be Anna, in many ways spoiled with too much freedom, rebels and tries to break her husband, only to discover that the cost to both of them is too great Her rebellion is short lived, and she gives herself over to her children, but in Ursula we can see the joining of her grandmother and mother in questioning the strictures of a society imposed submission to a man Why must she Lawrence considered this, rightly so, to be a feminist novel Barbara Hardy, in the introduction, gives this thought an intriguing twistUrsula is the first woman in English fiction who is imagined as having the need and courage for a sexual odysseyUrsula rails at one point, Why can t I love a hundred men Why must I choose one The adventures of Ursula continue in Women in Love I will, of course, be continuing my wrestling match with Lawrence I would say, at this point, it might be a draw I can only hope he is as spent as I am and will be content to lie a bit and stare at the sky and contemplate the odysseys of these women before we have to grapple once again If you wish to see of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit also have a Facebook blogger page at Nowhere else within the broad realm of literature have I come across such beauteous turns of phrase devoted to exploring the many dimensions of sexual desire In fact, I cannot cease to wonder how Lawrence manages to convey the intensity and intimacy of a kiss and a caress so effectually without deploying any explicit terms His men and women are often capricious creatures of instinct and restless, stubborn adherents of their inexorable self will which causes them to be in conflict even if tenuously with the world circumscribing them And carnal love emerges as the only authentic religious force capable of exalting the unsatisfied, solitary halves to a state of spiritual communion and fulfillment His pride was bolstered up, his blood ran once in pride But there was no core to him as a distinct male he had no core His triumphant, flaming, overweening heart of the intrinsic male would never beat again He would be subject now, reciprocal, never the indomitable thing with a core of overweening, unabateable fire She had abated that fire, she had broken him. Multigenerational family sagas usually employ some common thread that binds together the disparate story arcs and subplots presumably some long suppressed odious family secret, the effect of the altering milieu on evolving family dynamics, the denuding influence of time on family fortunes And yet Lawrence s account of the Brangwen family is refreshingly free of any such cliched thematic glue.Instead, the narrative sprawls across a wide swath of years, leisurely routing its way through the rituals of marriages, motherhood, and ambivalent father daughter bonds to eventually usher us into Ursula Brangwen s vibrant inner world which serves as the site of a perennial dispute between indefatigable individualism and the urge to live up to societal expectations Even though the sexual politics of Tom and Lydia and Will and Anna Brangwen s marriages are flayed open and dissected with a psychoanalytic precision, it is not until heroine Ursula steps into the embrace of nubile adolescence that I was able to determine a common running theme of an existential tussle between the sexes for supremacy and control The men placed in her hands their own conscience, they said to her Be my conscience keeper, be the angel at the doorway guarding my outgoing and my incoming And the woman fulfilled her trust, the men rested implicitly in her, receiving her praise or her blame with pleasure or with anger, rebeling and storming, but never for a moment really escaping in their own souls from her prerogative. That Lawrence chose to re create the persisting friction between one s individuality and the need to fit into some generic pre ordained role set aside for one by society from a predominantly female perspective is evident from the discernible narrative focus on wonderfully humanized female characters It is the Brangwen women who shield their private inner lives from external interference with a zealous certitude, sometimes even at the expense of emotionally alienating their fathers and husbands They are unafraid to seek personal sexual gratification both in and out of wedlock Lydia s faltering attempts at making peace between an irreconcilable past and present, Anna Brangwen s pertinacious rejection of her husband s religiosity coupled with her unabashed celebration of her own fecundity and the bildungsroman ish account of Ursula s first acquaintance with sexual love and adult responsibilities complement Tom and Will Brangwen s and Skrebensky s viewpoints to create a picture portraying the truth of men and women locked in a contest of self assertion A battle in which either adversary is eventually conquered by a desire for spiritual consummation transcending the individual s need for validation So it went on continually, the recurrence of love and conflict between them One day it seemed as if everything was shattered, all life spoiled, ruined, desolate and laid waste The next day it was all marvellous again, just marvellous. That I have refrained from giving this the full 5 stars can in part be attributed to the raw lushness of Lawrence s prose and excessive reliance on florid metaphors which often suffocated me, dulling my desire to continue reading Besides Ursula and Gudrun s stories remain to be told in entirety Only after Women in Love can I decide on a final comment on the Brangwen saga.