Strengths: A different way of approaching a story with three sequential protagonists; Paul is an amiable character.
Weaknesses: Dragged for me in places.
Why I read it: Have never read D.H. Lawrence before.
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Rating: 7 out of 10.
If you liked this, try: Brooklyn by Colm Toibin deals with similar family issues.
This was the first D.H. Lawrence book I’ve read and I’m still undecided whether it will be the last. If I had to sum it up in one word, the word would be ‘okay’. Not brilliant, not awful – just tolerable really.
The story is simple enough – the story of Mrs Morel, who seems to have married the wrong man (a miner who drinks a lot) and puts her effort into her firstborn son, Arthur. Arthur is given every opportunity, sometimes at the expense of his sister Annie and younger brother Paul. When Arthur returns home engaged, Mrs Morel finds it hard to deal with and picks fault with his fiancé. Arthur then dies and Mrs Morel sets her sights on Paul. She controls nearly every aspect of Paul’s life and is a continual source of friction between him and his first girlfriend, Miriam. It seems no one is good enough for Paul and Mrs Morel will be the only woman in his life.
Lawrence is excellent at being able to convey thoughts and feelings of his characters within a few words. The portrayal of the different relationships – Paul and his mother, Paul and Miriam is excellent. Mrs Morel and Paul both love and hate each other, yet they can’t break or change the bond between them. Paul knows his mother is interfering with his relationships, yet he still goes back for more. You would expect Mrs Morel to appear overbearing, but she doesn’t – it is clearly written that she wants the absolute best for Paul and will do her damnedest to get it for him. Like most mothers!
Very well written but not my favourite 20th century classic (that is reserved for Richard Yates). Somewhat dull and bleak in places, but the strength is in the relationships between the characters.