Dear Lady Chatterley … It’s Me Not You

First assignment of #ClassicsChallenge2017 was a banned book. Cool right? A chance to read something that once upon a time was forbidden. I selected DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, “privately published” in Italy in 1928 but denied to the masses. When Penguin Books tried to release it in 1960, it was subject to an obscenity trial. (Double coolness!) So, when it officially hit the shelves, the PR alone helped it sell 3 Million copies, billing it as a notorious story about a physical (and emotional) relationship between a working class man and an upper-class woman. Class integration and explicit descriptions of sex as well as the use of then “unprintable words” made it the Fifty Shades of its time.

Despite the hype, I was left unsatisfied. But it wasn’t you, Lady C. I’m sure it was me. I wanted a little faster pace. Perhaps the timing was off. I’ve heard it said the attitude of the reader affects the response to a book. We all bring our life and our current state of mind into our reads. And in the slower pace of this current season of my own life, I found myself impatient with you. All your moping and whining turned me off. Oh, I know you aren’t happy. But, when you meet Oliver, it takes you so long to reignite your flame that I stopped caring. Maybe I’m unfeeling, but by Chapter 10, I really wanted to smack you. Bring on the action and the sex already! (Um, maybe I should have given this an R rating.) Anyway, the foreplay in this book teased me but left me unsatisfied and bored.

reading-a-bookWith Fifty Shades, I got average writing, but there was action. I’m not demanding and I don’t require instant gratification. I like to exercise my imagination. Yet despite initially interesting characters and some well-crafted observations that resonated, the tedious writing desperately called for a good editor. It left me with a plot that plodded until the romance was gone. Hence the break-up. I returned you Lady C, unfinished, to the Library.

Quick overview: Good opening paragraph (check it out!) Story begins with a woman raised to understand and appreciate her own sexuality. Dad wants his two daughters to enjoy a forward-thinking view of love, sex and womanhood. Then, the war happens and Constance, (the eventual Lady C) who has been sowing her wild oats in Germany, comes home and marries Sir Clifford Chatterley. He’s then shipped off to the War and comes home in pieces.

Fortunately — or unfortunately for Constance — they put the pieces back together but he is paralyzed from the waist down and … impotent. Newlyweds Constance and Clifford move North — away from the beauty of Yorkshire to his estate located in an industrial area. Clifford is full of himself and decides he will become a great writer, surrounding himself with people who give him props. Due to his injury, Constance struggles with his physical neglect. But it’s his emotional unavailability that breaks her further. Constance is bored and completely unstimulated. She meanders through her days, loses weight, and falls into depression.

Enter blue-collar guy Gamekeeper Oliver Mellors and we find out why the book was banned. The two breach that segregation of classes with a frank, never before so graphically presented sexual relationship. Constance violates class barriers AND further shocks readers by discovering she cannot live a satisfying life with the mind alone. She must also be alive physically. DH Lawrence flaunts the dangerous idea that real love can only be forged with a physical relationship — not simply one of the mind.

I recognize our generation prefers a fast-paced story. But I’m not typically like that demanding. And I didn’t mean to rush you, Lady C. I needed less moping and angst to connect with your story. Maybe, I should take you out again and try you as a Beach Read. Perhaps lounging and soaking in the warm rays of the sun in my bathing suit would make you more intriguing then you are in the dreary mid-Winter. Perhaps we will meet again. After all, you satisfied 3 Million readers in the ’60s, so there must be more to you than I discovered during our month together.

Because I could get no satisfaction and we just didn’t connect, I left you. My fault, clearly. Me, not you. I wish you the best.

                                                                                                                        — Jenni








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