DH Lawrence wrote this book in 1928. It wasn’t allowed to be published in the United States until 1959 and 1960 in Britain. (It’s original publication in 1930 was in France…)
Has there been a movie made of it?
Yes. It was filmed in 1981, mostly as an excuse to perform the more lewd sex scenes on camera under the pretense of filming a classic novel.
Who are the main characters?
Oliver Mellors – the Chatterly’s gamekeeper and the paramour of Connie
Mrs. Bolton – Clifford’s nurse, a widow who is somewhat in love with him
Michaelis – a playwright who works with Clifford in his early writing years, Connie has her first affair with him
Hilda – Connie’s sister
What is it about?
Constance Chatterly is married to a Lord in Tevershall, England – a mining town. She is stuck in her marriage with no hope of ever having a sexual relationship with her husband after his accident during the war. At first, she doesn’t mind, believing all she needs is the intellectual stimulation she receives from interacting with her husband and his high society friends. They continually discuss how sex is a vulgar and disgusting thing which isn’t necessary for a marriage except for the continuation of one’s bloodline. Their fallen morals clash with their personal beliefs – they approve of affairs as discreet recreation, but would be appalled if they caught their wife with another man.
Clifford, Connie’s husband, is obsessed with being considered successful. He writes novels and plays, and invites important people over to discuss success and the fulfillment of life. Among these people comes Michaelis, a self-absorbed playwrite, who seduces Connie. Their dalliance begins to awaken Connie to her own sexual desires, although the affair itself is a disappointment to her. Michaelis is too self-absorbed to be the ideal partner for Connie, but her appetite for sex has started.
After her liason with Michaelis, Clifford mentions to Connie he wouldn’t mind if she got pregnant so he could produce an heir to the Chatterly line – as long as she was “discreet” about it and chose a man with good breeding. It is at this point, on the very same “walk” they’re taking through the garden to have this conversation, Connie meets Oliver Mellors, their gamekeeper. She is immediately drawn to him in a way she can’t define, despite the fact she believes he is disgusted and put off by her. After taking a long look at her physical body and her emotional state, Connie loses hope of ever being happy and feeling fulfilled. She goes for a walk and discovers the hut in the woods which Mellors uses to raise the pheasant chicks in preparation for the summer hunting parties. She procures a key and begins to visit the hut almost daily, merely to get out of their mansion and away from Clifford – who is becoming more prejudiced towards anyone he considers lower than himself.
Eventually, Connie breaks down watching the pheasant chicks and Mellors begins to open up to her, culminating in sex. Their relationship breaks every barrier Connie had put up, physically, emotionally, and mentally. They begin seeing each other every day, not only to sleep together, but to talk and learn more about each other. Connie hires a nurse, Mrs. Bolton, to come look after Clifford so she won’t have to spend time with him. After a few weeks, Connie discovers she is pregnant with Mellors’ child.
Why is this book a classic?
This book’s “Classic” title comes from it being one of the most controversial novels of the 20th century. It is extremely explicit for the time period it was written in, although nowadays I’m sure many romance novels could give it a run for its money. Critics who overlook the controversial nature of the novel describe this book as being essential reading because of the manner in which Lawrence can describe the sexual encounter – from the physical part to the feelings which Connie is experiencing while having sex – something it has been stated could never be properly described.
Why should I read this book?
In my opinion, you shouldn’t. It’s too graphic. But if you’re going to anyway, read it for it’s great descriptions of the environment. I’m not being sarcastic- Lawrence is an amazing “description-ist.”
Has it won any awards?
My personal thoughts:
It took a lot of willpower for me to read this book. Not only do I hate reading about sex (there was a lot of skimming quickly over large paragraphs and pages), but I hate reading through endless pages of pompous philosophy – which is present in most of the parts about Clifford and his pursuit of success. I wouldn’t recommend this book, I had to MAKE myself finish it.