Women in Love

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Audiobooks - KAREN MULVAHILL

D. H. Lawrence, Naxos Au­dio­books (OC­TO­BER) Au­dio­book, 978-1-78198-068-2

Sis­ters Ur­sula and Gu­drun Brang­wen strug­gle to bal­ance in­de­pen­dence, love, and mar­riage at the start of the twen­ti­eth cen­tury, in D. H. Lawrence’s Women in Love. Con­tro­ver­sial when first pub­lished in 1920 for its frank treat­ment of sex­ual re­la­tion­ships, the novel has since be­come a clas­sic.

In their late twen­ties when the book opens, the sis­ters have es­tab­lished in­de­pen­dent and com­fort­able lives. Ur­sula is a schoolteacher; Gu­drun, a sculp­tor. Gu­drun has re­cently re­turned to her small home­town from Lon­don and finds it stul­ti­fy­ing. But the hand­some min­ing heir Ger­ald Crich gives her pause. Ur­sula finds her­self both cap­ti­vated and chal­lenged by Ru­pert Birkin.

Ger­ald and Ru­pert form a friend­ship as well, but can­not con­ceive of what an en­dur­ing love be­tween men would mean. The scene of the two of them wrestling naked is erot­i­cally charged yet goes nowhere:

They had not the faintest be­lief in deep re­la­tion­ship be­tween men and men, and their dis­be­lief pre­vented any devel­op­ment of their pow­er­ful but sup­pressed friend­li­ness. Through the ac­tion and di­a­logue of the book’s char­ac­ters, Lawrence ex­plores big themes: the di­chotomies of hu­man­ity and na­ture, mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine, in­tel­lec­tu­al­ism and spon­tane­ity, so­ci­etal ex­pec­ta­tion and in­di­vid­ual de­sire.

Nar­ra­tor Paul Slack has ex­ten­sive ex­pe­ri­ence in Bri­tish the­ater and speaks clearly and ex­pres­sively. The sound qual­ity is ex­cel­lent. There are long sec­tions of di­a­logue that Slack acts more than reads, sig­nal­ing the change in char­ac­ters through his in­flec­tion and style of de­liv­ery. His accent for the lower-class char­ac­ters is dis­tinc­tive, yet still clearly un­der­stand­able. Read­ing some of the long philo­soph­i­cal sec­tions of Lawrence can be pon­der­ous. When spo­ken by Slack with the pas­sion­ate ques­tion­ing that the char­ac­ters feel, these philo­soph­i­cal co­nun­drums are eas­ier to fol­low.

Women in Love ad­dresses many is­sues that re­main con­tem­po­rary more than a cen­tury later. Lis­ten­ing to the au­dio ver­sion brings the char­ac­ters to life such that its tragic con­clu­sion is even more shock­ing.

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