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Beth Meacham, David Brin

Sons and Lovers

Sons and Lovers - Geoff Dyer,  D.H. Lawrence I had no idea what to expect of Sons and Lovers as I went in. I had no idea what the book is about, presumably multiple sons and more than one lovers are involved. With the public domain books just knowing that it is a classic is usually enough. I also had no expectation of D.H. Lawrence, I knew he is the author of [b: Lady Chatterley's Lover|32049|Lady Chatterley's Lover|D.H. Lawrence|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1215571713s/32049.jpg|3249302], which I have a vague impression of being some kind of Edwardian porn (though it probably isn't). Diving in with no expectation is often fun and rewarding.

The first impression I had while reading the first chapter is that Sons and Lovers is some kind of misery-fest of [a: Thomas Hardy|15905|Thomas Hardy|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1429946281p2/15905.jpg] proportions. The novel is centered on a seemingly dysfunctional family, the Morels. The father, Walter Morel, is a good for nothing drunkard. The mother, Gertrude, is no pushover, she is always able to defend herself and her kids against her husband’s abuses. That is nice for her, but their frequent arguments and fights do not make for a very peaceful household. I read the early part of the book with morbid fascination, guessing it is going to be just a family drama. However, as I read on beyond the first couple of chapters I began to get the impression that these characters seem very real and believable. There is more to Walter Morel than just being drunk and abusing his wife and kids. Sometime he regrets his behavior, sometime he is nice to his children. Like most human beings he has more than just one facet to his personality; he is still a lousy husband and father though.

Sons and Lovers spans about two decades, as the Morel children grow up, the second child, Paul Morel, becomes the central character. After the eldest son, William, leaves home in Nottingham to work in London Paul becomes the centre of his mother’s attention. This is where the novel reverberates hard with me. I have a similarly close relationship with my dear old mother and, like Paul, I fret when she is ill. There is a scene of Paul and his mom spending an afternoon together when nothing significant happens, this scene is a thing of beauty as the book suddenly sparkles with happiness. Warmed my cockles it did*.

What surprises me most about this book is how fascinating the seemingly ordinary lives of these characters are; as my friend Cecily remarked, “It’s the quotidian that sucks you in”. Once you get to the point where the characters seem like real people and you feel invested in their lives and wellbeing you don't even need a plot to hold your interest. This is just as well because Paul Morel vacillates such a lot between two girls Miriam and Clara, with both of whom he has an awfully discordant relationship. At the end of the day though it’s his mother, Mrs. Gertrude Morel, that is the glue that holds the Morel family, and indeed the entire novel, together. After her demise everything falls apart.

I finished Sons and Lovers almost with regret as I have to take leave of these characters I have been observing for the past couple of weeks. Forget FedEx, DHL really delivered!

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Notes
* Unfortunately the term “Oedipus complex” rears its ugly head in some analyses of the book that I read after finishing the book which spoil it for me a little.

I read the audiobook of Sons and Lovers from Librivox.org. Wonderfully read by Tony Foster. Thank you.