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Sons and Lovers [Hardcover]

D. H. Lawrence
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 26 1991 Everyman's Library Classics & Contemporary Classics
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)

Introduction by David Ellis

The struggle for power at the heart of a family in conflict, the mysteries of sexual initiation, and the pain of irretrievable loss are the universal motifs with which D. H. Lawrence fashions one of the world’s most original autobiographical novels.

Gertrude Morel is a refined woman who married beneath her and has come to loathe her brutal, working-class husband. She focuses her passion instead on her two sons, who return her love and despise their father. Trouble begins when Paul Morel, a budding artist, falls in love with a young woman who seems capable of rivaling his mother for possession of his soul. In the ensuing battle, he finds his path to adulthood tragically impeded by the enduring power of his mother’s grasp. Published on the eve of World War I, SONS AND LOVERS confirmed Lawrence’s genius and inaugurated the controversy over his explicit writing about sexuality and human relationships that would follow him to the end of his career.

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Sons and Lovers was the first modern portrayal of a phenomenon that later, thanks to Freud, became easily recognizable as the Oedipus complex. Never was a son more indentured to his mother's love and full of hatred for his father than Paul Morel, D.H. Lawrence's young protagonist. Never, that is, except perhaps Lawrence himself. In his 1913 novel he grappled with the discordant loves that haunted him all his life--for his spiritual childhood sweetheart, here called Miriam, and for his mother, whom he transformed into Mrs. Morel. It is, by Lawrence's own account, a book aimed at depicting this woman's grasp: "as her sons grow up she selects them as lovers--first the eldest, then the second. These sons are urged into life by their reciprocal love of their mother--urged on and on. But when they come to manhood, they can't love, because their mother is the strongest power in their lives."

Of course, Mrs. Morel takes neither of her two elder sons (the first of whom dies early, which further intensifies her grip on Paul) as a literal lover, but nonetheless her psychological snare is immense. She loathes Paul's Miriam from the start, understanding that the girl's deep love of her son will oust her: "She's not like an ordinary woman, who can leave me my share in him. She wants to absorb him." Meanwhile, Paul plays his part with equal fervor, incapable of committing himself in either direction: "Why did his mother sit at home and suffer?... And why did he hate Miriam, and feel so cruel towards her, at the thought of his mother. If Miriam caused his mother suffering, then he hated her--and he easily hated her." Soon thereafter he even confesses to his mother: "I really don't love her. I talk to her, but I want to come home to you."

The result of all this is that Paul throws Miriam over for a married suffragette, Clara Dawes, who fulfills the sexual component of his ascent to manhood but leaves him, as ever, without a complete relationship to challenge his love for his mother. As Paul voyages from the working-class mining world to the spheres of commerce and art (he has fair success as a painter), he accepts that his own achievements must be equally his mother's. "There was so much to come out of him. Life for her was rich with promise. She was to see herself fulfilled... All his work was hers."

The cycles of Paul's relationships with these three women are terrifying at times, and Lawrence does nothing to dim their intensity. Nor does he shirk in his vivid, sensuous descriptions of the landscape that offers up its blossoms and beasts and "shimmeriness" to Paul's sensitive spirit. Sons and Lovers lays fully bare the souls of men and earth. Few books tell such whole, complicated truths about the permutations of love as resolutely without resolution. It's nothing short of searing to be brushed by humanity in this manner. --Melanie Rehak --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

When Sons and Lovers was first seen by its reading public in 1913, its publishers had in fact, out of caution and timidity, shortened Lawrence's originally submitted version by about ten percent--cuts that are restored in this new ``uncensored and uncut'' edition. Complexity of characterization, intensity of characters' confrontations, and sexual frankness are now, say the publishers, as the author intended them. Example: ``He could smell her faint perfume'' returns to its original, ``He could smell her faint natural perfume, and it drove him wild with hunger.'' -- Copyright ©1992, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Husbands and Mama's Boys Feb. 13 2004
Format:Mass Market Paperback
This story of the Morel family begins with a dramatic portrayal of the effect industrialization has on human lives. Mr. Morel, a coal miner in turn-of-the-century Britain, lives a life of drudgery, anger and desperation. He takes his frustrations out on his wife Gertrude, while the real source of his unhappiness is his own low self-esteem. Gertrude is embittered by his hardness and so looks to her sons to fill all her emotional needs. This constitutes Part One of the novel, which to this reviewer's taste is the more satisfying section. The detailed descriptions of the arguments and even outright fights between the married couple are as powerful as anything in fiction, and bleakly dramatize how poverty can destroy the very hearts and souls of the working classes. Morel is oppressed by his employer, so he in turn oppresses his wife, who emotionally smothers her sons. Fight the power!
All of which is what makes Part Two such a disappointment. The entire second half of the book revolves around the second son, Paul, and how his closeness to his mother makes it impossible for him to engage in satisfactory relationships with other women. Miriam, the milquetoast who yearns for a transcendent, spiritual love, cares for Paul so much that she lets him walk all over her. The much tougher and independent Clara introduces Paul to a more physically satisfying relationship, but neither of them has any real attachment to the other. The weakness of this second half is not just that it all seems to take far too long; it's that over time, the characters become very unsympathetic. None of them have the strength of will to break away from their failing relationships, despite the fact that these failures cast dark shadows across their lives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Must-Read! Nov. 17 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
'Sons And Lovers' is perhaps the most touching classic by D H Lawrence. The story revolves around the Morel family, a lower-middle class family living on the Nottingham coalfield. Initially, Lawrence vividly describes the hardships faced by Mrs. Morel in raising a family of three sons and a daughter while living from hand to mouth, in face of the frequent beatings delivered by an oft-drunk miner husband. For the larger part, he examines in detail the passionate relationship between Mrs. Morel and her second son, Paul. Disillusioned from her drunkard and temperamental husband and devastated by the death of her elder son, Mrs. Morel has high expectations from her second son, Paul. At the same time, Paul is torn between his duty towards his beloved mother, and his passion for the two other women in his life, Clara and Miriam. It is widely believed that through this novel, Lawrence has addressed the dynamics of his own complicated relationship with his mother, and has depicted the dilemma that faced him. D H Lawrence has masterfully handled the fragile subject of intimate relationships between loved ones. In my view, it is a definite must-read. Also recommended: Waiting by Ha Jin, The Losers' Club by Richard Perez
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4.0 out of 5 stars A Complex Examination of Dysfunction Sept. 23 2003
Format:Paperback
Emotional manipulation and possessiveness are at the core of this most intriguing novel. D.H. Lawrence's SONS AND LOVERS greets the reader with the author's elegant prose while systematically immersing the story in a swirling cloud of tangled dysfunction.
Married to a drunken, rowdy coal miner in early 20th Century England, Gertrude Morel has neither a life nor a true love. Her only chance for happiness--as she sees it--is to live vicariously through her sons: first William, then Paul. Her subsequent possessiveness, her relentless interference in their lives, is smothering and destructive. When William dies, Gertrude devotes all of her attention--her manipulation--to Paul. Her son becomes a symbolic soulmate. . .lover. . .and Gertrude is unable to let him go to pursue his own relationships.
Torn between his love for his mother and his guilt whenever he harbors feelings of affection for another woman, Paul is anything but a suitable suitor. He falls in love with Miriam, but his emotional dysfunction all but dooms the relationship--a relationship constantly sabotaged by his mother. Needing a physical outlet, he has a brief affair with a married woman, Clara Dawes, but even then, his love for and devotion to his mother prevails. As his mother's health fails, Paul's existence becomes even more problematic, culminating in a transcendent death.
SONS AND LOVERS is not a "feel good" read, and Paul's inability to break free from the psychological bondage with his mother is frustrating and sometimes exasperating. Yet the true victim of this Lawrence classic is not Paul, but Miriam, who only wishes to love, and be loved in return. The man she has fallen in love with is incapable of such devotion: the tragic complexity of the story lingers long after this book has been put down.
--D. Mikels
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3.0 out of 5 stars strange love June 29 2003
By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
knowing the reputation of this novel, i was curious to find out what the fuss was about. but i found that the best thing about the novel is the description of his family, especially in the first part. his writing is simple and direct, and part one paints a very vivid picture of working-class life in england circa 1900. the other thing that surprised me about the book is the euthanasia at the end. i wasn't prepared for this and quite honestly was shocked to read about paul and his sister annie 'gliggling' and they prepare the morphium od for their mum. paul's love for his mother is also disturbing. his last kiss of the beloved cadaver is completely morbid. frankly, i'm surprised this aspect of the novel didn't cause more controversy. in comparison, the sexual material is pretty tame, granted i am 100 years removed from the book's first appearance.
the structure of the book is based naturally on the biography, but still, the story is a little shapeless. there are characters and incidents introduced that are never taken up and resolved. paul's brother arthur, for example, makes short appearances from time to time, but he doesn't figure in the story at all. you can argue this is like real life, and maybe this is what lawrence was trying to achieve, but by the standards of a traditional novel, it is sloppy.
i also never really got into the book. usually, i race to the end to find out what happened, but with 'sons and lovers', i coasted. at first, i thought this was because of the book's shapelessness, but there's no reason a biographical work of fiction can't be well structured. i realized the reason is that paul morel is just not your typical 'hero' of a biographical book. in fact, he's no hero at all.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars So accurately descriptive. Both heartwarming and heartbreaking in its...
Whenever I wish to contemplate on my mother's childhood I open this book at any page and enter into it. D.H. Read more
Published 1 month ago by sunshine
1.0 out of 5 stars bad quality paper and print
While I love D.H Lawrence, i should have chosen almost any other copy to read it. This one has terrible paper quality, very small and not a very legible print.
Published 11 months ago by Anastasia
4.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and diffuse, but a classic for its time....
While "Sons and Lovers" would not be a best seller if it was written by a current day author, it was, for its times, quite controversial and forward-leaning and should always be... Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2012 by Ronald W. Maron
4.0 out of 5 stars Autobiographical and true to life
Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence. Recommended.
Sons and Lovers is said to be the most autobiographical of D. H. Read more
Published on May 25 2003 by Diane Schirf
5.0 out of 5 stars Mothers and Lovers
A tour de force! Bravo. It is story of Paul Morel who loves his mother more than himself. Mrs. Morel who is married to a ignorant, illiterate coal miner tries to find comfort,... Read more
Published on May 8 2003 by Vijay B. Kumar
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Look at Mother and Son Relationships
D. H. Lawrence's "Sons and Lovers" should have been titled "Mother and Sons", since it is an unflinching, at times harsh, look at a mother's relationship with... Read more
Published on March 29 2003 by John Kwok
5.0 out of 5 stars Just wonderful
I just loved this book, what a work of art. Only thing i disliked was the ending, i am still waiting and wondering, i assume that was the writers intention....great book.... Read more
Published on Sept. 20 2002 by Lizanne Malinowski
4.0 out of 5 stars I can't relate to Paul's relationship with his mother
In reading any novel you bring a certain amount of yourself and your experiences with others to the table, which helps you to understand the characters you meet. Read more
Published on Sept. 4 2002 by Joe J. Kern
4.0 out of 5 stars Great!
I hated most of the characters, but I still loved this novel. It kept me interested the whole three days it took to read. Definitely read this book!
Published on May 31 2002
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