Sons and Lovers is a work of sheer beauty.
Tracing the life of the Morels, a family in the mining village of Bestwood, Derbyshire. They lead a meagre existence and are a perfect portrait of a typical mining family. The children, of course, have ambitions, and the mother helps them along as they try to achieve them. Tragedy strikes the family as they try to make sense of the eldest son’s dreams and aspirations, and over the course of years, the burden of Mrs. Morel’s expectations comes to rest on Paul, the second son.
Mrs. Morel takes over her son’s life entirely and influences his decisions to such an extent that he loses all capacity to know what he really wants and allows his dilemmas to steal the very sap out of life. Paul’s indecision concerning the two women he loves- or thinks he loves- is very real and piteous. His courtship with Miriam, the simple, religious girl whose ideals are more platonic than worldly, is extremely touching. They hesitate to consummate their romance, they are reluctant to own up to the fact that their need for physical intimacy and marriage is not an abasement of a love they view as purely spiritual and high. They are disturbed and blame each other for their mental state; Mrs. Morel despises Miriam for taking her son away from her entirely. The arrival of Mrs. Dawes heightens the tension between Paul and Miriam, as he finds new avenues for his needs.
The subjects of love and filial attachment are keenly explored; you particularly feel for Miriam as she tries to make sense of her needs and carve a path ahead through a society that didn’t really sympathise with her wants. Mrs. Morel’s overpowering sense of possessiveness might be to blame for her last son, Arthur’s shenanigans; Annie remains steady and sober, a sensible woman who cares for her mother during her illness.
Paul and Annie’s conspiracy came as a surprise to me- perhaps, however, it was their pain at their mother’s suffering that led them to such an act.
DH Lawrence’s novel finds a place among the best classics, but didn’t meet widespread approval at its publication. It is complex, and perhaps open to a number of interpretations. But Lawrence breathes life into his characters- they enter you and make you live out their lives in the sooty little towns, identify with their joys, pretences and sorrows. It is one of the most memorable reads I have come across in a while.