Judy Croome lives, writes and reads in Johannesburg, South Africa. A novelist & poet, Judy loves cats, exploring the meaning of life, chocolate, rainy days and cats (who already appear to have discovered the meaning of life.) Visit Judy on www.judycroome.com or join her on Twitter @judy_croome
First published more than a century ago (around 1913), it's no wonder that SONS & LOVERS has become a classic.
The repetitiveness of the writing (if I had to read once more how "bitter" one of the characters were, or how much one character "hated" another I'd have screamed!) did not detract from the sheer brilliance of Lawrence's characterisations of the slyly poisonous mother and her castrating effect on the men in her life.
Gertrude Morel's disappointment in her marriage to the rough miner Walter Morel (the character I felt most sympathy for) soured her into becoming a manipulating, horrible woman who lived out her romantic fantasies through her sons.
First, her eldest son William who, in his struggle for an identity and life separate from his mother's passions, almost broke free of her control by choosing a wildly inappropriate lover. His unhappiness had tragic consequences, which turned Mrs Morel's hopes onto her son Paul, the main character of the book.
Sensitive, romantic, artistic Paul was a sitting duck for his mother's emotional blackmail: the inner battle he waged trying to establish some sort of manhood and masculine identity under her powerful influence drives the story forward. Ultimately, it led him into cruel power struggles with the two lovers in his life. He treats both Miriam and Clara shockingly, reflecting the emotional abuse his mother inflicts on both her sons and her husband.
SONS & LOVERS is worth the struggle to read : the language is dated and requires concentration and, as mentioned above, there is a lot of repetition. The descriptions of life in a mining village, the poverty, the daily struggles were, however, well depicted (and resonated deeply as I come from a 3-generation mining family).
However, there is so much spite and anger underlying the story it was almost an unpleasant read, leaving a sour taste in my mouth. To see how damaging a mother’s influence can be, not only for her son, but for his lovers as well, made for painful, if interesting, reading.
Lawrence's depiction of the relationship between Paul and his mother, of how Mrs Morel subtly and selfishly uses her immense personal power (disguised as a fragile and delicate femininity) to set up her sons in opposition to their father, is a masterpiece in describing the psychological phenomenon known as the Oedipus complex. This gripping aspect of the story is what kept me reading and is why I highly recommend SONS & LOVERS.