1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 71: A Mordern Lover, by D. H. Lawrence

In this short story collection, D. H. Lawrence details some curious ‘relationship’, and I use the term in a broad sense. Each story is perplexing and confusing, though enjoyable and challenging. As is the case with most of Lawrence’s writing, he is often times slow at starting a narrative (though in some cases with this collection he gets off to a quick start) and often and formulaically details the physical appearance of a character upon their entrance to the narrative. The title narrative is perhaps the tamest, while others, such as Wintry Peacock and You Touched Me carry misogynistic overtones. In Wintry Peacock, a woman who awaits her husband’s return from the war received a letter in French addressed to her husband. She asks a local man to translate, but rather than telling her the contents of the letter (those contents being that he engaged in an affair whilst off at war and impregnated a young girl who is travelling from Belgium to England with her child), he tells the wife of the offending man that it is a letter written by a girl on behalf of her family, whom he served to protect in the war, claiming that the family chose to name a new born (born to the parents, not the to girl) after him for his service. When the husband returns, he asks the man what he said to his wife as the letter seems to have been destroyed. The translator shares what he said and the two men share a laugh, seemingly at the misfortune of both women. You Touched Me tells a story with similar overtones. A young boy is adopted into a family of three sisters and one father (the mother having died very young). One sister is married off and the other two shall split the legacy of their father, that is until the boy, who abandoned the family for the colonies returns from war and asks to have the hand of one of the daughters in marriage (though the daughter is old enough to be his mother). The father demands that his daughter accept and contracts a new will stating that the foster child shall receive everything unless she consents to marriage, and when she finally gives in, the dying father demands that she submit to kissing her new husband in front of him, as if asserting some sort of control over his daughter. Other narratives deal with a closeted homosexual military man who through abuse moves his orderly to murderous revenge, while another narrative tells the story of a man who left his wife and new born daughter to mine for gold in the colonies, only to return 15 years later, unannounced, and with 1000 pounds to his name. Throughout the narratives there are themes of vengeance, forgiveness, compassion and dispassion, intellectual vs. emotive fulfillment and perhaps most importantly the power struggles that wage within any given relationship. The narratives seem to me to be a sort of British rendition of Faulkner at times, and for anybody who enjoys Faulkner’s short narratives, Lawrence delivers a comparable performance with this short story collection. A curious side note, the cover features a couple dressed in evening, the woman being held in the arms of the man who kisses her neck from behind her whilst her chest is all but exposed by the strapless gown she is wearing. This is the cover of a pulp edition of the collection I picked up at a used bookstore, and this scene takes place in none of the narratives!

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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