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Women in Love

Women in Love, The Rainbow

lawrence novel rainbow birkin

a novel by D. H. Lawrence, published in the USA in 1920. Often acclaimed as his finest work, Women in Love had a difficult beginning. It was first conceived as a single novel with The Rainbow, but Lawrence split the material in early 1915 as his original plan became too unwieldy. After the controversial reception of The Rainbow he revised the new book completely, but no British publisher would touch it during the war years and it was not published in Britain until 1921. Early readers were offended or baffled by its innovatory strangeness. Subsequently it has become one of the classic texts of British Modernism. The novel has minimal plot. Set largely in Lawrence's native Midlands and in London, it focuses on two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen (who appear in The Rainbow), and their love affairs with two men, Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich. The two relationships are deliberately paralleled. That of Gudrun and Gerald is doomed and ends in tragedy in the book's denouement in the Tyrol, while that of Ursula and Birkin continues an unsteady progress towards a kind of restoration. But the outlook is largely bleak. Lawrence conceived the book as a portrait of the war generation, and in the representative types of Gudrun, an artist, and Gerald, a violent mine-owning industrialist, drew two of his most powerfully tragic indictments of the state of British culture. In contrast to their hollowness Ursula and Birkin represent a kind of hopefulness, though it is one which Lawrence carefully undercuts by irony. The style of the novel is disconcerting. Lawrence largely dispenses with linear narrative (though there are arresting individual scenes) and the tone shifts abruptly from the tragic to the comic, the ecstatic to the mundane. Typically, he wished to confound conventional ways of thinking about human relationships and develop a new language for sexuality.

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