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Sons and Lovers Mass Market Paperback – January 2, 1985

4 out of 5 stars 223 customer reviews

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Mass Market Paperback, January 2, 1985
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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.

Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics (January 2, 1985)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451518829
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451518828
  • Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.1 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (223 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,887,455 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tom Munro on February 11, 2001
Format: Paperback
Sons and Lovers is a book that has been set for years in school for children to read. Somehow doing this usually means that most people emerge with a hatred of it but Lawrence's book is of such quality that it is able to survive.
It is about a woman who marries a coal miner someone who is below her class. While he is young there is some joy in her life but as she grows older the class differences create a wall between them. She lives for her two male children who she tried to keep out of the mines and to ensure that they can live middle class lives. As she grows older the children become more important to her. The death of the oldest means that she suffocates the younger son with a love that affects his normal development.
The story is told through the eyes of the younger son. There is little question that the novel is autobiographical and based on the early life of Lawrence. His life is almost identical to the events portrayed in the novel.
Lawrence was a prolific novelist and short story reader but this work is probably his most accessible. His later novels tended to be more about peoples relationships but without the social content.
Nowadays the class issues have receded a bit into the background. At the time of its publication the book would have been seen as revealing the divisions that operated in Britain. Most critics tend to focus on the relationship of Lawrence and his mother as the primary focus of the novel. To some extent this is true but the book is much more. It is a portrait of a society thankfully now gone. It is the portrait of a young man being propelled by his mother to escape his fathers destiny. Unlike Lawrence's other books which have tended to date this book is easy to read and still a classic.
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By A Customer on December 14, 1999
Format: Mass Market Paperback
The story is brilliant. It is about how a woman (the mother, Gertrude) takes her son (Paul) as her lover instead of choosing her husband. She did not have the will to love the husband, and instead turned that will on a child. The title is not "Fathers and Lovers" or "Husbands and Lovers." The father is capable of being loved, but in Gertrude's mind, she is too good for the husband. Therefore, she turns her lover's heart towards a child ("Sons and Lovers"). In modern psychobabble, Gertrude doesn't recognize boundaries. The child is defenseless to the emotional power which penetrates him. He is absorbed and becomes one with the mother's heart and goals. It is similar to molestation but instead of a physical penetration, there is an emotional penetration. When the boy starts to grow up and should, rightly, begin to become whole with a woman, he is not free to take that step. His sexuality drives him towards an appropriate lover, and seemingly makes him appear available, but his emotional heart cannot take another woman into himself. There is already a lover who has penetrated his heart (i.e. his mother). For a man to be complete in love, he has to be able to enter a woman physically at the same time he takes her into himself emotionally. Paul can't allow another woman in emotionally because his mother is already there. Hence, even though he is able to enter a woman physically, the whole experience is deeply unsatisfying to both Paul and all the women in his life. The mother is not really satisfied because she can't have her lover completely (i.e.Read more ›
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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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