Publisher/Year Published: Audiobook: October 2008 by CSA Word (first published 1928)
How I got this book: The Library
Why I read this book: Long car trip alone :)
Rating: 3 stars
I often wonder what makes a book live through history. Why am I still hearing about this book published in the early 20th century and not some other book? The best way to start this review of Lady Chatterley's Lover is to give you the summary off the back of the audiobook:
Lady Chatterley’s Lover was the subject of one of the most infamous trials of the 20th century when its publisher, Penguin, was prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act. Finally, after testimony from expert witnesses for the defense, including E. M. Forster, Penguin was acquitted and permitted to publish the novel in 1960. It quickly became a bestseller, largely on account of its explicit sex scenes and liberal use of four-letter words. Nearly 50 years later the sex scenes are still graphic, even by today’s standards, but the book is now read for its brilliant portrayal of the tenuous relationship between the nobility and the working class. Explicit, romantic, and emotional, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a tour-de-force, a passionate embrace of life itself. Emilia Fox reads with energy and feeling, further enhancing the narrative and extracting every bit of nuance and subtlety within the text.Now, there is a nice summary of the background surrounding this book. When I started listening to it, I was relatively unaware of this. I knew it was a banned novel and I knew it was about an illicit romance because of the title. I may have known about the naughty words, but I sure as hell forgot until I heard them spoken to me aloud in a car riding down the highway.
It's pretty safe to say I went into the listening of Lady Chatterley's Lover with a pretty open mind as I had forgotten all of this. In a side note about how I read books, I put books on my TBR list on Goodreads and don't read the description again unless I am looking to read something specific. Lately I just chose and go into the book trusting that I added it for a reason.
Getting to the story, we hear about Lady Chatterley's past and what brought her to current circumstances in the first chapter. This includes how her husband came back from the war paralyzed. They no longer have an intimate relationship and instead are just living in the patterns that they have each established.
We can see she is bored with her life and that leads her to take on lovers, and then THE lover, the Gamekeeper. That is the basic bones of the story, really. I want to talk more about how this fits in with society today, and if the book when listened to by a modern audience is still as shocking.
As a women whose books read in a year consist of almost half romance, I was shocked by some of the passages.
There is a lot of descriptive sexual acts written in the book as well as some fun usages of certain four letter words. I think this fact alone is really what people remember it for. Why was this shocking to me, as I have read about people's intimate sexual acts in sometimes graphic detail? Two reasons that I can think of: 1) it was spoken aloud to me via the audiobook 2)there really wasn't much of a build up to the beginning of any romance.
Let's look at point two first. Lady Chatterley pretty much just sleeps with these men most dispassionately sometimes. There is no emotional connection or even very much attraction sometimes. Then when she finally engages, it's with almost negative participation on her part. Many of her internal monologue makes it feel like having sex with these men is a chore. That didn't sit well with me.
The story rests on the love or love affair between Lady Chatterley and the Gamekeeper (seriously, I think they said his name like four times. He was always the Gamekeeper). But the love didn't seem solid enough for them to act as they did. Was it not believable? At times. Did the overly sexual language pull me out of the story at all? Sometimes.
Did I enjoy it though? You know, it wasn't bad. I think I enjoyed it more because I was listening to it, which brings me back to point number one. Any dirty scenes read aloud by someone who slightly resembles Mary Poppins (especially when she did her Lady Chatterley voice!), just makes me laugh or blush. It didn't help that they always seemed to be in the middle of a passion scene when I was going through a toll booth.
Emilia Fox does a great job bringing each character to life. Her voices were actually quite good and distinguishable. My one complaint is how she did the Gamekeeper. He sounded like a crotchety old man which took the picture of Johnathon Rhys Meyers right out of my head. But overall it was really her reading the story to me that upped the enjoyability factor. And it kept me company on my lonely car ride.
Will I read it again? Probably not. Did I enjoy reading it? Yes, and I am glad that I can say that I have. Going back to my original musing on what makes a book withstand the test of time, I can see why in this case. At its heart it's about taking yourself out of your 'going through the motions routine' and take something you want. Live your life the way that pleases you. And of course, the descriptive dirty-word riddled sex. There is that, too.