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0356 | The Rainbow | D.H. Lawrence

0356 | The Rainbow | D.H. Lawrence

Context: Listened to this as we used various dugout canoes to travel down the lower reaches of the Watut River in PNG on a language survey.


As I listened to this novel, a great feeling of pleasure came over me. But with the pleasure, I doubted and thus began a terror which grew to overwhelm me. I loved the novel, didn’t I? But as I read more, the love I felt overpowered me. Because I loved it I had to hate it. And in my hate, I came, yet again, to love it; to love beyond hating, with a fear that somehow brought peace and cast me into depths of heights and moved me into stillness as my love hated yet deeper. And thus and so on for hundreds of pages.

Lawrence has fallen a notch on the ladder for me with this one. Lady Chatterley, Sons and Lovers and The Fox are all, in my opinion, great realist novels. But when you take a great ability to convey the feelings of a character and then make a novel, and not a short one, consist almost entirely of negative feelings and little else, you lose me very early on.

I don’t know what life is like when you grow up in Nottinghamshire. But if this novel is at all representative, it must be one of the most depressing and melancholy upbringings one could experience. If this is anything to go by, no matter what might happen to you on the side of good, it will only result in feelings of foreboding. In this novel, every silver lining has a cloud, every character finds themselves helpless to love without hate, unable to take the good without feeling bad, unable to rest without agitation. It’s exhausting.

The novel was banned on publication, not as I expected for being tedious but for being obscene. There’s nothing in it to offend modern sensibilities. Certainly nothing on the level of Chatterley. There are patches of great writing, but on the whole I found this account of the unremarkable lives of several generations of Brangwens melodramatic and unrealistic. For a realist novel, this is a crime. Lawrence goes so far that he is in fact crying out to be ridiculed. Thankfully, I myself don’t need to ridicule it. It’s already been done.


The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in the meadows where the Erewash twisted sluggishly through alder trees, separating Derbyshire from Nottinghamshire.


During the afternoon they sat in the parlour, that smelled of geranium, and they ate cherries, and talked. Will Brangwen was called on to give himself forth. And soon he was drawn out.

He was interested in churches, in church architecture. The influence of Ruskin had stimulated him to a pleasure in the medieval forms. His talk was fragmentary, he was only half articulate. But listening to him, as he spoke of church after church, of nave and chancel and transept, of rood-screen and font, of hatchet-carving and moulding and tracery, speaking always with close passion of particular things, particular places, there gathered in her heart a pregnant hush of churches, a mystery, a ponderous significance of bowed stone, a dim-coloured light through which something took place obscurely, passing into darkness: a high, delighted framework of the mystic screen, and beyond, in the furthest beyond, the altar. It was a very real experience. She was carried away. And the land seemed to be covered with a vast, mystic church, reserved in gloom, thrilled with an unknown Presence.

Almost it hurt her, to look out of the window and see the lilacs towering in the vivid sunshine. Or was this the jewelled glass?


She saw in the rainbow the earth’s new architecture, the old, brittle corruption of houses and factories swept away, the world built up in a living fabric of Truth, fitting to the over-arching heaven.


0356 | The Rainbow | D.H. Lawrence | 59% | Okay

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement | Style Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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