The Rainbow

The RainbowThe Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lawrence’s investigation of how ‘the relations between women and men’ had become ‘the problem of today’ required him to go backwards over 60 years and summon up all his powers as a poet to describe a state of nature where the sexes existed in harmony. It’s a powerful evocation, even if it isn’t very convincing. What’s striking about the Tom Brangwen love story is how little communication there is between the couple. Whereas Ursula three generations later feels entitled to question her lover’s politics and life choices. Ursula escapes the wild but mute passion that her grandparents shared (symbolised I think by the horses that block her way in the final chapter). She is stubborn and articulate and seeks wider horizons, for which the rainbow is an ill-fitting metaphor. Lawrence’s achievement is in successfully realising these very different modes of romance and family life, even if he doesn’t quite explain them. But he is a poet, not a sociologist – and the language the story is told in (with all its old-fashioned euphemisms in the love scenes) is wonderful.

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Coventry: Essays

Coventry: EssaysCoventry: Essays by Rachel Cusk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This essay collection kicks off in the worst possible way – with a long complaint about driving which feels like the most boring dinner party conversation ever. The other personal pieces – on parenting, homemaking, marriage – I found more engaging, perhaps because I don’t drive but do have kids, although even then there is little that is novel or striking in them. The real value in the book is in the back half, where Cusk shares her perspectives on authors that have informed her writing. There are a few bizarre claims (“nothing is lost or destroyed or interrogated by comedy” apparently), but generally the values and perspectives Cusk holds dear are well argued for. One of the best essays is a spirited defence of creative writing lessons, which gives an empathetic portrait of what people get out of them. The other is on the knotty paradoxical problems of ‘women’s writing’ and whether greater equality has led to writing about domestic concerns being perceived as less prestigious. Cusk’s own (deserved) success and acclaim somewhat disproves that argument.

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