The Rainbow

by D.H. Lawrence

So who you gonna believe: Hugh Hefner or D.H. Lawrence? Had you believed the latter, your marital problems could've been solved, or at least addressed & hundred years ago. Instead, we're left with the founder of Playboy, in an interview with The New York Times' Deborah Solomon a couple of months ago stating prosaically, "Part of the problem, quite frankly, is that when you get married, the romance disappears and the children arrive and the love is transferred." D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow follows three generations of the Brangwen family, and in order to produce three generations, there are, of course, a lot of marriages & "children arriving" portrayed. In so far as it was possible in 1915, Lawrence depicts marriage scandalously—meaning realistically—with warts just like the one Hugh Hefner was talking about. This book was banned, suppressed, redacted, and censored many times upon its first publication. It doesn't read scandalously these days, but you can see what might have offended sensibilities 100 years ago.

As the book follows three generations, protagonists must change on the fly. I like the fresh introduction of new main characters throughout the book; it keeps the narrative lively & the reader engaged. We start with a man, then switch to his adopted daughter, and then end with the adopted daughter's daughter. (This latter daughter is in turn a main character of Lawrence's next book: Women in Love.) At once, it's a little hard to believe that the author of The Rainbow and the author of Women in Love are one and the same. The former is actually fairly readable & intelligible; the latter I couldn't get much out of. Then again, both books are victims of D.H. Lawrence's maddeningly redundant writing. Using the exact same words over and over in close proximity to pound a point home really isn't a style that's imitated today. It's kind of not good writing/reading!

As in Women in Love, Lawrence's homosexuality makes its presence known. The scenes he pens between men and women are mordantly COMPLICATED affairs peppered with heavy-handed, daunting adjectives to describe feelings. However, scenes between characters of the same gender (in this book almost exclusively two women) are pretty breezy. There's even a (semi-pedophilic) lesbian relationship represented here! It should be noted, however, that the older woman goes on to marry a male character pretty obviously described as gay. So we have a gay man marrying a lesbian in the pages of a 95-year-old book. And people attack "gay marriage" as some sort of progressive idea!? Hello! It's been going on for centuries!

• What I like about D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow: The final main character, a young woman, is about as independent as they come in that day and age. As long as you didn't piss off your dad, The Rainbow might have us believing that women CAN kind of make choices in their own lives. Talk about progressive!?
• What is weird in D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow: The natural world is a strange place, and it affects human beings dramatically! The moon causes no fewer than two breakups in this book, and horses cause a miscarriage!? (Perhaps we're getting a peek at the reasoning behind the book's title?)
• What I learned from D.H. Lawrence's The Rainbow: Aside from his calling marriage out for what it ACTUALLY promises versus what it doesn't, I now know that one should NEVER speak words of love out of fear. Only speak words of love in love.