marginalia || Daughters of the Vicar, by D.H. Lawrence

[My thoughts zip through this post, bec brain’s still wonky:]

Despite its slimness, Daughters of the Vicar by D.H. Lawrence is as bleak a book as you’ll ever read. At 72 pages and a handful of characters, the novella reads more like a chapter-ed short story than anything. And did I mention that it was very, very, very, very bleak? The blurb called it “unrelenting,” and I have to agree.

A bleak, unrelenting tale of poverty and loss, Lawrence’s expertly crafted novella chillingly examines man’s increasing inability to love and be loved. With a Foreword by Anita Desai. // Looking for acceptance from his new congregation, the Reverend Ernest Lindley cannot ignore the fact that his parishioners are far from welcoming. Rather than confront such hostility, the Lindleys instead become ever more isolated: he “pale and miserable and neutral”; she “bitter and beaten by fear.” And having raised their children to be similarly dispassionate, it seems inevitable that their daughters should enter loveless marriages. While Mary becomes the dutiful wife, younger sister Louisa vows to experience love for herself—little knowing that such desires will divide an already broken family.

I like how doggedly Lawrence told us that these were miserable people, aware of their misery. I like how the sisters related to each other, how they still loved each other despite their decisions, and the consequences of their decisions. I like how you’re not even sure about that ending, if it was supposed to make you feel good or not. I like this. I wish Lawrence came to me every 72 pages—then most of his novels won’t be so overwhelming. Yes, I suppose that Daughters is a bite-size servings of his hefty books. I didn’t really mind.

Strangely enough, despite all this depression, the book is a light read. Evidence is how my boyfriend asked me, bewildered, “You’re done?” when I tossed the book back to the shelf after about an hour.

* This book is in partial fulfillment of the GLBT Challenge 2009.

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