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Francine Levitov
Sound Commentary, April 2011

Though no longer the shocker that this sexually explicit novel was when first published in 1928, Chatterley remains uncomfortably forthright about the sexual tensions and emotional ambivalence that define male/female relationships. This is both the source of its power and its very point. For Lawrence has more on his mind than describing the amorous encounters of an unlikely pair of lovers, (a titled young woman and the gamekeeper of her crippled husband’s estate). He takes on mobility among the social classes and the sterility caused by industrialization and materialism. He advocates a return to basics: mutual respect, naturalness of expression, and hands-on human tenderness. In our own alienated age where, thanks to technology, actual contact often seems less sought after than virtual, these themes still resonate strongly, and portions of this novel are almost jarring in their contemporaneity.

The novel is preachy. And modern feminists have criticized it for a sensibility they find all too male, particularly in its glorification of motherhood. However, if Lawrence gets some of this matter wrong, he gets a great more right. Naxos Audio hammers that home with its inspired choice of Maxine Peake to perform this work. Her fully vocalized performance, unpretentious, intimate and non-judgmental, is all Lawrence himself could have hoped for from an interpretation of his novel. An outstanding production of a groundbreaking classic.

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