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Miriam B. Kahn
AudioFile, November 2011

Sutton’s subtle reading of Lawrence’s character studies—especially her portrait of Yvette’s longing for love—draws the listener into this story of self-discovery. © AudioFile Read complete review

Pujitha Krishnan Fernandes, June 2011

Lucille and Yvette Saywell are young girls who feel oppressed in their middle class home in the rectory. The girls are irritated by their old grandmother and angry aunt, and they feel doomed to a life of boredom and middle class existence. But when Yvette meets a gypsy, strange feelings rise in her that threaten all accepted morality of the family and society.

As expected, of D.H Lawrence questions and casts aside all accepted morality and societal norms in this short novella.

Lucille and Yvette live until the dark cloud of their mother who abandoned her husband and children and ran away with a younger man.

Yvette has never been in love and scorns the attention of the young men of her social circle. She is disdainful of her family and her home and openly flouts rules and their idea of morality.

These young girls are full of life and promise and feel that they are wasting away in their prison-like home. This is a short novel, but Lawrence packs a lot into it. The characters are well drawn, and easy to recognize: the old grandmother who holds onto her position of power in the house, the frustrated aunt who is angry about wasting away her life and her sex in service to her mother, the loving, ineffective father who wants to be liked.

A big part of the problem is that the young boys and girls in this small town actually have everything. What they lack is intellectual stimulation and real difficulties. This brings about a sense of ennui and disdain for their families. Which is why when Yvette meets the gypsy, her interest is piqued. He represents freedom, virility and earthiness. Only at the end does she realise how she feels about him and learns his name and sees him more than a romantic concept.

The end seemed a little rushed and incomplete (this novella was published posthumously) and a little overly dramatic.

The audiobook: I suggest that you do listen to this novella in audio. Georgina Sutton does a great job of creating the ethereal Yvette, the old grandmother, the choleric aunt and the gruff and real gypsy. I only listened to it once, but bits of dialogue stand out in my memory for which the audio production is the reason.

I will definitely be looking for more classics to consume in audio. Having someone interpret the material intelligently adds so much to my absorption and enjoyment of the book.

Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys classics, especially D.H Lawrence. I do suggest you try the audiobook, it greatly added to my appreciation of this short novel.

Dr Wesley Britton, May 2011

For many, the legacy of D.H. Lawrence begins and ends with Lady Chatterly’s Lover. This is unfortunate as the British writer left behind a compelling canon of short stories, novellas, and novels worthy of ongoing attention outside of academic literary circles. The place of The Virgin and The Gypsy in this canon, however, is problematic as it was published posthumously in 1930, four years after it was written, and apparently left as an uncompleted, or at least unpolished, novella.

With some justification, what survived has been described as an adult fairy tale, largely due to the overt symbolism of the descriptions and characters. The central cast is the family of a shallow Rector; his blind, domineering, toadlike mother; her mean-spirited spinster sister; and the Rector’s two daughters, Yvette and Lucille. Suspected of being tainted by the life-force of their mother—who abandoned the family when the girls were young—the daughters  are chafing against a world they see as drab, stale, ordinary, meaningless. Then they meet a gypsy family led by a virile father who sparks Yvette’s first flushes of womanhood. On one hand, Yvette is intrigued by the exotic otherness of the gypsy and, on the other hand, feels herself ensnared in the comfortable, if sterile, family nest.

The Virgin and The Gypsy uses typical Lawrence tropes and themes; for example, his short story, “The Horse-Dealer’s Daughter,” juxtaposes a gray, loveless existence with the hot, fiery power of passion. The barriers in the British class system demonstrated in Lady Chatterly is echoed by the working class gypsy and the protected Yvette. But a reader need not be familiar with Lawrence to be drawn into the vivid, tightly-sketched psychological exploration of circumstances that likely mirror worries we all share—to dare to break out of the familiar or be pulled into a dull conformity that crushes the human spirit. In fact, The Virgin and The Gypsy could serve as a good introduction into the realm of D.H. Lawrence due to its brevity, so long as readers know it contains but a taste of Lawrence’s range.

As this is an audiobook that clocks in at 3 hours and 36 minutes, it should be mentioned that reader Georgina Sutton does a nicely credible job of narrating the text. The story doesn’t require a deft hand at accents or dialects, but rather the tone of a storyteller relating the events of friends or family they know intimately. It’s a good read, if one understands it’s a diamond in the rough and can accept the surprisingly melodramatic conclusion.

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