History: Published in 1920, the book is a sequel to his earlier novel The Rainbow (1915), and follows the continuing loves and lives of the Brangwen sisters, Gudrun and Ursula. The novel ranges over the whole of British society at the time of the First World War and eventually ends high up in the snows of the Swiss Alps.
As with most of Lawrence's works, Women in Love caused controversy over its sexual subject matter.
Plot: Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen are two sisters living in the Midlands of England in the 1910s. Ursula is a teacher, Gudrun an artist. They meet two men who live nearby, school inspector Rupert Birkin and coal-mine heir Gerald Crich. The four become friends. Ursula and Birkin become involved, and Gudrun eventually begins a love affair with Gerald.
All four are deeply concerned with questions of society, politics, and the relationship between men and women. At a party at Gerald's estate, Gerald's sister, Diana, drowns with her new husband. Gudrun becomes the teacher and mentor of his youngest sister. Soon Gerald's coal-mine-owning father dies as well, after a long illness. After the funeral, Gerald goes to Gudrun's house and spends the night with her, while her parents sleep in another room.
Birkin asks Ursula to marry him, and she agrees. Gerald and Gudrun's relationship, however, becomes stormy. The four vacation in the Alps. Gudrun begins an intense friendship with Loerke, a physically puny but emotionally commanding artist from Dresden. Gerald, enraged by Loerke, by Gudrun's verbal abuse, and by his own destructive nature, tries to murder Gudrun. After failing, he retreats back over the mountains and falls to his death in the snow.
Review: Women in Love is widely regarded as D. H. Lawrence's greatest novel. It is a continuation of The Rainbow (1915), both novels originally having been intended as one novel, The Sisters, though in final form each work is self-contained. After difficulties in finding a publisher, understandable as The Rainbow had been prosecuted for obscenity, Women in Love was eventually privately published in New York in 1920 and in London in 1921. It is clear that both The Rainbow and Women in Love are major departures from the main tradition of the English novel with its emphasis on a realistic presentation of both character and environment.
Opening Line: “Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen sat one morning in the window-bay of their father's house in Beldover, working and talking.”
Closing Line: 'I don't believe that,' he answered.
Quotes: “Now she realized that this was the world of powerful, underworld men who spent most of their time in the darkness….They sounded also like strange machines, heavy, oiled.”