26 Books in 2017 Book 18: A Previously Banned Book

Lady Chatterley’s Lover – Prohibition did it no harm

Book number 18 in the challenge has to be a book that was previously banned.

Originally published privately in 1928, DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover wasn’t widely available until it was picked up for publication by Penguin at the end of the 1950s. But before it could be released for sale the book was banned. Its contents were described as including unprintable words during the obscenity trial that ensued. However Penguin won the case and the full unexpurgated version of the novel went on sale in 1960. Millions of copies were sold.

The book tells the story of a love affair between an upper-class woman and a working class man and it seems that this cross-class relationship was judged almost as offensive as the sexually explicit language.

It wasn’t the first of Lawrence’s books to be banned. Two of his earlier novels, The Rainbow and Women in Love were also initially blocked from being released.

Of course things have moved on considerably and nowadays Lawrence’s writing would hardly raise an eyebrow. But exploring sexuality as he did in a lot of his writing was considered pornographic at the time he was writing.

However, by the time I was at high school in the 1970s, Lawrence’s work was considered respectable enough to be included in the reading list for the upper school literature syllabus. I read both The Rainbow and Sons and Lovers while I was at school. And, yes, for a teenage school girl they were fairly shocking reads but the message from our teacher was definitely that we were reading first-rate literature.

I went on at university and beyond to read more of Lawrence, including Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and he’s an author I have huge respect for. He wrote thought-provoking and engaging stories. And he didn’t just write about sexual relationships. He also wrote about emotional and mental health, about living life in a way that’s spontaneous and true to the self, and his female characters were strong and unconventional women.

Yes he was controversial and his writing was ahead of its time, but banning his books only served to raise their profile and the profile of the issues he wrote about. His writing paved the way for novels that were more broad-minded and inclusive than what had gone before. The rights and wrongs of censorship is a whole other post topic, but having his work banned has done nothing to sully Lawrence’s long term reputation as a first-class writer.

Have you read any previously banned books?

14 thoughts on “26 Books in 2017 Book 18: A Previously Banned Book

    • Hi Lainy, I don’t think Clockwork Orange was actually banned but it was definitely controversial. I hated the movie. Thanks for visiting the blog and for taking the time to comment.

  1. Lady C became my nickname when as a teenager my parents briefly employed a schoolboy Saturday gardener and I fell for him! That made me read the book… all I can say is the banned parts were a lot better than than the spicy bits of 50 Shades of Grey. At the same age I read Lolita, but I think I missed the point. That worries me far more…

    • I love your teenage nickname story, Jessica. I agree about 50 Shades. I’ve never read Lolita but I saw the film and didn’t really like it. Thanks so much for visiting the blog and for commenting.

  2. Hi Anne, I read and loved huge amounts of DH Lawrence and I remember being fascinated by so much of it. Not just the sexuality, but the wonderful social history. All the detail about the Friday night baking and the distances people walked thinking nothing of it. The intense family relationships and hierarchies – goodness I think I might need to re-visit. I did sneak a peak of my dad’s copy of Peyton Place – it was so disappointing being full of phrases like ‘after it was over’. Eh! As you said in your post, time has moved on. anne stenhouse

    • Yes, Anne, there was much more to Lawrence’s writing than sex. Naughty girl looking at your dad’s reading material and what a pity ‘it’ was glossed over. 🙂 Thanks for looking in and commenting.

  3. Another great post Anne. I haven’t read any of DH Lawrence novels, he’s never appealed to me, maybe some day! I was thinking, I can’t remember reading any banned books, I was going to say A Clockwork Orange, too but, as you say, don’t think it was. The movie definitely created a lot of controversy and I think Stanley Kubrick, took the huff and withdrew it from British cinemas.

  4. James Joyce’s Ulysses and Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms were both banned in their time. I’ve read both and wasn’t shocked. Anais Nin worked with an independent publisher to try to keep her books from being banned, but Winter Of Artifice, Delta of Venus, Little Birds, and her new posthumous book of erotica, Auletris, have caused a lot of consternation among the censors. In my twenties I read Lawrence, Nin, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Colette. A very interesting time!

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