This novel was awarded the James Tait Memorial Prize in the fiction category in 1920 and was begun after “Women in Love”. I found the best section of this book was a journey to Italy – it was one of the most descriptive pieces of writing I have read for a long time. I very much enjoyed the beginning too with its description of everyday life in the town along with the various character vignettes.
Sadly, this opening promise was not sustained, but some of the writing was, in my opinion, masterful and definitely in the vein of some of his better known works. The plot was somewhat strange and I had to suspend disbelief that Alvina really would have left her quiet middle-class (retail) Yorkshire town to run off with Ciccio a travelling showman, but the writing made up for this.
I enjoyed the novel, not for the narrative, but for the sheer joy of some of the writing. I did find the foreign phrases tedious – even those I could understand and had I been editing I would have got my blue pencil out. These points may explain why this is one of Lawrence’s lesser known novels.
This book reminded me how descriptively Lawrence could write and I now see that he and Katherine Mansfield are of a similar genre. This is not surprising as they moved in the same circles, corresponded and were both authors as well as poets. Kindred spirits perhaps?
Image attribution: Unknown author (passport office), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons