Cover Image: Tenderness

Tenderness

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Member Reviews

I requested this book for background reading for a review we were running on BookBrowse. To be honest, I found the book somewhat tough going, but the good news is that our reviewer liked it well enough for us to feature it:

The review and article were sent to the publicist at the time they were released:

Review:
https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/reviews/index.cfm/ref/pj278720/tenderness#reviews
Beyond the Book:
https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/btb/index.cfm/ref/pj278720/tenderness#btb
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If you’ve ever wondered about the author of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and want to know more about DH Lawrence and his life, this fictionalized account is right up your alley. Its not fast-paced, but there’s so much detail about the storm this book caused in England. Author, Alison McLeod, turns to Lawrence’s autobiography for the details about his indecency trial. Well worth reading if you want to know more about this eloquent man and his life.
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Alison MacLeod's historical fiction book Tenderness considers what may have happened behind the scenes of British novelist D.H. Lawrence's life while he imagined and wrote his controversial 1928 novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. Tenderness also zooms forward to the 1950s during two courtroom challenges of Lady Chatterley. The narrative strands of Tenderness are complex, sometimes meandering and occasionally confusing. Cast of characters developed with an omniscient vantage point that zooms in and out between what actually happened in history, what maybe happened, and imaginary flights of possibility.

For those unfamiliar with Lawrence's plot, young Lady Constance Chatterley is married to Lord Clifford Chatterley, but the union is compromised by Clifford's war injuries and the couple's inability to enjoy fulfilling sex or conceive an heir. Connie embarks on a passionate affair with Oliver Mellors, gamekeeper for the substantial Chatterley estate. Complications ensue, and the adulterous couple is perhaps one of the most enduring in literary history.
Full review on BookBrowse: https://www.bookbrowse.com/mag/reviews/index.cfm/ref/pr278720
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I know this is a challenge to read- it sprawls and includes trial transcripts- but stick with it.  DH Lawrence never expected Lady Chatterley's Lover to engender the uproar it did or the way it would wrap in even Jacqueline Kennedy. He knew it would be a difficult sell and sadly, he died without seeing it published.   This is not only a wonderful work of historical fiction, it is also a thought provoking reminder of censorship.  Tame by 2021 standards, the novel was at the center of a debate and a prosecution about what is obscene.  I learned a great deal about Lawrence's life as well as about Rosalind, the inspiration for Lady Chatterly. Even better I found myself poking for additional information about other real life individuals who appear in the pages.  It might tempt you, at times, to skip pages or put it down but know that MacLeod will pull you back in. Thanks to netgalley for the ARC.  A must read for fans of literary fiction.
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I was Drawn to the original premise of the book. I will read anything that has to do with Jackie Kennedy. I did enjoy those parts of this book. However, the rest of the book quickly lost my interest. It was rambling and jumbled. It was a miss for me.
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MacLeod's extraordinary novel brings together the later life of D.H. Lawrence, an exploration of the sources and themes of his LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER, and glimpses of two government obscenity trials that take aim at the novel. Lawrence's first glimpse of Rosalind Baynes, the inspiration for Constance Chatterly, occurs in 1915 when he and his German wife Frieda are spending the World War I years in the compound of the wealthy Meynell family in Sussex, England. Lawrence grows increasingly contemptuous of Britain's hypocrisy, class system and imperialism as the war drags on and the government seizes all copies of his "morally obscene" novel THE RAINBOW, a book on which he has pinned both creative and financial hopes. Once borders open again after the war, Lawrence and Frieda leave England for good. He shares a three-week idyll with Baynes in 1920 but chooses not to leave Frieda despite the contentiousness of their marriage; completing LADY CHATTERLEY'S LOVER despite his failing health in 1928, he can publish the explicit work only in a private edition. Eddying back and forth in time across Lawrence's later life, TENDERNESS also evokes the years around 1960, when publishers in both America and Britain attempt to bring out unexpurgated editions of the novel. When the U.S. Postal Service seizes the uncensored edition of the novel just published by the Grove Press, Jackie Kennedy and Lionel Trilling attempt to support it while J. Edgar Hoover, a staunch opponent of Jack Kennedy's, schemes to use Mrs. Kennedy's appearance at the trial of a "dirty" and "Communist-inspired" book to thwart the senator's presidential hopes. The following year, the British Crown prosecutes Penguin Books for its own uncut edition. The prosecution taunts and derides the myriad witnesses called by the defense, a now-elderly Rosalind Baynes watches quietly from the gallery, and the jury promptly returns a surprising decision. Full of memorable moments and details, TENDERNESS never loses its focus or  immediacy despite its sweeping temporal and geographical scope. MacLeod's fictional characters (FBI agent Mel Harding is especially vivid) mingle seamlessly with well-known historical figures in a novel that explores the weight of censorship, the complexities of love, the determination of the creative imagination and the power of literature to speak across years, cultures and continents.
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