This is a new American edition of a work already well known and generally received favorably in England. It is not, therefore, a new book, but one of the few books written immediately preceding the war that still have a wide appeal.
And it seems typical of the England of pre-war days; and not only of England, but of the whole western world at that time. Years of peace and prosperity had led to a certain littleness of thought a narrowness of vision, from which a satisfied world was rudely awakened by the events of 1914. This narrowness, I should say, is the outstanding feature of Mr. Lawrence's characters. They are selfish, every one of them: selfish and self centred.
The story tells of the life of one Pan Morel, the son of Nottinghamshire milier. His mother, though better eduessei and of a higher class than her husband has devoted her life to being her husband's slave, and raising for him a last and not always welcome family. Pan who is not born until well on in the story, and barely survives his drunker father's anger, turns out to be something of an artist. His mother manages to secure for him a fairly good education and he obtains a rather good position in the critical end of a stocking factory. Here he continues for the balance of the book.
For the rest, we have the story of Paul's loves". I use the quotation marks advisedly, because nowhere in the book have I found any love that was more than animal passion or animal instinct, unless perhaps it be Paul's love for his mother on her death bed. Even Miriam, the mystic, the dreamer, apparently does not really love him. There is passion, physical attraction--plenty of that, but no love.
Then there are a few excellent descriptions, a few good character analyses. The rest is commonplace; a matter-of-fact and generally uninteresting story of a generally uninteresting life. There is too much detail--vulgar detail, frequently--and an almost morbid view of life at times.
To summarize; "Sons and Lovers" is a careful and detailed account of a rather sub-normal life. It is well written, very well written. But still one wonders just why Mr. Lawrence should have written at all about such a commonplace and dull topic.