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D. H. Lawrence: The Lost Girl

If Lawrence could be said to have written a Jamesian novel, this might be it, though Leavis compared it more to Dickens and Arnold Bennett. In short, it is one of the least typical of his novels and the one to read if you don’t really like Lawrence. Alvina Houghton’s father, James, is a draper in a small town in the Midlands called Woodhouse and has lost his money due to poor business skills. Alvina wants to be her own person. First there is Alexander Graham. She seems likely to marry him. He returns to his native Australia to make arrangements but she has her doubts and then finally decides he is not the man for her.

Alvina then decides to become a nurse and goes to London to train. But, though she qualifies, she is unable to make a living as a maternity nurse in Woodhouse, where no-one could afford her. She then meets Arthur Witham before turning her attentions to his younger brother, Albert, but that doesn’t work out. Then there is her father’s cinema and the cinema manager, Mr. May, who just happens to be married. And, finally, there is the Natcha-Kee-Tawara Troupe, a travelling show which James Houghton was going to put on. One of their number was an Italian called Francesco, known to everyone as Cicio.

And here we are off on one of Lawrence’s favourite themes, or rather two of his favourite themes. The first is that Italians are much more alive and sexy than the English and the second is that an educated woman can have a relationship with a man of a lower class if the sex is OK (which it is in this case). Of course, as with Lawrence and Frieda, there are a lot of ups and downs and trials and tribulations. And as the novel ends with the War and Cicio’s being called up, their continuing relationship is in doubt. This is not one of Lawrence’s great novels as the intensity and passion which is Lawrence’s hallmark and skill is lacking but, if you don’t particularly like Lawrence, it may be his most enjoyable.

Publishing history

First published 1920 by Martin Secker