Spanning the second half of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, D. H. Lawrence’s provocative novel traces the lives of three generations of one family on their Nottinghamshire farm. Rooted in an agrarian past, Tom and Lydia Brangwen and their descendants find themselves navigating a rapidly changing world—a world of unprecedented individualism, alienation, and liberation. Banned after an obscenity trial in 1915 for its frankness about sexuality, THE RAINBOW was most remarkable for the pathbreaking journeys of its female characters, particularly that of Ursula Brangwen, whose destiny Lawrence explored further in his next novel, Women in Love.
In its surface drama, in its capacious and expansive rhythms that so resemble the rhythms of nature itself, THE RAINBOW is one of the world’s great examples of the multi-generational family saga. But the large claim that Lawrence’s masterpiece has made on the attention of readers and critics stems less from this fact than from the deeper parallel history he provides for the Brangwens—a history of the growth of their souls, moving in a great arc from sensuality to self-awareness and freedom.