I finished Sons and Lovers somewhere in North Dakota, I think.
It was weird. It followed in the tradition of Wives and Daughters, Madame Bovary and Dickens by starting in a place seemingly completely arbitrary to where the rest of the novel ends up. In the case of Sons and Lovers, it even begins with a completely different narrator.
Basically, it goes like this. Woman with two children, a third on the way, and a dirty, angry miner husband goes to the fair with her children. Gives birth to third child. Has a lot of terrible, massive fights with her husband, at least one of which includes his throwing a drawer at her. Children = son William, daughter Annie, son Paul, and later, son Arthur. Their mother (Mrs. Morel) becomes more and more invested in her sons rather than in her husband, and they in her in turn (Annie kind of gets the short shrift in this book).
They grow up, Mrs. Morel is very interested in their success and does her level best to get her sons good jobs in various places. William gets a very good place and is engaged to a goofy, hat-loving London girl for a while, but then he catches pneumonia and dies. So Mrs. Morel, after working through her grief, pours all her efforts into Paul, who gets a clerk-in-a-warehouse job and becomes a sought-after painter. Meanwhile, he tries to have fulfilling relationships with two different women and fails because his mother has such a hold on his life. Spoiler alert, when his mother dies, he feels completely empty and awful because he has nothing left to love.
It was difficult to sympathize with Paul (during the second half of the novel when he becomes the narrator) about his troubles with his romantic relationships because he was so inept at being honest with them, especially Miriam. As I learned in my relationship with Mormon Guy, if you don’t know where you are with or how you feel about someone, don’t do anything. Anything. At all. Leave it alone, back away, and find something else. As John Green has said, “Don’t bother with somebody who maybe likes you” – or whom you maybe like.
The writing was good, though.