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Alison MacLeod

7th April 2022

In April, Suffolk Book League welcomed Alison MacLeod, who captivated the audience with her talk on her latest novel Tenderness (2021). The novel follows D. H. Lawrence at the end of his life, racing against the beckoning of time to finish his highly successful but controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928). This narrative is intertwined with the trial of the same text thirty years later, which chronicles a united desire for the freedom to express sensuality.

Alison’s passion for her writing is unmistakable, and not only because she spent six years researching Tenderness (2021). The text is scholarly in many ways, featuring quotes from both Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1928) and England, my England (1922). The story is also rich in historical details, which are hidden amongst the textual layers.

Alison works in the gaps of history that are unknown; she tries to remain truthful to the events of time. In the historical discrepancies, she sought to replicate how it would have felt to be there. The events of the trial were plotted against the public timeline but Alison admits that her one historical liberty was Jackie Kennedy’s appearance at the trial as, whilst she was a known fan of Lawrence, there is no true record of her location on that day.

Listening to Alison’s research process was truly fascinating. The audience was particularly enthralled by the tales of her travels to the houses where D. H. Lawrence stayed, some of which are easier to find than others. These anecdotes reiterate Alison’s dedication to her craft.

Was MacLeod soft on Lawrence in the novel? Yes and no, she says. She wanted to offer a balanced representation of his character despite his notable flaws, but acknowledges that when you reside that closely to a figure for an extended period there is definitely a tendency to favour them. And where did the title for the novel stem? It was an early-proposed title for Lady Chatterley’s Lover itself. Truly, no more fitting title could do for this magnificent book.

Rose Gant

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