Women in Love, the novel that D. H. Lawrence considered his best, is a powerful portrayal of two couples dynamically engaged in a struggle with themselves, with each other, and with life's intractable limitations.
The sisters Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, whom we first met in Lawrence's novel The Rainbow, here become involved with two close friends: Rupert, an intellectual school inspector; and Gerald, the wealthy heir to a mine owner. The turbulent relationships that result--chronicled with an emotional and sexual frankness that provoked controversy on the book's publication in 1920--take the characters from an English landscape of coal mines and sooty factories to the snowy heights of the Alps, where tragedy strikes.
Women in Love was written during World War I, and while that conflict is never mentioned in the novel, a sense of background danger, of lurking catastrophe, continually informs its drama. Lawrence was a powerful, prophetic writer, but in addition he brought such delicacy to his treatment of the human and natural worlds that E. M. Forster's claim that he was the greatest imaginative novelist of his generation does him too little justice rather than too much.