Novella review: The Ladybird by DH Lawrence (1923) from a Book Club Associates omnibus (1980)
Set near the end of the First World War, in the late autumn or early winter of 1917, we meet Lady Beveridge, who goes to visit the war prisoners in a hospital somewhere in England. There, she meets someone she recognises from a time in Bohemia in Germany – the Count Johann Dionys Psanek. She mentions this to her daughter, Lady Daphne, who starts to visit him regularly.
They have a sort of friendship going. He once gave her a thimble with his crest on, a ladybird. He wants her to sow him a shirt, and so she sows him a shirt. And then she sows her husband a shirt too, and then the husband comes home from the war. And at first, she’s thrilled, but then not so much, because war changes people.
The war ends, the Count is no longer near death with a bullet wound upon his person, so he’s invited to Lady Daphne and her husband for a bit, and one night when she can’t sleep, Lady Daphne hears a man singing in a foreign tongue – it’s the count. And then she ends up being his “wife by night”.
And it’s all a bit strange. It’s very low key for quite some time and nothing much goes on. As with many DH Lawrence stories, it’s more of an internal struggle than anything else. Which is fine, and it’s still a fairly interesting and engaging read nonetheless. The end felt a bit strange – Daphne and Psanek had been flirting for quite some time but without actually flirting, and then she hears a song which she really enjoys and she listens to it. Then she hears a song she finds so atrocious that she has to go to the singer and make him stop … but ends up shagging him, essentially. Peculiar indeed. But then again, it is DH Lawrence we’re talking about and I’m beginning to expect things to be a bit peculiar.
There was a quote in there (will add when I can find it again) about the war, which made me react with a sort of sad mirth. There will never be a war like that again, indeed. Nine years after the author of those words died, the Second World War broke out. The chilling realisations of hindsight.
This is my sixth review for the DH Lawrence Challenge 2010. The year is almost through and I still haven’t been to Eastwood, and that’s what I set out to do! Gah. I wonder if they’re open on Sunday. (UPDATE 2021: Yeah, still haven’t been. *cough*)