Announcing Our Best Books of 2021

Summary and book reviews of Tenderness by Alison MacLeod

Tenderness

by Alison MacLeod

Tenderness by Alison MacLeod X
Tenderness by Alison MacLeod
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Nov 2021, 640 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

For readers of A Gentleman in Moscow and Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, an ambitious, spellbinding historical novel about sensuality, censorship, and the novel that set off the sexual revolution.

On the glittering shores of the Mediterranean in 1928, a dying author in exile races to complete his final novel. Lady Chatterley's Lover is a sexually bold love story, a searing indictment of class distinctions, and a study in sensuality. But the author, D.H. Lawrence, knows it will be censored. He publishes it privately, loses his copies to customs, and dies bereft.

Booker Prize-longlisted author Alison MacLeod brilliantly recreates the novel's origins and boldly imagines its journey to freedom through the story of Jackie Kennedy, who was known to be an admirer. In MacLeod's telling, Jackie―in her last days before becoming First Lady―learns that publishers are trying to bring D.H. Lawrence's long-censored novel to American and British readers in its full form. The U.S. government has responded by targeting the postal service for distributing obscene material. Enjoying what anonymity she has left, determined to honor a novel she loves, Jackie attends the hearing incognito. But there she is quickly recognized, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover takes note of her interest and her outrage.

Through the story of Lawrence's writing of Lady Chatterley's Lover, the historic obscenity trial that sought to suppress it in the United Kingdom, and the men and women who fought for its worldwide publication, Alison MacLeod captures the epic sweep of the twentieth century from war and censorship to sensuality and freedom. Exquisite, evocative, and grounded in history, Tenderness is a testament to the transformative power of fiction.

Excerpt
Tenderness

In his half-sleep, under the watch of the English nurse, he could feel his feet slipping again into his old rope-soled sandals. His linen hat had a wide brim, and used to shade his eyes as he wrote behind the Mirenda. That final autumn in Tuscany, he'd decamped to the wood each morning, where he sat, pillow beneath his arse, spine supported by an umbrella pine, and hand flying fiercely across the pages as he out-ran his prognosis.

A novel into which one poured life became a life. He'd felt the force of his story coursing through its lines as blood courses through veins, as milk rises in a breast, as sap surges in wood.

Lizards ran across his feet, and birds hopped, heedless of him. Only his wrist moved. In the wind, the trunk of the pine flexed at his back, elastic and powerful. Violets spread at his feet in blue shadows. Moss breathed. A spring, banked in wild gladioli, bubbled up, dedicated to a neglected saint. On an overhanging branch, an enamel mug dangled ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The narrative strands of Tenderness are complex, sometimes meandering and occasionally confusing. The novel will likely appeal most to fans of English literature, including those with an academic interest in Lawrence and his milieu. MacLeod tends towards long literary descriptions and journalistic details of place and character. The author has clearly done deep historical research to render details of setting, character and language throughout her substantial 640-page novel. Macleod argues for literature as a force for social and cultural change. Competing notions of "right" and "wrong" are played with by novelists and artists. The existence of such work may be backed by courts of law, academic institutions, conferences, theatres and museums. Yet, it is essential to understand that freedom of expression continues to be terribly and imperfectly negotiated in many parts of the contemporary world, where impassioned people weaponize their beliefs with war or vigilante justice...continued

Full Review Members Only (1004 words).

(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

Guardian (UK)
There is much to love in this novel, because MacLeod loves so much of what she has put into it...The triumphant emergence of Lady Chatterley's Lover is given fitting tribute here; it reminds us that moments like the Chatterley trial are precious, and must be cherished and defended, because progress is never inevitable.

Kirkus Reviews
[A] masterful novel...but we might prefer more detailed notes. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy here...Seriously brilliant, seriously flawed, ambitious, and delicious.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
MacLeod pulls off a magnificent nonlinear spin on Lady Chatterley's Lover and the censorship of literature during D.H. Lawrence's life and beyond...[she] covers an astonishingly broad range of incidents, eras, and themes in vivid prose...A triumphant demonstration of that power, this places MacLeod among the best of contemporary novelists.

Author Blurb Elizabeth Gilbert
What a triumph of skill and imagination is this powerful, moving, brilliant novel! I've never read anything quite like Tenderness, and I doubt I ever will again. This is more than a book about a book; this is a book about living - about really living, at the most dangerous and beautiful edges of the human experience. I stand in awe of Alison MacLeod. She is a novelist operating at the peak of her powers - no less a genius than the master whose work she has so lovingly and shrewdly explored here. She moves across time and space like a wizard, wrapping up fact within fiction so magically that you can't find a seam anywhere. Tenderness is an utterly captivating read, and I came away from it with this astonished thought: There's nothing this writer can't do.

Author Blurb Isabella Tree, author of Wilding
As sublimely crafted as a novel could ever be. I'm in awe of Alison MacLeod's powers. Tenderness is an intricate, mesmerising tapestry of love and regret, prudery and desire, loneliness and togetherness, loyalty and betrayal, and the enigmas and conundrums involved in the art of committing these experiences to the page.

Author Blurb Tim Pears, author of The West Country trilogy
Alison MacLeod has bored deep into significant cultural fault-lines of the twentieth century: D.H. Lawrence's grappling with Edwardian England's psychological timidity; America's moment of political optimism with the Kennedys; the trial of Lady Chatterley's Lover. She has disentangled connections--roots--between them and their participants, and emerged with a great sweeping symphony of a novel.

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

The Tempestuous History of Lady Chatterley's Lover

Lady Chatterley's Lover, unexpurgated Penguin edition During the 1920s, author D.H. Lawrence wrote several manuscript versions of his famous Lady Chatterley's Lover, as is reflected in Alison MacLeod's 2021 historical novel Tenderness. Lawrence's earlier novel The Rainbow had been banned for its exploration of human desire, including a lesbian affair, and his agent was hesitant to commercially publish Lady Chatterley's Lover due to its sexually explicit depictions of the extramarital relationship between the title character and gamekeeper Oliver Mellors. Lawrence took matters into his own hands, arranging for a private printing of a limited edition in Florence, Italy, through Giuseppe Orioli at the Tipografia Giuntina.

These 1,000 signed and numbered copies reflected the bookmaker's art...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Alison MacLeod

If you liked Tenderness, try these:

  • Detransition, Baby jacket

    Detransition, Baby

    by Torrey Peters

    Published 2021

    About this book

    Reese almost had it all: a loving relationship with Amy, an apartment in New York City, a job she didn't hate. She had scraped together what previous generations of trans women could only dream of: a life of mundane, bourgeois comforts. The only thing missing was a child.

  • Hamnet jacket

    Hamnet

    by Maggie O'Farrell

    Published 2021

    About this book

    More by this author

    England, 1580: The Black Death creeps across the land, an ever-present threat, infecting the healthy, the sick, the old and the young, alike. The end of days is near, but life always goes on.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    The Office of Historical Corrections
    by Danielle Evans
    In The Office of Historical Corrections, the second story collection from Danielle Evans, readers ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book of Mother
    The Book of Mother
    by Violaine Huisman
    Fictionalizing the life of author Violaine Huisman's own mother, this debut novel is split into ...
  • Book Jacket
    People from My Neighborhood
    by Hiromi Kawakami
    People from My Neighborhood is exactly what it sounds like — an unnamed narrator recounts a ...
  • Book Jacket
    Win Me Something
    by Kyle Lucia Wu
    Kyle Lucia Wu's Win Me Something opens with a young woman named Willa explaining that she did not ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Beasts of a Little Land
    by Juhea Kim

    An epic story of love, war, and redemption set against the backdrop of the Korean independence movement.

Who Said...

I always find it more difficult to say the things I mean than the things I don't.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.