[MacLeod's] focus shifts elegantly, imagining Lawrence as he nurtures ideas in sequences rich with poetic memory, then recounting the trial with journalistic rigour. Here she is aware of the vantage point she writes from – when EM Forster enters, 'he nods to us as he crosses the threshold of the court, the only person yet to notice. He is a novelist of rank, and he senses the eyes of posterity.' The novel ends with a deeply moving imagined sequence, an afterlife of happiness for Constance and Mellors that is beautiful and unexpected. These shifts seem effortless because MacLeod’s subject sits above them all, uniting threads – the story of how a story made its way into the world. It’s a brilliant insight to build a novel on, all of us knowing the book will triumph and willing it towards us. It makes for a propulsive, addictive, joyous read ... The only questionable leap is MacLeod’s decision to counterpoint the history of Lady Chatterley with a story about Jacqueline Kennedy during her husband’s presidential campaign, and the tribulations of the FBI agent who covertly photographs her attending a similar 'Chatterley trial' in the US. This sequence, it should be noted, is masterfully achieved, chronicling FBI director J Edgar Hoover’s efforts to keep the book from the world, and full of deep resonances with the story unfolding on the other side of the Atlantic. But it never really impacts on the journey of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and seems somehow separate, useful for rhythmic variation but distinct from the rest ... 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. Victories for freedom should be sung from the rooftops. That is what MacLeod has done.
... bold, adventurous and unpredictable. It is also Lawrentian, insofar as MacCleod uses real people as copy, except that her people have died so can no longer sue ... Working within the constraint of the facts (there are fifteen pages of endnotes), MacCleod allows her fictions to take root ... At times such as these, we feel, MacLeod has felt the need to jettison some of the 'better, stranger, stronger' stuff in pursuit of interiority ... The inventions are compelling, and the blending of the Kennedys with the Chatterleys is wittily done.
... arresting ... This is a documentary-style novel in the tradition of John Dos Passos or Vasily Grossman, with tinges of Didion and Mailer to brighten the way ... There is so much to enjoy here, and it’s only when MacLeod attempts the inner imaginings of the power players that the prose becomes less wieldy ... And the novel could perhaps have done without so many pages amounting to little more than court transcript with added adverbs or biographical summation – the Greatham colony sequence quickly turns into a biblical deluge of famous names ... MacLeod’s novel is at its best when it stops and dwells on all of the imagined encounters, allowing them room to blossom and give us some genuine, and genuinely convincing, moments where humans seek to find and show tenderness for one another. After all, Tenderness was Lawrence’s alternative title for Lady Chatterley.
... unwieldy but profoundly moving and, finally, quite brilliant ... All of these plotlines swerve together around the London obscenity trial, (too many) great chunks of which are included in the text. Amid the novel’s surfeit of story, MacLeod evokes Lawrence’s world beautifully, and her Kennedy subplot works shockingly well, as does the students’ relationship, which evokes the passion that powered all of Lawrence’s work. Overstuffed, yes, but brimming with deeply felt life.
... fascinating if overlong ... it is artful, sometimes fascinating, erotic but could stand to be chopped down by about a hundred pages ... interesting, well-written, sprawling ... The book has its fascinating points ... The book is quite long, which makes sense for its scope, and yet I think it could have chopped out around a hundred pages and enjoyed a snappier narrative ... But I can’t fault MacLeod: even though I was occasionally distracted by the flowchart necessary to keep all of these characters straight, I felt absolutely compelled by the narrative she wove. Her Jackie is very compelling, as are her ruminations upon the poetry of erotic desire ... recommended for any reader who wants to slide back into the sixties and learn a lesson about how important freedom of expression truly is.
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 ... MacLeod covers an astonishingly broad range of incidents, eras, and themes in vivid prose, and depicts Lawrence’s supporters and opponents with equal insight and sympathy ... A triumphant demonstration of that power, this places MacLeod among the best of contemporary novelists.
... an inspired fusion of fact and fiction ... To appreciate the delights of MacLeod's masterful novel, which takes its title from the original title of Lady Chatterley's Lover, one must have the patience to let it emerge from some dubious decisions about where to begin and how to unfold. These miscalculations recede as the full measure of the book becomes clear, about halfway through its more than 600 pages; MacLeod's material might have provided another author with several novels, a few stories, and an essay or two ... Again and again, one feels eager to know where fact meets fiction, but the author is not inclined to tell us ... If you want more, she continues, go back to the original sources. Call us lazy, but we might prefer more detailed notes. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy here. At a time when sex is so often linked with exploitation and abuse, Lawrence's central equation between physical passion and profound emotional connection is moving and nearly exotic. MacLeod's interpretation of this gospel includes a lovely Lawrentian scene of sex in a library and a thought, attributed to Jackie Kennedy, about the power derived from sex ... Seriously brilliant, seriously flawed, ambitious, and delicious.