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It's the fall of 1920, and the Chatterleys are settling in at their ancestral home, Wragby. Like its name, Wragby is not beautiful.
It starts off badly and gets worse. The house itself is boring and inoffensive, but the view is totally spoiled by a really dreary village next to an even drearier coal mine: Tevershall. Welcome to the Midlands. We hope you don't mind that the air is constantly full of"quaver[ing], dappling and swelling and contracting"coal smoke (2.1).
You probably think England is rolling green hills and adorable thatched cottages. Connie certainly does. When she realizes that she's fated to live in this industrial pit of despair for the rest of her life, she just sort of shrugs and decides that she isn't going to think about it.
Clifford swears he likes the Midlands better than London, because at least the people are determined. Well, they certainly don't have anything else going for them—they're ugly and mean, and all they want from their landlord is to be left alone. They don't care much for the rector, either, since he's all church and Anglican, and they're all Methodist and nonconforming. At least, the women are. The men aren't much of anything.
Eventually Connie figures out that the best thing to do is leave them alone. Clifford is a bit of a stuck-up prig, and he certainly doesn't win any friends.
So, life could kind of stink. Luckily, Connie and Clifford have a pretty good relationship. They're not passionate, star-crossed lovers, but they get along and he depends on her. Not physically—he's got servants and a nice wheelchair—but mentally.
With Connie's help, Clifford starts writing stories. They're clever and a little mean, and written as though they all take place on a stage. In other words, just like modern life. They become popular, and he absorbs himself in them.
Meanwhile, Connie is still supposed to run the house, which means telling the servants what to do. But all the servants are old and have been with the house forever, so really they just end up doing what they've always done, like a big machine.
That's great for Clifford's sister, who still hates Connie and likes seeing everything stay the same, but not so great for Connie, who's gone from living it up as a single lady in the big city to moldering away as a housewife with a guy who, even if he could have sex, doesn't seem like he'd really want to.
When Connie's dad comes to visit, he tells her (and Clifford—um, awkward) that he's afraid she'll become a "demi-vierge," or a half-virgin.
In other words—and please excuse our language, but this is an erotic book that was banned from pretty much every bookshelf for decades, so what are you expecting, really—he wants her to get laid, which is totally gross when it comes from your dad.
We know that she needs to get laid because her father observes that she's "getting thin… angular. It's not her style" (2.30).
Clifford's nerves are as impotent as his man-parts, and he can't work up the courage to talk to her about it. So they go on for two years living a kind of non-life. Connie isn't unhappy, exactly, but she has this weird feeling that everything is happening in a kind of dream.
People come visit, but even that doesn't change anything. They don't see her for who she is—which, let's remember, is a well-educated, artistic, formerly free woman. Clifford's friends and family look at her and just see a harmless country girl. Time goes on. And on. And on.