A novel based on the untold story of D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover


THE SUNDAY TIMES: a Best Paperback of 2022

THE NEW YORK TIMES: a Book of the Year

THE SPECTATOR: a Book of the Year

THE HINDUSTAN TIMES: a Book of the Year


SUNDAY TIMES: Historical Fiction Book of the Month

PUBLISHERS WEEKLY Book of the Week (starred)

THE TABLET: a Book of the Year

THE WHITE REVIEW: a Book of the Year

APPLE BOOKS: a Book of the Month

GOLDSBORO (UK): Premier Book of September, signed limited edition

Waterstones signed special edition


‘In her novel Tenderness, Alison MacLeod traces Lady Chatterley’s sources in the thickets of Lawrence’s own biography, then follows its tortured progress towards the light through the indecency trial. In doing so, she offers up two visions of what a novelist can be – the novelist as alchemist, turning the straw of his life into gold and not counting the cost, and the novelist as historian of ideas. Her focus shifts elegantly, imagining Lawrence as he nurtures ideas in sequences rich with poetic memory, then recounting the trial with journalistic rigour… 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… [A] propulsive, addictive, joyous read… Victories for freedom should be sung from the rooftops. That is what MacLeod has done.’ — Barney Norris, the Guardian

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. [T]riumphant… this places MacLeod among the best of contemporary novelists.’ —Publishers Weekly, starred review

‘Here’s an ever-rebellious Lawrence, dying of tuberculosis in the south of France in 1930. And, doubling back, a depiction of his World War I exile in rural Sussex with the cultivated British family whose lives he would painfully distort in a widely read story. Here’s the 20-year-old granddaughter of the war widow whose husband was humiliated by that story, studying Lawrence at Cambridge in the late 1950s, unaware of the family connection — until she’s asked to play a part in the trial against his publisher. Here’s that trial, full of drama, even though we know what the verdict will be. And, most provocatively, here are Italian views, in the autumn of 1920, of Lawrence’s tryst with the woman who would inspire his novel’s heroine. Such slicing and dicing and speculating shouldn’t work. And yet, against the odds, it does. –The New York Times, Alida Becker

American edition

‘epic… A joyous celebration of the artistic life’ — Cathy Galvin, The Tablet

‘Tenderness ‘will change forever the way we read Lady Chatterley, in the same way that Jane Rhys’s Wide Sargasso Sea changed Jane Eyre’.—The Spectator, Frances Wilson

Tenderness is her fourth novel and it shows a mastery of her craft. Aside from being a thrilling read in its own right, the book reminds the reader of just what an explosive book Lady Chatterley’s Lover remains. Not for its sexual content: but because it’s about real bonds between human beings, relationships that are not transactional, or based on money or advantage. It’s about people trying to be kind to each other, to truly care for each other. It is this that remains – in the often unkind 21st century – ‘revolutionary’, as MacLeod says.’ — Erica Wagner, Harper’s Bazaar

‘…immersive and engaging, drawing you into its utterly fascinating world that careens through different eras of the 20th century. Its vivid prose flows, taking you back to the linguistic brilliance of the Modernists… Reading Tenderness, a joyous celebration of Lawrence’s much-despised novel and a triumph of imagination, made me fall in love with him all over again.’ — Nawaid Anjum, the Hindustan Times

‘Glorious and arresting … A widescreen novel‘ ― Jonathan Myerson, the Observer

‘Alison MacLeod’s story about DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover is a triumph, a fabulous invention rooted in a cultural history so full of outrageous incident it’s both shocking and hilarious. At the same time, there’s such careful, tender interrogation of the writer himself … But it’s never just clever: this is a book that is a very beautiful gift, worthy of its subject, the often out-of-fashion DH Lawrence who packed so much living and writing into his short life… [and] those on whom he modelled the characters for his stories, including the woman who was the real Constance Chatterley.’ — Rosemary Sorenson, The Bendigo Writers Festival Review

‘At the heart of Tenderness, Alison MacLeod’s ambitious fourth novel, are the creation of DH Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and its later life as a work supposedly too obscene to be freely available to readers. Weaving together fact and fiction with impressive skill, MacLeod marshals a number of very different but interlinked narratives… Tenderness is…as life-affirming as Lawrence’s own fiction always aimed to be.’ — Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times, Historical Fiction Book of the Month

‘A sublime read’ — the Calcutta Review

‘[A] large-hearted celebration of Lady Chatterley’s Lover. . . . MacLeod moves, with dexterity and ease, between the heads of Lawrence and various defenders of the novel. . . . [Tenderness] is an ambitious sprawl of a book, splendidly extreme in its magnitude, yet always elegant; a defence of complicated thinking and embodied life.— Lara Feigel, the Guardian

‘an absolute marvel of a book’— Penelope Debelle, the Adelaide Advertiser

‘This legacy of censorship is animated in Alison MacLeod’s fiction homage to Lawrence’s novel, which captures the romanticism of the author and his heroine. But it also does something else: Tenderness is daring and innovative… The structure is unexpected and the story is epic and bold, and to quote from the book, it is also big-spirited and alive.’ ABC, Sarah L’Estrange, ‘Best Books of September’

‘Alison MacLeod has conjured a hugely daring, intrigue-packed, decade-jumping doorstopper that teasingly blends fiction and actuality with wit and panache… Lawrence espoused a philosophy of ‘naturalness’ and this novel makes great play with double lives and secret selves. It also suggests how great books reveal truths, making the case not only for the author’s most famous work, but for the power of literature itself.’ — Stephanie Cross, Daily Mail

‘I enjoyed every word of this 600 page brick of a book… one of those rare books which made me feel sad and bereft at the end because I’d finished it and would have to move on.’ —Susan Elkin, freelance reviewer

‘Through the lens of his greatest work, Macleod has created a deep sketch of D H Lawrence, the man, in all his faults and glory. It’s an experience to read a book such as Tenderness. All of the art of writing is on display here; storylines, language, theme, and symbolism building to a complex piece that cannot be easily summarised, but which is felt for long after it’s done.’ — P. S. Nissim, the Deccan Herald

‘dizzyingly researched …an intricate narrative that is not only about Lawrence’s novel and the ensuing court trials its publishers fought in the decades after it was privately published in 1928, but also about the lives the book has affected since… MacLeod… shows that books are worth more than the sum of their four-letter words.’— Cassandra Drudi, Quill & Quire

‘Powerful, moving, brilliant — 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.’ –-  ELIZABETH GILBERT, author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things

‘compelling… a passionate exploration of fiction’s ability to restore a heartbeat to events otherwise consigned to the bloodlessness of historical time’ — Gregory Day, the Sydney Morning Herald

Tenderness is a triumph and it will conquer your heart. Stunning, illuminating, but also, profoundly moving.’ – ELIF SHAFAK, author of 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World

‘Revisiting D.H. Lawrence’s 1928 novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover (the banned story of a sexually frustrated wife) we look back at 20th century censorship and the ensuing 30-year obscenity battle for publication. Macleod considers the period at the end of the author’s life when he was in exile on the Mediterranean coast via an unexpected supporter—a pre-White House Jackie Kennedy. Tenderness has all the elements of great historically based fiction, from vivid characters to resonant contemporary concerns, and it succeeds in delivering a powerful story beautifully told.’ —The Center for Fiction (USA)

Tenderness is a passionate, epic joy.  It’s a paean to artistic imagination and freedom, and also to the messy complexity of humanity. The characters leap from the page with astonishing life that is all the more impressive given their historical fame.  MacLeod’s prose is a masterclass–gripping, lyrical, witty, razor-sharp and filled with, yes, tenderness. I will never forget it.’ — MADELINE MILLER, author of Circe and The Song of Achilles

‘…a compelling read. In keen and elegant prose, Macleod dramatises a significant moment in Britain’s cultural and social history, when the country stood on the cusp of embracing wider personal freedoms. Her novel vindicates reading as a transcendental act.’ — Tomiwa Owolade, the Literary Review

‘Alison MacLeod has bored deep into significant cultural fault-lines of the twentieth century: DH 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.’ —TIM PEARS, author of The West Country Trilogy

‘As sublimely crafted as a novel could ever be. I’m in awe… 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.’ – ISABELLA TREE, author of Wilding: the return of nature to a British farm

Tenderness is an extraordinary novel… It’s a very contemporary book about trust, love, secrecy, surveillance, disinformation, and power. The characters live and breathe on the page, and passages from Lady Chatterley are skillfully interwoven into their thoughts in such a way as to illumine both this novel, and Lawrence’s original. I’m now re-reading Lady Chatterley myself, with a much greater sense of connection and admiration for what Lawrence was attempting, in his final and most passionate novel.’ –Jane Rogers, Writers Review

A ‘bewitchingly epic story… All these elements mix together to say something much bigger about the importance of literature and how it tangibly integrates into our lives and culture. Great books are a reflection of the present moment but they also move us forward by enhancing our sensibilities. “Tenderness” expresses this while telling a complex and riveting story of its own.’ — Eric Anderson, Lonesome Reader

‘MacLeod’s novel is tender not in the manner of a gentle lover, but in the way we are tender after the most passionate, open and human forms of intimacy.’ –Joe Bedford, Everybody’s Reviewing

‘One of this century’s greatest literary achievements…’ –Annie Kapur, GEEKS

‘a gripping story, the book examines issues of censorship, expression, power games, tipping points, morality, artistic singularity and responsibility, and the courage needed to put your head above the parapet.’ — Surroundings Two

Tenderness is a feast of a novel. This is easily one of the best current reads. And it all has to do with what once was an obscure novel nearly killed in the cradle.’ –Harry Chamberlain, Comics Grinder

‘Gorgeously written and meticulously conceived, Alison MacLeod’s Tenderness presents history as it didn’t happen, and in so doing casts a new light on history as it did happen.’ — DAVID LEAVITT, author of Shelter in Place

MacLeod’s story … fictionalises just enough of the historical record to create a new stage – several in fact – on which to explore the dramatic histories of the novel often knowingly referred to as simply ‘Lady C’.  [She] is utterly unafraid of her scope and unintimidated by the prestige of her characters… A novel of this epic undertaking could easily have veered too far over into bitter realism, high flung melodrama, political thriller, or a drier legal or literary history. However MacLeod has made a bold choice… [Tenderness] is above all a novel about readers. About the ripples into and across their lives, all from a story, the way that story is told, and when it is allowed to be told…. [It is a] work of depth and complexity, of shifting tones and times converging on – well, if not a truth, then the search for some greater, more authentic questioning of what truth can be, and, perhaps, what tenderness may be found in the asking. — Jess Moody, LUNATE

‘Bold, compassionate and lyrical, I found myself totally lost in it.’ — ALICE JOLLY, critic and author of Mary Ann Sate, Imbecile

‘TENDERNESS is amazing. It is a book about love and struggle – the subjects of all the greatest novels. It lifted my heart and tore at it. I loved the novel so much I have to go back and read it again. Genius’ — VICKI FEAVER, author of I Want! I Want!

‘Fans of Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife will love the epic Tenderness― Vogue Australia

‘…takes the reader across the decades to interweave and pull together stories of love and literature, sensuality and censorship. With a powerful mixing of the personal and the political, of fact and fiction, Alison MacLeod’s latest novel is a sweeping and immersive literary treat.’ –Living Magazine

‘Sprawling and ambitious … Completely engrossing’ ― Good Reading Magazine

‘A profoundly moving, luminous novel revolving around D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Tenderness is an endlessly insightful meditation on art, politics, betrayal and the nature of intimacy.’ — ‘Waterstones Says’

‘This exceptionally written and deeply affecting novel centres on the Lady Chatterley obscenity trial, and weaves a deft and compelling plot around it. Grand in scope, but intimate in feeling, it is a must read.’ — NetGalley




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