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The French Lieutenant's Woman by John…

The French Lieutenant's Woman (original 1969; edition 1971)

by John Fowles

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4,73777991 (3.85)1 / 330
Title:The French Lieutenant's Woman
Authors:John Fowles
Info:HarperCollins Distribution Services (1971), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 399 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:SE LoreenGibLizDayCatSit, CV VillageGreen, AR StephMein, SE AnGoo, 4+1, SO HRiso

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The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles (1969)


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Showing 1-5 of 72 (next | show all)
I don’t think novels come much better than this. I rated this very highly when I first read it when it was published, I really enjoyed it again some years later and with this rereading, I find myself once again enmeshed by Fowles’ creation. It’s his style as much as anything that I appreciate. It’s largely third person limited narration allows Fowles not just to show what goes on in Charles’ compromised head but it also allows the reader to see the way Charles deceives himself in that uneasy way he has of explaining his relationship to Sarah.

When not in this mode, we have, of course, the author’s own voice, all very appropriate in an emulation of a Victorian novel though I’d go back a bit further as I find his voice more reminiscent of Fielding’s with that edge of humour continually there, that observer’s readiness to recognise the moral incongruities. I really like the way Fowles makes continuous allusions to the modern day too, showing his feelings and inviting the reader to share them. Altogether it’s a captivating approach Fowles takes.
And then there’s the humour regularly punctuating the novel, whether through the way Fowles both whimsically and didactically inserts himself as a character a couple of times or in some of his descriptions such as the one I found near the start where Mrs Poulteney, worrying about her salvation when she dies and therefore leaving money to the Church in her will to make up for the lack of generosity in her life, is still fearful that ‘God might not be present at the reading of that document’. This humour is matched by Fowles’ later first ending for the novel when Mrs Poulteney finds herself consigned to hell.

Then there are the two other endings right at the end of the novel. These, punctuated by the author discussing what they mean, make this a very modern book as well as so Victorian. It reminds me of McEwan’s ‘Atonement’ part of the time and Hardy’s ‘Tess of the d’Ubervilles’ at other times. Fowles certainly offers the reader a lot to think about. Initially it’s a bit shocking to have the authorial intrusions, going much further than a Victorian novelist would as he highlights the fictitious nature o what he has written.

This book has numerous focuses – our essential isolation, chance, time . . . as well as the nature of the novel. It invites us to be involved in a love story and to think not just about our assessments of the characters but what dictates our own behaviour too. It’s not a novel to read quickly but one to muse over, even when you want the plot to move forwards. ( )
1 vote evening | Jul 3, 2015 |
I read this for its connections with Lyme Regis. I knew virtually all the locations in the book so it made for a fun read. Fowles did put in some rather unnecessary material, but on the whole: NICE! Read May 2015 on return flight to USA.

"...these two men still lived in a world where strangers of intelligence shared a common landscape of knowledge, a community of information, with a known set of rules and attached meanings. What doctor today knows the classics? What amateur can talk comprehensively to scientists? These two men's was a world without the tyranny of specialization...."

"There was no doubt. He was one of life's victims, one more ammonite caught in the vast movements of history, stranded now for eternity, a potential turned to a fossil." ( )
  untraveller | May 29, 2015 |
I hardly remembered the book, and was surprised by the meta side of it. It was intrusive, but in the end helped process the end (or one of several endings). I was not, however, convinced by Sarah having had a child (the 90 second sex was funny). A bit annoyed by the meta ending. But an enjoyable read. ( )
  KymmAC | Dec 2, 2014 |
Of course this is a famous movie, but it is a classic book written in superlative English. Highly recommended. ( )
  Benedict8 | Jul 16, 2014 |
Not a historical novel in the usual "lusty, busty, gusty" sense, but an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of the serious psychological novels of the later Victorian era.
  antiquary | Jul 9, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Fowlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Velde, Frédérique van derTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Every emancipation is a restoration of the human world and of human relationships to man himself.
Marx, Zur Judenfrage(1844)
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An easterly is the most disagreeable wind in Lyme Bay - Lyme Bay being that largest bite from the underside of England's outstretched south-western leg - and a person of curiosity could at once have deduced several strong possibilities about the pair who began to walk down the quay at Lyme Regis, the small but ancient eponym of the inbite, one incisively sharp and blustery morning in the late March of 1867.
"Fiction usually pretends to conform to the reality: the writer puts the conflicting wants and then describes the fight - but in fact fixes the fight, letting the want he himself favors win. And we judge writers of fiction both by the skill they show in fixing the fights (in other words in persuading us that they were not fixed) and by the kind of fighter they fix in favor of: the good one, the tragic one, the evil one, the funny one and so on."

"That is the great distinction between the sexes. Men see objects, women see the relationship between objects. Whether the objects need each other, love each other, match each other. It is an extra dimension of feeling we men are without and one that makes war abhorrent to all real women—and absurd . . . War is a psychosis caused by an inability to see relationships."
When Charles left Sarah on her cliff ledge, I ordered him to walk straight back to Lyme Regis. But he did not; he gratuitously turned and went down to the Dairy.
- p. 81
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0316291161, Paperback)

As part of Back Bay's ongoing effort to make the works of John Fowles available in uniform trade paperback editions, two major works in the Fowles canon are reissued to coincide with the publication of Wormholes, the author's long-awaited new collection of essays and occasional writings.

Perhaps the most beloved of Fowles's internationally bestselling works, The French Lieutenant's Woman is a feat of seductive storytelling that effectively invents anew the Victorian novel. "Filled with enchanting mysteries and magically erotic possibilities" (New York Times), the novel inspired the hugely successful 1981 film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons and is today universally regarded as a modern classic.

In A Maggot, originally published in 1985, Fowles reaches back to the eighteenth century to offer readers a glimpse into the future. Time magazine called the result "hypnotic....A remarkable achievement. Part detective story, part crackling courtroom drama....An immensely rich and readable novel".

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:53 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

While in Lyme Regis to visit his fiancee, Ernestina Freeman, Charles Smithson, a 32-year-old paleontologist, becomes fascinated by the mysterious Sarah Woodruff. A fallen woman said to have been jilted by a French officer, Sarah is a pariah to the well-bred society that Charles and Ernestina are a part of. While searching for fossils in a wooded coastal area, Charles encounters Sarah alone, and his curiosity and pity for her soon evolve into other emotions. It is not clear who seduces whom, but when another opportunity presents itself, Charles embraces Sarah passionately. Shortly thereafter, Sarah disappears, having been dismissed from domestic employment by the tyrannical do-gooder Mrs. Poultenay. Charles finds her in a room in Exeter, where he declares and demonstrates his love. Inspired by his image of Sarah as a valiant rebel against Victorian conventions, Charles rejects the constricting, respectable life Ernestina represents for him. He breaks off their engagement and is harassed with legal action for breach of contract. Meanwhile, Sarah vanishes again, and Charles spends 20 months scouring the world for her, finally tracing her to the lodgings of Dante Gabriel Rossetti in London.… (more)

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