The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman

Book - 20uu | 1st ed.
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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.
Publisher: Boston : Little, Brown 20uu
Edition: 1st ed.
Copyright Date: ©1969
ISBN: 9780316291163
Branch Call Number: F FOWLE-J
Characteristics: 467 pages ; 25 cm


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Jul 31, 2018

For a while, this book was nearing the four star category. That all came crashing down with Chapter 13. It retains two and a half stars because there are large parts of it that are very well written. John Fowles, clearly a talented author, needlessly impales himself on his own pike. While I personally believe postmodernism is intellectual silliness, I can accept deliberate obscurity when done in a clever manner. While I personally believe authorial intrusion, especially in works of fiction, backs the reader out of the story and is, thus, harmful to the enjoyment of the narration itself, I can accept being talked to directly when it is done artfully. Fowles, apparently not appreciating the difference between rhetoric and bombast, just blunders away what should have been a fine work through poor technique, or perhaps poor execution, or maybe he just wanted to write a sub-standard novel out of arrogance? Who knows...and who cares. The French Lieutenant's Woman is a mighty swing. He fouled the ball straight back, which means he didn't miss a home run by much, but miss he did.

Dec 22, 2014

"But I live in the age of Alain Robbe-Gillet and Roland Barthes; if this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in the modern sense of the word."
English writer re-imagines the Victorian novel for the modern era. While remaining faithful to the form and themes of 19th century novels, he also inserts what could not be part of those novels, namely sex and characters discussing controversial subjects like Darwin, the fossil record, socialism, and evolution. Marx and Tennyson provide many of the chapter's epigraphs. Fowles, like a good post-modernist, addresses the reader, which astute readers will know is actually an old device that goes back to the roots of the English novel (Fielding, Smollett). Unlike many post-modernists, this works both as a conventional novel and as a play on a novel. If you've seen the film (Harold Pinter did the screenplay), which added a present-set storyline, the book is far more creative, provocative, and absorbing. Also check out "The Collector" by the same author.

Dec 10, 2009

Sarah's character is portrayed ambiguously, leaving the reader to wonder if she is genuine or slyly manipulative. Three different endings are presented for the reader to choose from. A dark feeling of tragedy is woven throughout the novel.


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