CR: The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

I never thought that I’d say this, but I have discovered that there is something beautifully endearing about 18th Century literature. I know, tie me to a bookcase and shoot me, for I am enjoying Wuthering Heights.

I decided to start The French Lieutenant’s Woman a couple of nights ago, when I was completely knackered and needed something relaxing to get me to sleep. I read Fowles’ The Collector earlier this summer, which is an absolute gem of a book (albeit, not very relaxing), so I was expecting something pretty good. And oh! I’m in love!

So far, there’s apparently not a lot to the story. There’s a couple (Ernestina and Charles), and the wonderful Miss Sarah, who wanders to the sea in the hope that her jilted lover will return. That’s all I’ve found out so far. But I wasn’t looking for action; if I wanted murder and mystery and cannibalism, I’d be raiding my dad’s extensive collection of John Grishams, or the Oresteia. In a ridiculous contrast with my cynical, sarcastic nature, I actually wanted to read about love and happiness.

Shock horror disaster.

Although not technically an 18th Century novel, French Lieutenant’s Woman is very much in the style of one – i.e. using eighteen words when two would do. Normally, I’m not a fan of that kind of thing. I like shit to get done efficiently, with minimal fuss, but this time, my sentimental side (approximately 8% of my personality, in all honesty) is reigning. Take this extract:

Charles sat up, tore off his nightcap, made Sam throw open the windows, and supporting himself on his hands, stared at the sunlight that poured into the room. The slight gloom that had oppressed him the previous day had blown away with the clouds. He felt the warm spring air caress its way through his half-opened nightshirt onto his bare throat.

That’s a beautifully eloquent way of saying that Sam woke up and looked out of the open window. That’s also what the entire novel is like. Gloriously descriptive, painstakingly long, but I’m hoping that the pain will be worth it.

See you in another three months, when I’ve managed to crawl my way out of the pile of essays.

Have you read this novel? Or want to recommend any other 18th Century-style literature (sweet Jesus, I never thought I’d be asking that!)? Drop me a line!

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5 thoughts on “CR: The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

  1. Oh, I love 18th centrury literature! 😊 Wuthering Heights is probably my favourite, but The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is a close second. I would highly recommend it! Thomas Hardy is an amazing author, too.

    Liked by 1 person

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