The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

A regular sleep pattern was worth sacrificing for this baby. This is a beautiful, ground-breaking novel that also broke my heart whilst at it. Will (possibly) change how you think about the Victorian novel, because the narrator apparently takes great pleasure in screwing with your mind. It’s like a Victorian, romantic Kafka.

The basic premise of this novel is an enigmatic woman (Sarah; the French Lieutenant’s Woman), a mildly dissatisfied man, and a love-not-love story. Said mildly dissatisfied man is Charles, landed gentry and already engaged to someone else (the cheeky bugger), and Sarah is one of the most intriguing female characters I’ve ever chanced upon. She’s portrayed as an other-worldly creature with an infinite understanding of other people and the world she lives, and manages to subvert (almost) every single expectation of a woman inflicted upon her in society. You go girl.

Despite the fact that this is a (somewhat) romantic novel, I felt that the romance was not often at the forefront of the story, rather, it was the fact that choices were being made, and the entire book was dictated by said choices. Like choosing to cut off an engagement, to leave, to just stop. Choices that may have been made, or not, according to the omnipotent, unreliable narrator who is totally aware that they’re writing a book, and sometimes just take a break from the story to fill you in on their thoughts on love and the role of the narrator. They’re like me – they burble on for a bit, realise that actually, there is a task at hand, then revert back to the story.

I’m not normally one for romance, but I loved The Collector, and thought that I’d give another one of Fowles’ a go. Not a choice that I regret, because I find that – I never thought I’d say this – 18th/19th Century style literature is beautifully relaxing. I won’t be saying that in the exam next year (you can be rest assured that I’ll be nervously sweating my way through), but in my comfortable year 12 position, I’m loving it. Every passage seems to have required the use of a thesaurus (after all, why use two words when ten will do?), which has worked wonders for my lexical density. Not to mention the beefing up of my arms after carrying this one round for a few weeks – it’s a whopper of a book.

I absolutely loved this novel. Yes, it’s long winded (but in a country-walk kind of way), but sweet mother of god, it’s crafted beautifully. The art at its best.

Have you read The French Lieutenant’s Woman, or want to recommend any other work by John Fowles? Drop me a line 🙂

Also I’ve started a parody account for Iago because I’m English! Literature! Trash! And it gives me the opportunity to be particularly vile. Link here: It’s A Genuine Opinion. Go wild.

 

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