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A Maggot

3.55  ·  Rating Details ·  2,248 Ratings  ·  102 Reviews
In the spring of 1736 four men and one woman, all traveling under assumed names, are crossing the Devonshire countryside en route to a mysterious rendezvous. Before their journey ends, one of them will be hanged, one will vanish, and the others will face a murder trial. Out of the truths and lies that envelop these events, John Fowles has created a novel that is at once a ...more
ebook, 464 pages
Published April 2nd 2013 by Little, Brown and Company (first published 1985)
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mark monday
Jul 23, 2011 mark monday rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: into-the-past
i tried reading this when i was 15, i think around the time it first came out. perhaps i was too ambitious, because the novel was too much for me, and i gave up. i suppose i just didn't get it. but i can be competitive - even with books, even with myself. so i promised young mark monday that the battle wasn't over, that i'd return to re-engage 25 years later, when i had become an old, wise man...and i would eventually conquer this one.

well, mark, it is now 25 years later.


...and so i p
Mar 24, 2011 William1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 20-ce, uk
Dazzling. Stunning. The best I've read of him.
On second reading, the novel holds up remarkably well. It seems at first a study in the perpetuation of literary suspense. The book jumps between third-person narration; a kind of mock-legal deposition which permits multiple narrative voices; essayistic asides, and epistolary elements. The third-person voice often refers to the gap between events at the time of the story--the 1730s--and our present day. For example: "Closer,...groups of children nois
_A Maggot_ is an interesting novel. It can be approached as an historical mystery, a meta-fictional experiment of mixed narrative form and genre, and a meditation on the injustices inherent in the 18th century social, political and religious mindset. The story proper details a mysterious journey undertaken by five individuals across the English landscape whose destination and purpose is unknown. In addition to this each of the individuals is not what they appear, and may not even be what they th ...more
Mar 19, 2008 Izzy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wrote this review a few years ago. I just moved to a new apartment, and while I rearranged my books in the perfect order, I came across my copy of A Maggot and remembered this, so I shall copy and paste:


My previous experience reading the work of John Fowles is sporadic but rather steady: while taking a “Literature of the Occult” class in college, The Magus was required reading and sometime last winter I made it through The Collector (recommended to me by Maxim magazine, of
Nov 06, 2009 Stela rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone

The make-believe history is a well-known trick of the postmodernist literature. Here we have a celebrated criminal in Margaret Atwood’s “Alias Grace”, a famous gangster in Mircea Mihaes’ “Woman in Red”, a brought to life portrait in Tracy Chevalier’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring”, and in all these novels and others reality and fiction are blended beyond recognition, to create literature’s second reality. A sort of non-fiction novels, to borrow Truman Capote’s very deceptive term.

However, whether t
Oct 04, 2010 Abby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
A shaggy dog story. John Fowles' prologue tells us the book began with an image of travellers on horseback. For years, though finding this image striking, he was prevented from doing anything with it because he didn't know who the travellers were or where they were going. Then he worked out a way of writing a book anyway without knowing this.

It's eighteenth-century England and the travellers are journeying through the countryside for some hidden purpose. Then this purpose is accomplished. We st
Mar 04, 2014 Sera rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sera by: Bookish
I found this book to be very strange. At the end of the book, there is an author's note, wherein Fowles describes what he was trying to accomplish when writing the novel. Instead of the note providing an illuminating experience, I found myself scratching my head even more, because I didn't really buy into Fowles attempt to get to B from A.

I found the first half of the book to be pretty interesting, but the second half - not so much. The book is a murder mystery and what happened in relation to t
May 27, 2012 Riff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Maggot: Another masterpiece from the intimidating mind of John Fowles. In this twisting mystery set in the early 18th century, Fowles is up to his old tricks with his magnificent cerebral teasing. A small group of travellers are on a very mysterious journey that will dance with life, death and madness - and where nothing is what it seems. It feels a playful old yarn until Fowles pulls the rug from under you, and we become deeply engaged with what, in modern times, would be termed a police inve ...more
Opening: A maggot is the larval stage of a winged creature; as is the written text, at least in the writer's hope.

In here is a character called Dorcas and for those of us who have watched and/or read Lark Rise to Candleford the phrase "what would Dorcas Lane do?" Is enough to send one to hide behind the curtains of a kidney shaped dressing table to start pulling out tresses by the mit full.

The 3 star is a hattip to the authorial skill, however the caveat is that I did not care for this tale - it
This is my 3rd John Fowles book, and I never fail to find him interesting. He seems to like to take well-trodden genres (Victorian romance in The French Lieutenant's Woman, historical who-done-it here), lull you into a sense of familiar normalcy, before blasting you with a cold bucket of meta-fictiony post-modernism. This time I was ready for it, and for the most part enjoyed the ride. I suspected that this book wasn't at all what it was pretending to be, and tried to read between the lines. Her ...more
Dec 20, 2014 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A magistrate's inquest, in the form of a discourse and dialogue, into a possible murder and a suicide, is the setting for an imaginative novel about the mother of Ann Lee, the founder of the Shaker sect. Written in archaic 18th c. English, Fowles proves he has a fine ear and feeling for the language; the story maintains suspense and drama throughout, as well as giving the spirit of Christian dissent in the very rigid and harsh English society. His last novel, and possibly the testament of his be ...more
This is a really tough book for me to review, because I am not quite sure that I got it. Or if the point of the book was that you were not supposed to get it. It starts out straight forward enough and enjoyably as a historical mystery novel. We know that the characters are not as they appear, and that there will be truths unveiled as we go along. We know there is a murder, and a disappearance, but then -what? This book sucks me in without ever satisfying my curiosity, and then goes off into some ...more
Jul 29, 2012 Cristina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this has to be one of my favorite books. What this book spoke to me was far beyond a sci-fi story: to me it dealt with topics like equality between genders and races (the feeling you get while reading the book is just how unfair people were treated according to gender and wealth and just how bedazzeled the lawyer is when the woman describes her journey in the utopian world/heaven? where everyone is equal.). I was very much amused at how people disregarded the book as a mediocre attempt a ...more
Sep 05, 2016 William rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Very strange and contrived. Unsatisfying ending.
Elizabeth Quinn
When I ran out of books to read during a beach vacation in Mazatlan, I found Fowles' 1985 novel A Maggot on a condo share shelf dominated by contemporary genre fiction, and on the strength of my reads of The Collector and The French Lieutenant's Woman, snapped it up. The story begins as an historical novel, with a group of five people -- four men and a woman -- traveling through rural England in 1736, and it's clear early on that none of these people are who they pretend to be. What is not clear ...more
Justin Mitchell
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Octavio Solis
Sep 11, 2016 Octavio Solis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I'll amend my review at a more convenient time, but this work dug its maggot deeply into me. Fine and infuriating novel.
Simon Mcleish
Feb 17, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in July 2004.

In The French Lieutenant's Woman, Fowles wrote a knowing twentieth century version of a nineteenth century novel. A Maggot is more conventionally a historical novel, set in 1736 but despite fitting better into the genre, it shares much of the ironic self awareness of Fowles' best known work.

The novel starts with something very small - a group of travellers riding across Exmoor, who stop overnight at a small village before heading on again. But a
As with the Pynchon, not his best, though better than the Pynchon.

Overall, I see his point about the Shakers, particularly after he argues it explicitly in the Epilogue, but that doesn't stop the narrative from bogging way way down in tedious theological argument, especially toward the end.
Apr 15, 2014 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is one of those books that is great while at the same time missing the mark. Fowles does such a good job setting the stage, in a particularly interesting use of shifting perspective that I found quite engrossing (I love blatantly untrustworthy narrators). Throughout the book, it feels that he is building slowly to something important. Then the culmination comes (I mean the not the religious stuff, but the culmination of the travellers' journey) just doesn't work, in my opinion. Fowles told ...more
Aug 19, 2008 Jessica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
At first I thought the maggot was something figurative, then a woman's testimony told me it was something real. The whole time I read this book, I was attempting to discover what it was really about, but all I concluded is that it's a good bed time book; which means I fell asleep shortly after nearly every time I tried reading it. I did not want to leave it unfinished because I loved the first book I read by Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman, so I kept truckin'. It is not a good book, althou ...more
Elke Koepping
Jan 12, 2016 Elke Koepping rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nach anfänglich einigen Fragezeichen in den Augen, hat mich die langsame Auflösung eines scheinbar historischen Kriminalfalls derart gefesselt, dass ich das Buch nicht mehr aus der Hand legen konnte. Die Verhörprotokolle zur Auflösung des Falles, die immer und immer wieder eine andere Perspektive, um nicht zu sagen: eine andere subjektive Wahrheit, enthüllen, sind höchst unterhaltsam geschrieben. Bemerkenswert ist der Kunstgriff, aus zeitgenössisch-moderner Sicht einen erfundenen Rückgriff in di ...more
Jun 08, 2008 Al rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I like John Fowles's work, so I must have bought this at a book sale in some distant past. I finally read it, and now I see why it has not been included among his best. He claims he wrote this based solely on a picture he had in his mind of a group of people traveling through an English wilderness is the early eighteenth century. I believe that. The plot (I use the term loosely) develops excruciatingly slowly.
Evidently Mr. Fowles couldn't make up his mind how to write the book, or perhaps he
Jan 25, 2010 Gary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're looking for something a little different, here is an odd book - odd format, odd language, odd events. Most of the way through the book, I would have been unable to tell you to what genre The Maggot belongs: Historical? Occult? Mystery? Gothic Thriller? Science Fiction?

It was not an easy read for me, due to the archaic language, but worth the effort, I think. A significant part of my enjoyment from reading this novel came from my struggle with the language, and it was the language that
I really love John Fowles writing. From the moment I open one of his books, I am transported willingly to wherever the author wants to take me. For some reason, I waited a really long time to read this book. It's probably the title, which brings images of the white insect feeding off of rotten meat. But Fowles tells his readers that his use of the term is from the old and obsolete "whim or quirk."

So the story isn't grotesque, it begins with a small party on horseback making it's way through the
Ahmet  Kaya
Dec 06, 2014 Ahmet Kaya rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
kitabın son 50 sayfası ciddi bir hayal kırıklığı yarattı bende, ilk 400 sayfasında geliştirilen kurgunun mükemmelliği karşısında. bir polisiye-gerilimin 18. yüzyıl ingilteresindeki politik, sosyal, kültürel ve dinsel esintileri-catismalari da içeren bir zenginlikle kurgulanması ve başta yaşanan olayı çözebilmek için okuyucuyu bilimsel açıklamalardan mistisizme, buyuculukten pagan tanrılarına kadar geniş bir yelpazeye sürüklemesi muazzam bir okuma zevki yaşattı, ancak bu tarz romanlarda hep olduğ ...more
Trent Fingland
An interesting book of historical fiction, written almost entirely in the form of Question/Answer; A 17th century lawyer, Henry Ayscough, interrogates various parties in an effort to discover the whereabouts of a missing son of an important and never-named nobleman.

This format by itself kept me pretty glued up until the three-quarters point, where I experienced a one-two punch to my enthusiasm due to the Q/A losing its initial charm combined with the questioning of the most key of key witnesses
Sep 20, 2012 Krit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this was not an experience I would retract, but I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The style of Q & A throughout most of the book was bold and at first daunting, but I think Fowles pulled it off well. All the characters came to life, and it was interesting to hear accounts of the same intriguing events told from different characters. I felt the pay off for reading the book never came, the investment of finding out the answer to the mystery that took place, never happened. But I reali ...more
Dec 14, 2016 Ron rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An aristocrat's son mysteriously disappears. A lawyer is sent out to investigate. He interrogates various people who were known to have been with the aristocrat right before he disappears. One of them is a former whore, now a self-possessed and committed Dissenter, a member of what will grow into the Shakers. She herself, will be the mother of Ann Lee, the founder of the Shakers. But here she recounts a cock-and-bull story that seems to suggest that the aristocrat (and she herself) had an encoun ...more
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John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, a small town located about 40 miles from London in the county of Essex, England. He recalls the English suburban culture of the 1930s as oppressively conformist and his family life as intensely conventional. Of his childhood, Fowles says "I have tried to escape ever since."

Fowles attended Bedford School, a large boarding school designed to prepare boys
More about John Fowles...

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