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The French Lieutenant's Woman
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The French Lieutenant's Woman

3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  29,641 ratings  ·  904 reviews

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 Lieu

Hardcover, 350 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Barnes & Nobel (first published 1969)
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Steve Sckenda
Jan 11, 2014 Steve Sckenda rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of Hardy's "Tess of the D'Urbervilles", Victorians, Post-modern Literature
Recommended to Steve by: Professor Mosley
I encountered FLW in a literature-to-film class in 1986 where the main focus was the clever way in which Harold Pinter, screeenwriter of the 1982 movie, dealt with Fowles’ multiple endings. Yet, each re-reading of the book, like an archeological dig, yields new strata of meaning. In addition to the structure for which it is famous, this book explicates the ideas of Darwin, Freud and Marx and explores characters struggling for freedom from their creator– Fowles.

Charles Smithson’s privileged aris
With a title like The French Lieutenant’s Woman, it’s gotta be a romance novel with a cover featuring some Fabio-like male model in a 19th century French army uniform that’s ripped to pieces to expose his abs as some buxom wench showing a lot of thigh clings to him, and he waves a sword in the air? No?

Oh, so it was the basis for some award winning movie with Meryl Streep back in the ‘80s? Then it’s got to be some boring-ass lame period piece with all kinds of proper English folk walking around w
I think the greatest strength of this book is the utter uniqueness of it. I don't think I've ever read a book like it. It is set in the Victorian year of 1867, and yet, the sensibility of the book is thoroughly grounded in the 1960s (when it was written). The language, metaphors, and focus of the book all come from the 1960s, and the actions of the characters are all given the lens of the highly visible author- who is in fact one of the major characters of the book (much in the style of Thackera ...more
The writer slides a blank sheet of paper into his typewriter. His fingers hover over the "asdfjkl;" like a pianist ready to tackle the Moonlight Sonata. Then he withdraws them and gazes pensively into the distance at the grey sea and even greyer sea wall keeping its salty waters at bay. He had had a vision in his head of a woman walking by the sea, all shrouded in the cloak. Something about her called to him. He wants to start writing but something is stopping him.

Now you might wonder what it i
All writers create worlds that do not exist – so there should be no qualms that this novel recreates a world, a very Victorian world, a world populated with its own people, all now long dead, that had its own writers and chroniclers, all also now very much dead, that had its own ideas and tendencies and fears and preferences and prejudices, all of which we can no longer now really hold as our own, should there? (Or was the gap too long for you to remember that the subject of that sentence was so ...more
This book was the first of its kind for me – a book very aware of its own bookness . Fowles lets the reader peak at his cards, and warns her that this hand could just as well have been a different one. History is built with bricks chosen by an elite few, mortared by truths never true, never complete. Fowles attempts at the honesty not seen in the cumulative narratives that reach us, that mold our times, while explicating, very selectively, the older. That the book concerns itself with the charac ...more
K.D. Absolutely
Sep 29, 2013 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
Definitely an engaging read because of the way it is crafted. John Fowles is the implied narrator that is revealed in the end and through a toss of coin presents two possible endings to the story. I have read 1,200+ books so far and I have not seen anything like this until this book. This alone firms up my belief that this book deserves its inclusion in the Time 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century and its seemingly permanent inclusion in the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.

Sarah Woodruff
I have now read the first three books written by John Fowles, in the order of publication, without even trying. I love when things like that happen.

What I adore about Fowles is that he wrote these novels that seem like mere novels on the outside, but on the inside they are filled with art and beauty and some incredible genius. At first I thought this one would be straightforward in comparison to the first two books (The Collector and The Magus), and initially I had some trouble getting into the
Xavier Guillaume
Mar 09, 2013 Xavier Guillaume rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Literature nerds like me
Recommended to Xavier by: James Sarver
Sarah is one of the most remarkable female characters of modern literature. She's a mixture of Jane Eyre, Hester Prynne, and Ophelia, a woman who has experienced much hardship, yet is strong and steadfast, like a sad statue, and slightly mad. Although, I'm torn, is it inaccurate to call Sarah mad? I suppose one could write a whole academic paper on that topic alone. She's not crazy to the Ophelian point where she belongs in a mental institution; perhaps, today we would just label her as having d ...more
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! The story wasn't what I expected it to be at all. I expected the story to be similar to Madame Bovary and the writing style of the author to be more Victorian, seeing as the story was set in that era, but it's actually quite modern. This book made me an instant fan of John Fowles. He writes very intelligently and although he plays the role of narrator in the 19th Century, his perception is that of a 20th Century writer, which makes the book even more interesting. ...more
Fantastic book, and not at all what I expected. I was expecting a contemporary Victorian novel - perhaps a "Scarlett Letter" written in the 1880s. Imagine my surprise upon finding out that, in fact, its this weird, fascinating, post-modern version of a Victorian novel written in the 1960s. So cool. The author narrates his story in an unusual way; it's funny because he goes out of his way to make you remember that it's not just a story, but a story he made up and that he is telling, complete with ...more
I'm considering having t-shirts made.

They will either be a hodgepodge of John Fowles quotes that I find tremendously thought provoking and profound, a tour date of the freaky head-trips his books have put me on, or quite simply I (Heart) John Fowles.

I don't like this book nearly as much as the other two I've already read this year The Magus or The Collector, and I still think it's better than most everything else out there.

Part of this stems from the fact that I, like Fowles, am a Literary nerd
Patrizia O
Il romanziere resta sempre un dio, dal momento che crea (neanche il più aleatorio dei moderni romanzi d’avanguardia è riuscito a sopprimere completamente il suo autore); ciò che è cambiato è che non siamo più gli déi dell’immagine vittoriana, onniscienti e sentenziosi; ma déi secondo una nuova immagine teologica, e il nostro principio fondamentale è la libertà, non l’autorità.

Il titolo “La donna del tenente francese” ha sempre avuto su di me un forte potere evocativo legato al ricordo infanti
Lars Egler
I know this book is supposed to be all quirky post-modern/Victorian and that lots of people think it's amazing. Me... not so much. I just got the impression that the author was just a little too pleased with himself and his interjections into the story itself. While I recognize the merit/intelligence of said exposition, I guess I just really wanted a good, straight-forward fiction and not a lesson on the dichotomies of the Victorian psyche or the sly referneces to god, destiny, the power of the ...more
E di come ci si può dare all' enigmistica leggendo ....

Avete presente quando magari leggendo una rivista di enigmistica appunto , oppure da piccoli quando vi davano qualcuna di quelle schede operative , vi imbattete in quei giochini o attività (se avete parole diverse definite pure come vi pare) in cui bisogna colorare gli spazzi bianchi contrassegnati da puntini e scoprire quale figura ne verrà fuori , o magari collegare una successione di numeri , per ottenere sempre lo stesso risultato ... Be
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Apr 23, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone--Well, those who can stand some ambiguity
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Suzanne Dobbins
On Goodreads five stars is for amazing, and this novel earns it, even if some aspects maddened me. I knew two things about this novel going in. One, it was pointed to me as one of the most masterful examples of the omniscient point of view written in the 20th century, which made me eager to read it, and second, that it had alternate endings, which put me off. (A device I hate, hate, hate--it seems such a cheat.) Actually, having before this read Fowles' The Magus, I could add I knew he had a mas ...more
Aug 13, 2012 Melody rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Melody by: Brian Johnson
You can simply read this book as a novel – but it will possibly frustrate you and have you wondering what the heck Sarah’s motives were and how in tarnation the book ends; because this is a novel about the craft of writing and it’s not necessarily a tale for your enjoyment. It is a Victorian novel written in the 60s. Sarah, or the “French Lieutenant’s Woman”, however, is a 20th century woman. The things she does and the decisions she makes are those of a 20th century character existing in a Vict ...more
Aug 20, 2012 Angie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: robert
Recommended to Angie by: my mum
Shelves: favorites
The French Lieutenant's Woman had been on my tbr list for an age, came recommended by my Mum who sighs enigmatically every time she mentions it as one of her favourites. I think I put it off a little thinking it only as 'another great post-modern Victorian novel I will read one day' of which there are many....nothing could have prepared me for how much I adored this book.

Not only the best book for me this year but definitely in my top 20 list of all time.

I devoured John Fowles narrative and the
This book was both admirable and frustrating. It never seemed to end (and that is only in part because it actually has three endings). Part Victorian melodrama, part sociological study; I felt like the author was looking at the characters from under a microscope. Occasionally he takes time to lecture on the specimens all the while reminding the reader that it just fiction and deliberates if it is he or the reader who is the post-modern deity who determines the story. The story has three main cha ...more
Jedna od meni najdražih knjiga, najviše zbog neobične tehnike pripovijedanja, te Fowlesovog privlačnog stila pisanja i sposobnosti da te opisom kraja i ljudi odvede u Englesku u 1860-te, a naravno i zbog jedne od omiljenijih žena u književnosti ikada, odmetnice Sare Vudraf, koja nema ništa protiv toga da je okarakterišu ludakinjom i kurvom, samo da ne bi morala da bude klasična žena viktorijanskog društva. Preporuka svima koji vole jake, karakterne žene i knjige poput Jane Eyre.

Neće vam se svidj
“You do not even think of your own past as quite real; you dress it up, you gild it or blacken it, censor it, tinker with it…fictionalize it, in a word, and put it away on a shelf—your book, your romanced autobiography. We are all in the flight from the real reality.”

This novel is so hard for me to rate. Here is the thing, on a literary level this is easily a 5 star book. John Fowles' writing style is incredible; lucid and honest. He destroyed the boundaries of fiction writing with this book. H
I read this book so many years ago that I figured that reading it now would be just like reading a new book -- and it was. I remembered only the sad girl staring off into the ocean and that it has two endings. Wow , the rest was a surprise. I really liked the structure of the book, the way the narrator would analyze the characters and the society of which they were a part. It was a novel of contrasts and comparisons... mainly of Victorian mores which were beginning to clash with a more modern fr ...more
The reason I am drawn to literature, to art, to books considered to be classics, is to watch some middle-aged, bearded man put on a pair of (excuse the flamboyant analogy) skates and suddenly pitch himself into the center of the ring and pull off a triple Salchow. I love risk-taking, experimental literature. With 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', Fowles is boldly moving in a lot of directions at once (pushing down fourth walls [Chapter 13], jumping forward and backward in time, throwing himself i ...more
I tried resisting this. It has its occasional heavy-handedness and there are some stretches (the Rossettis, for example, please!), but the prose is so wonderful, the story(ies) is rich like cake and the intrusive author with his Victorian reflections so companionable that all I could do when I finished was lift the book in both hands and say WOW.

There are such landscapes here:

“From the air it is not very striking; one notes merely that whereas elsehwere on the coast the fields run to the cliff e
This book is one of those bestsellers that I was vaguely aware of but too young and too distracted to pay attention to when it was a subject of conversation. I saw the movie when it first came out and was not impressed. Having read the novel I now understand why the film took the tack it did although I also see that the two are very different. Looking at other reviews I see people are divided on the authorial intrusions and the way it ends. Despite my general distaste for postmodern approaches I ...more
I loved the post-modern aspects of this, which I thought were very well done. I was less enthusiastic about the story, which appeared to be told by an arrogant twat who thought he knew what women were about and who spent a lot of time criticising Victorian sensibilities while simultaneously (but more subtly) regaling us with his own, more pernicious brand of 1960's sexism. However, I haven't read enough Victorian literature to know how much of it was Victorian and how much of it was Fowles', so ...more
Lisa Lieberman
I first read this in my twenties (well before the film came out) and enjoyed it thoroughly. This time through I appreciated it on an analytic level but found the narrator's know-it-all voice irritating. Yes, Fowles was a master craftsman, but I'm no longer willing to be pushed around as a reader. I suspect I'd feel the same way about The Magus...
Mar 12, 2008 Jessica rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Kevin Quinley
“Darwin’s phrase cryptic coloration: survival by learning to blend with one’s surroundings – with the unquestioned assumption of one’s age or social caste. Or we can explain this flight to formality sociologically. When one is skating over so much thin ice – ubiquitous economic oppression, terror of sexuality, the flood of mechanistic science – the ability to close one’s eyes to one’s own absurd stiffness was essential.” Page 145

This book was superb. Fowles draws the reader into the story immedi
Well this is a tough one. I haven't read anything like it before and constantly changed my mind about it over the course of the book.
It's written very well, John Fowles captures the Victorian-ness very well and the characters are excellent. The style in which the book is written is really interesting as John Fowles includes his own presence as the writer in the design of the story. This makes the book an interesting read but it also makes it feel like an exercise, which I suppose it is, but the
What a strange book. It took me f.o.r.e.v.e.r to get through it because it was so darn hard to read. Written stiffly, as though it were poorly written in 1850. But, no... it was written in 1969 and even though the action of the book takes place in about 1853, there will be funny comments from the author like "in his mind, he thought like a Nazi". Nazi's weren't invented in 1853. OR: "she would have been an earth-mother type if that thing were not so frowned upon in the little city".

Um... the pro
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What's The Name o...: SOLVED. Victorian Romance like the Scarlett Letter /s 4 23 Aug 09, 2014 09:26PM  
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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...
The Magus The Collector The Ebony Tower A Maggot Daniel Martin

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“We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words.” 93 likes
“I am infinitely strange to myself.” 80 likes
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