Ailsa's Reviews > The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
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's review
Feb 13, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: contemporary, fiction
Read from February 06 to 07, 2010

I love this book. It is the sort of book I wish I had read years ago, the kind of book you can't wait to keep reading but wish would never end.

Trying to explain what this book quote unquote is, is a fairly difficult task (is it really geeky of me that I can't wait to get my hands on some Fowles scholarship?) but that is (for me) essentially part of its charm. On the one hand it is a beautiful and masterfully recreated Victorian novel, replete with large cast of characters, multifocal narrative, and of course, omniscient god-like author.

Except, Fowles very deliberately deconstructs the facades: he shows us his own hand, quotes work outside of the period, offers alternative narrative outcomes, introduces himself into the novel as a character... And whilst all this sounds almost painfully postmodern, it is executed so perfectly that it works as a part of the narrative, not against it. The digressive essays into the mores of the Victorian era evoke Fowles' passionate interest (and formidable intelligence). His mediations on the nature of fiction and fictionality ( I am nuts about the fact that his characters quote Persuasion to one and other) are playful but not painfully knowing or arch. All in all, the postmodernism here has a very human face: it invites the reader in as a participant in the novel, rather than having a distancing or jarring effect.

The pleasure of this novel is that it can (and almost demands to be) read on so many different levels (numerous of which Fowles' is helpful enough to point out along the way). The fact that I can barely put into words about what exactly I loved so much about it probably gives it the highest recommendation: you should go and read this book for yourself. Now.

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