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The French lieutenant's woman

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This novel is based on a 19th Century novel and explores notions of relationships and literature, with three alternate endings to the story.

445 pages, Hardcover

First published November 10, 1969

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About the author

John Fowles

102 books2,508 followers
John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, a small town in Essex. He recalled the English suburban culture of the 1930s as oppressively conformist and his family life as intensely conventional. Of his childhood, Fowles said "I have tried to escape ever since."

Fowles attended Bedford School, a large boarding school designed to prepare boys for university, from ages 13 to 18. After briefly attending the University of Edinburgh, Fowles began compulsory military service in 1945 with training at Dartmoor, where he spent the next two years. World War II ended shortly after his training began so Fowles never came near combat, and by 1947 he had decided that the military life was not for him.

Fowles then spent four years at Oxford, where he discovered the writings of the French existentialists. In particular he admired Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, whose writings corresponded with his own ideas about conformity and the will of the individual. He received a degree in French in 1950 and began to consider a career as a writer.

Several teaching jobs followed: a year lecturing in English literature at the University of Poitiers, France; two years teaching English at Anargyrios College on the Greek island of Spetsai; and finally, between 1954 and 1963, teaching English at St. Godric's College in London, where he ultimately served as the department head.

The time spent in Greece was of great importance to Fowles. During his tenure on the island he began to write poetry and to overcome a long-time repression about writing. Between 1952 and 1960 he wrote several novels but offered none to a publisher, considering them all incomplete in some way and too lengthy.

In late 1960 Fowles completed the first draft of The Collector in just four weeks. He continued to revise it until the summer of 1962, when he submitted it to a publisher; it appeared in the spring of 1963 and was an immediate best-seller. The critical acclaim and commercial success of the book allowed Fowles to devote all of his time to writing.

The Aristos, a collection of philosophical thoughts and musings on art, human nature and other subjects, appeared the following year. Then in 1965, The Magus - drafts of which Fowles had been working on for over a decade - was published.

The most commercially successful of Fowles' novels, The French Lieutenant's Woman, appeared in 1969. It resembles a Victorian novel in structure and detail, while pushing the traditional boundaries of narrative in a very modern manner.

In the 1970s Fowles worked on a variety of literary projects--including a series of essays on nature--and in 1973 he published a collection of poetry, Poems.

Daniel Martin, a long and somewhat autobiographical novel spanning over 40 years in the life of a screenwriter, appeared in 1977, along with a revised version of The Magus. These were followed by Mantissa (1982), a fable about a novelist's struggle with his muse; and A Maggot (1985), an 18th century mystery which combines science fiction and history.

In addition to The Aristos, Fowles wrote a variety of non-fiction pieces including many essays, reviews, and forewords/afterwords to other writers' novels. He also wrote the text for several photographic compilations.

From 1968, Fowles lived in the small harbour town of Lyme Regis, Dorset. His interest in the town's local history resulted in his appointment as curator of the Lyme Regis Museum in 1979, a position he filled for a decade.

Wormholes, a book of essays, was published in May 1998. The first comprehensive biography on Fowles, John Fowles: A Life in Two Worlds, was published in 2004, and the first volume of his journals appeared the same year (followed recently by volume two).

John Fowles passed away on November 5, 2005 after a long illness.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,038 reviews
Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,462 reviews3,611 followers
August 16, 2022
Like times, like manners… And the times were puritanical… On the one hand…
While on the other hand…
The copulatory theme was repeated in various folio prints in gilt frames that hung between the curtained windows. Already a loose-haired girl in Camargo petticoats was serving the waiting gentlemen with Roederer’s champagne. In the background a much rouged but more seemingly dressed lady of some fifty years of age cast a quiet eye over her clientele.

John Fowles recreates the atmosphere of the Victorian era with an enviable thoroughness and he never fails to be rich in intriguing details. So The French Lieutenant's Woman rightfully remains one of the great milestones in literature.
But there is also a kind of the warning against gullibility.
We can sometimes recognize the looks of a century ago on a modern face; but never those of a century to come.

On comparing the past with the present one inevitably corrupts the past with one's modern attitude.
Profile Image for Kemper.
1,390 reviews6,963 followers
March 25, 2019
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 with sticks up their asses as they talk about their proper English ways and how they musn't remove the sticks. Not really? Well, then what the hell is this book?

It’s not what I was expecting, that’s for sure.

Sarah Woodruff is a governess who has scandalized the English community of Lyme Regis by falling for a French naval officer who had been washed ashore and then left her behind after she ‘ruined‘ herself for him. I guess back in those days a woman couldn’t just eat a bunch of ice cream, get drunk with her girlfriends, and then forget about some jerk who did her wrong. Hooking up with a loser was grounds for a lifetime of people shaking their fingers at you. Sarah doesn’t even have the decency to hide her shame. She insists on going out walking by the ocean as she is clearly pining for Frenchie in spite of strict orders from her pious lady employer not to walk around where decent folk can tell what she’s thinking.

Charles Smithson is a Victorian-era gentleman engaged to Ernestina and visiting her aunt in the area. After he accidentally comes across Sarah, he gets interested in her story and tries to convince her to stop making her situation worse by being so openly miserable and letting him help arrange for better employment in London where her scandal won’t be so well known. But Sarah plays a dangerous game of asking Charles for clandestine meetings for advice while acting like she has no urge to change her life. Naturally, Charles finds himself falling for her despite warnings from a local doctor that Sarah is ‘addicted to melancholia’ and may only be interested in spreading her misery around.

At first, this seems like it’s going to be a pretty standard Victorian-era tragic romance. But John Fowles took some serious detours in this book. First, he openly writes it as a god-like narrator from the future who knows how silly and hypocritical a lot of English society was then. It gets even stranger when he starts writing about the writing of the story itself. He complains that characters aren’t behaving the way he thought they should. Then he begins presenting alternate versions of the plot based on decisions by the characters that vastly change how the book would end as he explains that the only fair way to end the story is to present all the ways that it possibly could end.

It’s also not entirely clear about who you should be sympathizing with here. Is Sarah a woman ahead of her time being unfairly treated by a bunch of hypocrites? Or is she a slightly unbalanced woman taking a hatred of men out on Charles by gaining his pity and love at the possible cost of his reputation? Is Charles a good man living in an age that traps him with outdated ideas of duty and honor? Is he just a selfish snob who gets cold feet about his own upcoming marriage and deliberately acts stupidly to try and stop it? It could be that all of these factors are true. Or that none of them are.

While I liked the writing and the way that Fowles played with the structure of a traditional novel, the problem for me is that I was so unsure about Sarah and Charles that I couldn’t ever really get engaged with them emotionally. At times I felt bad for one or both of them, and at other times I didn’t like them at all. I ended up admiring the book more than I enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Guille.
782 reviews1,740 followers
February 25, 2021
Fantástica y maravillosa novela en la que, a través de una historia de corte victoriano y con recursos de aquella literatura, se hace una afortunada y exitosa explicación de la época y sociedad del XIX aunque, como pasando por ahí, se hagan comentarios sobre la nuestra…
"... ellos se afanaban en edificar; y nosotros llevamos tanto tiempo demoliéndolo todo, que cualquier nueva construcción nos parece tan efímera como una pompa de jabón."
… o lucubraciones filosóficas o políticas que valen para cualquiera de las dos.
"Lo que hace de la clase media esa particularísima mezcla de masa y fermento es su actitud eminentemente esquizofrénica frente a la sociedad. Hoy día se olvida a menudo que siempre fue la clase revolucionaria por excelencia; vemos en ella sólo lo que tiene de masa, a la burguesía como reducto de la reacción a lo largo y a lo ancho del mundo, siempre egoísta y conformista. Pues bien, esta ambivalencia procede precisamente de la única virtud que redime a esta clase, la cual reside en que, de las tres grandes castas de la sociedad, es la única que sincera y habitualmente se desprecia a sí misma."
La historia que Fowles nos relata es también un cuestionamiento de la tarea de construir una novela, de sus posibilidades, de los caminos que se eligen y se descartan. El propio Fowles aparece en la narración en varias ocasiones y comparte con el lector las dudas acerca del destino de los personajes, y hasta se ofrecen tres finales alternativos.

Todo esto encontrarán en la novela envolviendo un bello y apasionado romance tan propio de la época, aunque la perspectiva sea más actual, relatado con una ironía propia de la Elliot de Middlemarch y con personajes muy de su tiempo —la mala dickensiana, algún que otro pícaro, personajes bonachones y encantadores, la burguesía "egoísta y conformista"—. La pareja protagonista tienen un corte más complejo que el de aquellas historias de antaño, destacando el papel del personaje femenino, desconcertante.

Recomiendo encarecidamente su lectura.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,487 reviews2,374 followers
April 15, 2023

I happen to come across two versions of this novel at the same time, this one, and one featuring Meryl Streep on the front cover. I was always going to pick this one, as when I think of Meryl Streep, The Deer Hunter immediately comes to mind, and the last thing I wanted when picking up this book each day and seeing her face was to think of Linda, the Vietnam War, and Christopher Walken's sad demise playing Russian roulette. This is after all a book about Victorian sexual repression on the south coast of England.

A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea - this was a strong image that came to John Fowles one morning back in 1966. He at first thought he saw the image as the representation of a myth, like many ancient stories of women left at home while their sea-faring lovers travel off far and wide to war, or to fulfil some divine destiny. Eventually, the woman in Fowles’s vision had a name, Sarah Woodruff, thus The French Lieutenant's Woman started to take shape. All this coming long after the haunting landscape and coastal areas of South Dorset were plaguing his thoughts. This novel was inevitable. And even though it does build some vivid images of the coastal landscape, the lasting impression I have is of two lovers stuck in separate emotional cul-de-sacs.

In the case of Miss Woodruff, abandoned by a French lieutenant, who as it happens, despite his name being in the title, plays almost no role in the novel's most important events. Fowles is more interested in the burdening enigma of this fallen woman; the ostracized female viewed
by her community as a source of sexual scandal and gossip. Such women were well-known to Victorian society, and might even appear in a tale or two, but rarely anything more than a cardboard figure; a part in a moralizing tale about female weakness or the dangers of concupiscence. Fowles wisely understood that such characters could be better created, and tell us things about nineteenth century life that the female protagonists of a Jane Austen or a William Thackeray would never truly reveal. Fowles' utter fascination with Sarah Woodruff is shared equally by his leading male Mr. Charles Smithson. By the standards of Victorian England, Smithson is highly educated, worldly and enlightened. He dabbles in science, and admires Charles Darwin.
And yet Smithson is still repressed, and completely out of touch with his own drives and unconscious desires, his notion of sexuality is still embedded in the moral and religious views of his time and place. He wants to be the Gentleman with a respectable Victorian wife (that would be Ernestina) but Miss Woodruff, the Community's 'whore' as she is known, can't escape the other self he fears that he will turn out to be.

Sarah, who is clearly overrun with melancholia, refuses to play the role of a disgraced harlot, or even the victim. She is drawn as a powerful woman, with an enclosed sexual appetite and inner life perhaps deeper than Smithson. Fowles relies on the strong female to create the dramatic conflicts in this novel, and Sarah Woodruff is in the end one of the most memorable ladies I have encountered in fiction. I was worried this would turn into just another dull romantic story, with characters that ended up boring me: but it absolutely wasn't. It's also clever in the way the narrative is binary in nature, as the narrative extends to provide two endings. There is the conventional romance and its deconstruction. Considering it was first published in 1969 Fowles does a remarkable job of bringing Victorian England to life. You literally feel like it was written during those times: well, that is if you leave out the postmodern metafictional side of the novel.
Profile Image for Kelly.
889 reviews4,123 followers
September 1, 2016
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 Thackeray, though more personally done here, I think).

The plot itself starts off as a flimsy Victorian melodrama, if one were to remove everything but the bare skeletons of the action from it: boy meets girl, boy is engaged to girl, boy meets mysterious amazing girl, boy suffers crisis of love, moral dilemmas abound... and then it develops into something else much more modern with modern situations and dilemmas. But it is how it is described that is the best p art of the book: the focus is on the philosophies, the problems, the context of the era. Fowles is deeply involved in trying to explain the actions of his characters with pages long meditations and research into the Victorian pysche, based on thinkers, papers, popular opinions and events of the era. For example, the main character, Charles, is an amateur scientist and is a very strong Darwinist. Fowles gets involved with class issues, capitalist society, poetry, the suffrage movement, feminism, and of course, the overarching focus of the book: sexuality and its repression and unrepression.

(It is here that comes my only real criticism of the book: that at times the book is very dated to the 1960s in its utter obsession with sex and bohemia and "fuck the system!" kind of rhetoric. Which still rings with many today, so perhaps it isn't a problem for all. I just found it sort of threw me out of the magic of the story when he tried to make his characters 1960s type heroes.)

Another large and fascinating part of the book is that John Fowles allows us to see him at work. He shows us the road not taken in statements like (but much more eloquently put than this): "Well... I could do this.. but that would betray the character.. but it is the formula.. where shall I go from here?" He lets the reader see behind the curtain, and see his process, lets them know that he recognizes what he is doing and what he could have done or should have done by convention. He muses on what the character might want, or what he might want, and the various conventions that an author has at his disposal to most effectively display what he wants to convey. I did not think that it threw me out of the book at all. It made it even more interesting, actually.

I'd recommend this book for even people who don't usually like Victorian literature. It has so modern a voice and discusses so many issues that we find of relevance today that perhaps your eyerolling can be kept to a minimum.
Profile Image for Andy Marr.
Author 3 books774 followers
May 17, 2023
A wonderful story, spoiled a little (for me) by some of its more postmodern elements and occasional swathes of long-winded prose.
Profile Image for Fergus, Quondam Happy Face.
1,028 reviews17.7k followers
September 13, 2023
This blockbuster hit me with a dull metallic thud (I struggled from within my chlorpromazine chrysalis in order not to be depressed by it) when I read it in the spring of 1971.

I had struggled thither out of my absolute Aspie failure to grasp what kinda Gnostic mystery Fowles had been up to in The Magus (which I had totally misconstrued in the deadly Ottawa Valley winter that was 1971, recovering from my first breakdown).

Deadly? And why?

Well, the accumulated snowfall by February, that awful winter, there on the patio at my parents' home was up to my chin (I was nearly 6'1" in those early years)! Go figure - such is my home town.

With my chlorpromazine levels boondoggling my bloodstream (the meds were gradually diminished, starting in mid-January, so I better understood French Lieutenant in the spring) I understood foggy nada about Magus.

I was an Aspie Nowhere Man.

But - guess what - by blossoming May I had dating on my mind! I used to come outa my breakdowns at full healthy sail. An anomaly? No. Only a misdiagnosis.

I was in fact an autistic kid whose hormones remained healthy when I exited my medicated mania.

My fear had been chemically altered enough now, and redirected at another source - myself - thanks very much for rearranging my head, dear doctor. So with libido high, but scruples about myself higher, I now drove out to meet my date.

You know, the French Lieutenant's Woman and Sarah's fallen fate loomed large in my heightened scruples as I parked the car with my date beside me, by a romantic riverside restaurant I knew.

Our embrace progressed with her compliance, but my fervour was nil, remembering Sarah.

And, old at the age of 21, I drove my date, Nancy, home.

Sarah Woodruff - a royal Victorian polite pox upon you!

You were but a bucket of cold river water on my face that night.

For you were the catalyst of ethical second thoughts, and the seed of my future Christian forbearance!
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,599 reviews8,731 followers
June 11, 2016
“I am infinitely strange to myself.”
― John Fowles, The French Lieutenant's Woman


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 into the path of the protagonist Charles) and manages to control it all with a sharp elegance that is breathtaking.

He (re)creates a Victorian period novel and then deconstructs, dissects and parodies it while we watch. He bends into it elements of Darwinian and Marxist thought (two revolutionary Men who lived during this period, but are never displayed in the works of the Brontës, Hardy, Gaskell, Dickens or Trollope. Doing so, he subverts both the age and the novel. 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' is a work of genius and a book that teased and challenged me on almost every page as I read it.
Profile Image for Deniz Balcı.
Author 2 books600 followers
January 8, 2016
Son zamanlarda okuduğum en farklı roman diyebilirim. Fowles'ın şimdiye kadar okuduğum eserleri içinde en sevdiğim açıkçası "Büyücü". Halen o kitabın etkisini üzerimden atamadım. Fakat bu kitabında çok sarsıcı bir etkisi oldu üzerinde. Kitabı okurken yer yer bu romanın nasıl bu kadar önemli hale geldiğini sorgulama ihtiyacı hissediyordum aslında. Kendi kendime Victoryen Dönemi içerisinde postmadambovaryci bir kitap okuduğumu sanıyordum ve Sarah karakterini de Madam Bovary'e bir alternatif olarak önemli görüyordum. Ancak Fowles'ın romancı olarak her zaman nüfuzunu hissettirerek kitabı yazması, ancak bir süre sonra romancının yarıtanrıcı rolünü oynamayı başaramayıp, kontrolün kaleminden çıkması; karakterlerin kendi istedikleri hayatları yaşaması beni kaba tabiriyle durur etti. Kitap bu özelliği ile deneysel bir yazım tarzına sahip, modern romancılık içinde eşsiz bir yere konumlandırılabilir. Üzerinde fazlaca düşünme gereksimini doğurtuyor.
Kitabın biçimsel ve anlatısal özellikleri dışında, çok ciddi bir tarihi tarafı da bulunmakta. Viktoryen Dönemi İngiltere'si, o dönemin kültür ve sosyal yapısı, insanların davranış biçimleri, farklı terminolojilerin o yıllardaki kullanım durumları vb. gibi konularda sağlıklı tespitler yapmanızı sağlıyor.
Ne diyeyim, Fowles gelmiş geçmiş en büyük yazarlar arasına adını yazdırmış. Onun dehasını ancak takdir etmek düşer.
Profile Image for Sawsan.
1,000 reviews
June 8, 2022
چون فاولز وسرد غير تقليدي في الحكي عن العصر الڨيكتوري في انجلترا
صورة للحياة والعلاقات والمعتقدات في ذلك العصر من جوانب مختلفة
وخاصة ما يسو�� فيه من مظاهر مُصطنعة وأخلاقيات زائفة وتقاليد مُتزمتة
رجل وامرأتين .. كل منهم أصابه الحب فيتغير مسار حياته
يجمع بينهم دائرة من الحب والرغبة, الخداع والخذلان, الألم والتعاسة
أسلوب فاولز ممتع وطريف في مخاطبة القارئ على لسان الراوي
والتعليق على أحداث الرواية والتعامل مع الشخصيات وحكاياتهم
للرواية أكثر من نهاية.. الأولى تقليدية سعيدة تليق برواية ڨيكتورية قديمة
لكن الراوي يرفضها ويستمر في الحكي ليصل لنهاية تبدو حزينة
لكنها تناسب طبيعة الشخصيات ووواقع الحياة بما فيها من إخفاقات وخسائر
July 29, 2019
«Δεν ξέρω. Αυτή η ιστορία που λέω είναι όλη φανταστική. Οι χαρακτήρες που δημιούργησα
ποτέ δεν υπήρξαν έξω από τα όρια του δικού μου μυαλού. Αν προσποιήθηκα μέχρι τώρα πως γνωρίζω
τη σκέψη των ηρώων μου και τα βαθύτερα αισθήματα είναι γιατί γράφω
(ακριβώς όπως έχω χρησιμοποιήσει μέρος από το λεξιλόγιο και τη «φωνή» τους)
σύμφωνα με το παγκόσμια αποδεκτό κατεστημένο της εποχής όπου διαδραματίζεται η ιστορία μου:
ότι ο μυθιστορηματογράφος στέκεται πλάι στο ίδιο ύψος με τον Θεό.
Μπορεί να μην γνωρίζει τα πάντα, ωστόσο προσπαθεί να προσποιείται ότι τα γνωρίζει. Όμως ζω στην εποχή του Αλαίν Ρομπ-Γκριγιέ και του Ρολάν Μπαρτ. Αν αυτό είναι μυθιστόρημα, δεν μπορεί να είναι μυθιστόρημα με τη μοντέρνα έννοια της λέξης».

Η παραδοχή της αυταπάτης, η ακούσια συμμετοχή σε ένα παιχνίδι νοητικών κόλπων και παράδοξων συστροφών φαντασιακής πλάνης και η συντριβή των προσδοκιών του αναγνώστη, είναι μερικά απο τα κόλπα που χρησιμοποιεί ο Fowles ξεπερνώντας τα όρια του ίδιου του τού έργου.
Σαν νομοθέτης εποχών ανάμεσα στους αιώνες συμβάλλει στην αποσάρθρωση τους με την δηκτική πένα του,
αμφισβητεί, προάγοντας τις απλουστεύσεις των ηθικών και κοινωνικών αξιών και θεωρεί απολύτως εφικτές τις προοδευτικές αμαρτίες και τις αυθεντικές μετάνοιες που προέρχονται απο
τα διφορούμενα κίνητρα μιας αδιόρθωτα βρόμικης ζωής.

Ακόμη και ο τίτλος του βιβλίου
« Η ερωμένη του Γάλλου υποπλοίαρχου » είναι μια ψεύτικη αίσθηση εποχής αλλοτινής,
όπου ο συγγραφέας σκορπάει απλόχερα το άρωμα της για να μας μαγέψει να μας ξεγελάσει ή να μας αποκαλύψει με κάλυμμα την συγγραφική αδεία την ανθρώπινη φύση.

Δεν φτιάχνει ένα ιστορικό μυθιστόρημα
αλλά υποκινεί στην ουσία ένα ιστορικό βικτωριανό στυλ. Ένα σκηνικό που απεκδύεται τον χρόνο, στο οποίο συνθέτει έργο, το οποίο παράγει κάτι πολύ έξυπνο και διαυγές.
Διότι σε αυτήν την ιστορία δεν υπάρχει πραγματικό τέλος, ίσως προσιδιάζει με την μυθοπλασία ίσως και με την πραγματικότητα της εποχής.
Αληθινά, οι παρατηρήσεις και συνειρμικά οι σκέψεις που προβληματίζουν και αφήνουν να ρέει ένα ποτάμι αισθήσεων κατανόησης απο την πένα του συγγραφέα προς τον αναγνώστη με την αυτοσυνείδητη αφηγηματική φωνή του ειναι ένα επιπλέον στρώμα λογοτεχνικού πλούτου.
Καθορίζει ξεκάθαρα αν και με περιελίξεις στην ροή της ιστορίας πως είναι αδύνατον να είσαι Βικτωριανός μέσα στα σύγχρονα μυθιστορήματα.
Με εργαλεία την απόσταση και την προοπτική που παρέχεται με το πέρασμα των εποχών, καταφέρνει να καταστήσει σαφές πως με την άποψη του αν και διφορούμενη, εξηγεί και σχολιάζει τα λανθάνοντα πολιτιστικά στοιχεία και τις κρυμμένες κοινωνικές χαμέρπειες των βικτωριανών μυθιστορημάτων.

Γράφοντας το 1969 ο Fowles εξερευνά την Βικτωριανή εποχή. Μέσα απο κάθε χαρακτήρα του έργου του εντείνει ύπουλα την προσοχή μας στο συναίσθημα
που προέρχεται απο το πάθος εκείνης της περιόδου.
Το συγκινησιακό φάσμα κυμαίνεται σταδιακά απο συγχώρεση σε απλή και βολεμένη περιφρόνηση.

Η βικτωριανή Αγγλία βρίσκει ευχαρίστηση στις σκληρότερες αλήθειες της ζωής, ο Fowles με κάθε διακριτική ευχέρεια απλώς τις αγνοεί ενώ τις χρωματίζει οικουμενικά και διαχρονικά.

Θα μπορούσαν να ειπωθούν πολλά σχετικά με το τί ακριβώς είναι αυτό το μυθιστόρημα.
«Η ερωμένη του Γάλλου υποπλοίαρχου», (αγαπημένη ηρωίδα, στο δικό μου πρωταγωνιστικό πάνθεον) θα μπορούσε να είναι η άρρωστη ερωτική ιστορία δυο παθιασμένων εραστών. Δυο διαφορετικών κόσμων που αναζητούν ταυτότητα και εαυτό.
Θα ήταν κάλλιστα ένα δοκίμιο που αναλύει σε βάθος τις Βικτωριανές αξίες.
Αλλά και μία διάλεξη, ένα επιμορφωτικό λογοτεχνικό παραμύθι με πρόζα και ύφος τραγωδίας ή ραψωδίας σε μια επική αναζήτηση του πως δημιουργείται το μυθιστόρημα, πέρα και μέσα απο τις εποχές.

Προσωπικά θεωρώ πως καλύπτει και τις τρεις εκδοχές. Η τέχνη, η ζωή, το γνήσιο συναίσθημα, αποτελούν θεμελιακά στοιχεία της ανθρώπινης φύσης.


Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.
Profile Image for Susan's Reviews.
1,107 reviews531 followers
May 8, 2021

I remember that my first reading (as a very young teen) of John Fowles The French Lieutenant's Woman left me stunned (and somewhat baffled!)
Three alternative endings! Total Mind Bender: will the real ending please stand up!?!

No matter, I still loved the book, despite my inability at such a young age to understand the stylistic gold mine hidden beneath its depths. When I had to read it again in university, I was able to appreciate Fowles' modern version of a Victorian novel a whole lot more.

Later, Harold Pinter adapted this story into a play - giving us the movie staring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. While I did enjoy the excellent performances, I preferred Fowles' novel. The raging young feminist in me was totally outraged by society's treatment of Sarah Woodruff. And I still, to this day, don't know which ending to choose!

Profile Image for Kushagri.
58 reviews
March 2, 2023
It is a work of historical fiction, set in Victorian England, a century earlier to when it was written. The author is not just telling a story but having a discourse with the readers, putting forward his views and thoughts on his characters, his creations. It is at a same time a romance novel as well as an essay and critique of Victorian customs and the exalted sense of Duty. Sarah Woodruff infamous as The French Lieutenant’s Woman is an enigma to Charles Smithson who is engaged in a match that is socially lauded and acceptable, but Sarah appears to Charles as a figure who he cannot understand yet is magnetically drawn to. It is in short a story of forbidden love.

A long period of blind obedience to certain customs had made people comfortable in their prison of puritanical rules, and social class divide. To even accept the reality that something was wrong, something was curtailing their freedoms, was an aversive thought. It may be difficult for us to understand or relate to this, but if certain systems and prejudices are ingrained in the psyche it becomes difficult to part with them. Any threat to the convention and norm threatened an order of life which controlled and gave meaning to their existence.
I would like to add that some circumstances may make us feel aloof, but the author has a marvelous way of evoking compassion and sympathy in the reader.

Each chapter starts with a relevant Victorian verse or passage which is very intuitive to upcoming events.

This book had many interesting quotes.

We all write poems; it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words

In other words, every culture, however undemocratic, or however egalitarian, needs a kind of self-questioning ethical elite, and one that is bound by certain rules of conduct, some of which may be very unethical, and so account for eventual death of the form, though their hidden purpose is good: to brace or act as structure for the better effects of their function in history

Now all this is the great and timeless relevance of the New Testament myth of the Temptation in the Wilderness. All who have insight and education have automatically their own wilderness; and at some point in their life they will have their temptation.
Their rejection may be foolish; but it is never evil. You have just turned down a tempting offer in commercial applied science in order to continue your academic teaching? Your last exhibition did not sell as well as the previous one, but you are determined to keep to your new style? You have just made some decision in which your personal benefit, your chance of possession, has not been allowed to interfere? Then do not dismiss Charles's state of mind as a mere conditioning of futile snobbery. See him for what he is: a man struggling to overcome history. And even though he does not realize it.
Profile Image for Fabian.
956 reviews1,623 followers
May 5, 2019
Here: the sheer power of the Victorian novel, exploded & revamped. John Fowles invites you into an experiment he is conducting himself, & stick with it you must: the great puppeteer takes a story 100 years old, writes his characters and HIMSELF into the plot, right smack in the middle of Darwinian enlightenment and the empty floral vase that is Victorian Europe. So much to witness in this enjoyable metaphysical romp!

Like, for instance, the satellite characters. Yeah, I began a crush on Sam, our protagonist's manservant. Why? He looks at his master with eyes that take it all in, not in lust, but in victory. His destiny to me seemed more free and beautiful than our agonizing malcontent--I was cognizant of this before it manifested on the page. There are breaks in tradition galore. Yes, the French Lieutenant's woman is the main character; no, she is not followed with that straight fidelity one gives their literary objects of affection. Where else can you find historical anecdotes and footnotes so resplendent in their use but in metalit? There is a deep mourning for the loss of individuality felt by the characters that's the true main theme: the "tension between lust and renunciation." [216] Ah, the naked female wrist!

The work is invigorating, suffused by the modern master's touch. He breaks the armor plates set up by the Wuthering Heights of yesteryear, by the demonic texts of Hawthorne--the book seeks an ending like the reader seeks it. There is parallelism in the experimen, in the discovery. The enjoyable journey seems to be set for us both, the reader and the writer alike.
Profile Image for Simona B.
898 reviews3,009 followers
October 6, 2017
“Because.... because, I do not know, I live among people the world tells me are kind, pious, Christian people. And they seem to me crueller than the cruellest heathens, stupider than the stupidest animals.”

The French Lieutenant's Woman is a baffling book. It baffled me and I have no doubt it has left a trail of baffled readers behind it. I wonder why no one has blurbed it with “The French Lieutenant's Woman, proudly baffling people since 1969” yet. It would be the most honest blurb in history for sure. Even stranger, I read it slowly, closely, eyes and ears and brain cells wide open, and yet I feel as if I have understood nothing, as if I haven't understood the book. Which is just as possible, as we've already established the book has long set itself the very specific goal of making you question your own wits.

And yet, it does it without malice. It doesn't take pleasure in your stupidity, it doesn't gloat over it. It doesn't even pity it, nor sympathize with it. No. It is simply indifferent to it. You wouldn't feel as stupid if it showed to care, and then it would amuse no one.
Because The French Lieutenant's Woman is a microcosm on its own. It needs nothing and no one, and no matter how many times the God of this world will address you, reader, because the truth is that to it, to Him, you do not exist. You can be an Ideal Reader at best, but please leave yourself outside, thank you very much. There's only so much space in here.

“The rival you both share is myself.”

In my mind, in believe, this novel will always be two: the metafictional experiment and the human story. There is no hierarchy between the two, and I will always be able to relive the book adopting, in turn, one of these two perspectives. Both, if I feel like wearing my brains out.
But at the end of the day, I find I don't care. As long as I can relive it, and reread it, and think about it, I don't care if it so cruelly escapes me still. I'll just take whatever little it is willing to give.
Profile Image for Maria Clara.
1,015 reviews536 followers
May 12, 2016
¿Puede un libro compararse a un té? ¿Puede uno beber sus páginas a sorbos, en una lluviosa tarde de invierno? ¿Puede uno saborear cada palabra como si fuera una gota de una infusión aún por descubrir? A veces, uno abandona la última página de un libro enamorado de sus protagonistas; otras veces, con la sensación de haber perdido el tiempo; y pocas, con un sabor entre amargo y dulce. En este caso, ni me he enamorado de sus protagonistas ni he tenido la sensación de haber perdido el tiempo y mucho menos un sabor agridulce al terminar la historia. Bien al contrario. Y, aun así, sé que esta historia me acompañara por mucho tiempo y que, tal vez, recuerde a Charles con una sonrisa y me imagine un futuro de libertad para su alma... Sé que, al cerrar el libro, voy a extrañar los pequeños sorbos de este maravilloso té.
Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
874 reviews2,264 followers
August 2, 2020


A woman stands at the end of a deserted quay and stares out to sea. She is waiting for a novelist to return from a voyage to America. His ship comes into view. She sees him. He sees her, too. She will feature in the novel that he will one day write about what he saw from his point of view.

Historical Fiction

Superficially, “The French Lieutenants Woman" appears to be a work of historical fiction set in England in the period between 1866 and 1869.

However, it can also be read as a post-modern pastiche of a Victorian-era novel written 100 years later.


The implied narrator/author says that he is writing this account in 1969. He self-consciously makes choices about the construction of the novel in the body of the novel. He also offers three alternative endings. Thus, it qualifies as a work of metafiction, even if the author, John Fowles, would subsequently deny that he was a post-modernist. After all, it was modernists who pioneered metafictional techniques.

White male American post-modernists were equally reluctant to embrace Fowles as a post-modernist, not just because he was English, but because his novel broke the cardinal rules of their art form – despite its use of metafiction, it was popular and commercially successful, it had an intriguing plot, and it was made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. To them, Fowles wasn't an author “like us". He was a true individualist. He didn't want to run with their herd.


Meryl Streep in the film of the novel

The Narrator in 1969

The narrator is one of the omniscient kind (though more mischievous than godlike). From time to time, he refers to someone who might have been spying on the characters (like a peeping tom).

However, the fact that he lives in 1969 means that he could not physically have been present to observe the events that occurred in the nineteenth century (even if at one point the narrator shares a train with Charles Smithson). These events occurred in his imagination, and were the product of creative decisions he made. Nevertheless, he allowed his characters some freedom of choice in what they did.

How the narrator describes these characters and events reflects the views of a person who lived in 1969, even if the narrator might equally have been a product of the author's imagination. Thus, the novel presents the Victorian era through a perspective of the twentieth century.

If we read the novel in the twenty-first century, we add a second successive lens through which to view the narrative. There is no guarantee that we would read the novel and draw the same conclusions as a person who read it in 1969.

There is much in the novel to think and write about. However, what remained interesting to me throughout the novel was what I could infer from the title itself.

French Libertinism

It was significant that the woman was owned or possessed by someone, and that that someone was French.

The Frenchness hints at the extent to which the novel anticipated or described the anti-Gallicanism that motivated Brexit.

For centuries, England and France had been at war and despised each other's cultures. France was ostensibly Roman Catholic, and England Anglican (Church of England) or Protestant. Socially, despite the influence of Catholicism, France was libertarian, while England was more puritanical. Sexually, the English viewed the French as lusty, libidinous, licentious libertines. The English labelled syphilis as the French disease, while the French labelled it as the Neapolitan disease. You named your afflictions after your enemies.

The chief male protagonist, Charles Smithson, has spent six months in his early adulthood in Paris, “The City of Sin", where he used the services of prostitutes. At the time, it was quite common for English men to engage in sex tours of France and Europe, whatever their marital status. He returned to England “a healthy agnostic", if a somewhat serious man.

The chief female protagonist, Sarah Woodruff, has fallen in love with a French merchant naval officer while she was employed as a governess. Soon after, he returned to France, and has never returned. It's widely suspected in the local Dorset community that she had lost her virginity to the French lieutenant. The perception is that she has fallen victim to a nasty French libertine, and she is ostracized, made an outcast. Ever since, she has lived with her shame, confident that she will never marry, have children, or enjoy happiness.

Yet, like Emma Bovary, she still dreams of these things.


I imagined Sarah as looking more like Sally Hawkins (as Anne Elliot in "Persuasion") than Meryl Streep

Conventional Ownership and Possession

The second inference from the novel's title is the fact that Sarah is viewed as owned or possessed by the French lieutenant.

This ownership is analogous to a conventional Victorian marriage, in which the husband owns or possesses his wife, like a chattel. Marriage marks the end of a woman's freedom.

Sarah seeks a relationship in which she can retain her own freedom. However, she suspects that her reputation will prevent her from finding a husband, and her shame (and moral and social norms) will preclude any other type of relationship.

Charles’ Parisian exploits have made him equally sceptical about the concept of marriage, even though he’s engaged to be married to Ernestina Freeman, the daughter of the wealthy owner of a retail emporium. Ernestina is a typical Victorian girl/woman: she is pretty; “The favoured feminine look was the demure, the obedient, the shy.”

Having met Sarah, Charles becomes dissatisfied with the prospect of marriage to Ernestina. He is obsessed with Sarah, and sees her as a like mind and soul. Her shame is nothing to him. In his mind, they both crave freedom.

Beyond the Pale: "I Wish to be What I Am"

Paradoxically, Charles wishes to make Sarah “his wife" (the language of ownership and possession is unavoidable in men).

Sarah, on the other hand, has moved one step closer to freedom, beyond the pale, and has no desire to retreat: “I wish to be what I am, not what a husband, however kind, however indulgent, must expect me to become in marriage.”

"Upon the Salt, Unplumb'd, Estranging Sea"

Ultimately, Fowles has mapped out the arena upon which the battle of the sexes will be played out:

“Some terrible perversion of human sexual destiny had begun; he [Charles] was no more than a footsoldier, a pawn in a far vaster battle; and like all battles it was not about love, but about possession and territory.”

In this far vaster battle, each gender would struggle to assert its own humanity and authenticity.

To this day, as in the novel, the two genders continue their struggle “upon the salt, unplumb'd, estranging sea" that separates them.


Kissing in the Bracken

If you thought you heard two lovers
Kiss in the bracken by the brook,
Though you know you shouldn't do it,
Still you just want to have a look.
All you really need to do is
Peruse the pages of this book.

Profile Image for Emily M.
293 reviews
April 25, 2023
This book is a beautiful imaginative work, full of love, full of analysis, full of humour and light cynicism. Does that sound quite the mixture? It is.

How to describe? Post-modern Middlemarch. Erudite Neo-Victorianism. Playful examination of the way we are all, or all fated to be, fossils.

In Chapter one we are plunged into the sea air of Lyme Regis on a stormy day. It is 1867. Sarah Woodruff, nicknamed “Tragedy,” or “The French Lieutenant’s Whxxx,” gazes out to sea. She is almost universally despised, but Charles Smithson, out walking with his fiancée, pauses, and wonders. And we begin a tale – simple on many levels, an age-old story – infused with sunshine, ammonites, accents, class, change, emancipation, and Tennyson, Darwin, Matthew Arnold, Marx, Sartre and an authorial voice firmly rooted in the late-sixties, which comments on every aspect of his text, his characters, the times they lived in, the forces shaping them, the strains in a smothering society that is beginning to groan at the seams.

A scene in which Charles goes fossil hunting comes to me often, to remind me that what is right, or appropriate, is very much a symptom of the society we live in. Charles goes collecting along the beach in fussy, heavy Victorian clothes and nailed boots.

How can he not have seen that light clothes would have been more comfortable? That a hat was not necessary? That stout nailed boots on a boulder-strewn beach are as suitable as ice-skates?
Well, we laugh. But perhaps there is something admirable in this dissociation between what is most comfortable and what is most recommended…. If we take this [19th century] obsession with dressing the part, with being prepared for every eventuality, as mere stupidity, blindness to the empirical, we make, I think, a grave – or rather a frivolous – mistake about our ancestors; because it was men not unlike Charles, and as over-dressed and over-equipped as he was that day, who laid the foundations of all our modern science. Their folly in that direction was no more than a symptom of their seriousness in a much more important one. They sensed that accounts of the world were inadequate…they knew, in short, that they had things to discover, and that the discovery was of the utmost importance to the future of man. We think (unless we live in a research laboratory) that we have nothing to discover, and the only things of the utmost importance to us concern the present of man. So much the better for us?

It goes on, allowing Charles to remove his shoes in a school-boy moment of abandon, considering the way that broad learning was appreciated then, and specialization now and coming to dwell on the explosive new (to the Victorians) Darwin, and the more recently relevant understanding of species extinction.

Some readers find this relentless breaking of the fourth wall on the author’s part distracting. It is distracting. But it’s what makes the book.

It is a realist novel at war with itself. Or not at war, that suggests it is trying to be something it is not. And this novel is joyfully and exuberantly what it is: unique, questioning, playful, digressive, profound. As a lover of Victorian fiction who is not much a lover of neo-Victorian fiction, this was the best of both worlds in a way, a text that is self-aware enough to comment on what annoys the modern reader in a 19th century work (or at least what annoyed the reader of 1969), while unapologetically embracing the 19th century novel itself.

And so Charles’s interjections of “My dear Miss Woodruff!” and similar are interrupted by observations by the author on the nature of Victorian chastity, or by the observation that in the nineteenth century “more churches were built than in the whole previous history of the country; and one in sixty houses in London was a brothel.”

Later, Fowles brings his post-modern flourishes to bear not only on the Victorians and the hidden strata of their character, but on the nature of fiction itself:

Who is Sarah? Out of what shadows does she come?
I do not know. This story I am telling is all imagination. …If I have pretended until now to know my characters’ minds and innermost thoughts, it is because I am writing in (just as I have assumed some of the vocabulary and ‘voice’ of) a convention universally accepted at the time of my story: that the novelist stands next to God. He may not know all, yet he tries to pretend that he does. But I live in the age of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barthes; if this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in the modern sense of the word.

And Fowles, despite his disclaimer, comes very close, like my beloved George Eliot, to being God. His is a voice I would trust a great deal, even when I know he is playing with me.

Among my readings, the novel’s closest relations are Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Arcadia, and John Gardner’s Grendel: literature from the height of postmodern experimentation by writers to unabashedly love earlier periods. All these works are warm-hearted in a way; their experimentation never becomes cold or overly precious, because it is infused with love for literary history and, I feel, a great gentleness for these long-dead and indecipherable fictional people.

A book that I think would hold up to an infinite number of readings, and a firm favourite of mine.
Profile Image for Kansas.
605 reviews289 followers
April 16, 2023

"Como he pensado también en esa nube de palabras huecas con que los de nuestro sexo nos ofuscamos al hablar de mujeres. Tienen que estarse quietecitas, como los géneros en una tienda, esperando a que nosotros entremos, las examinemos y hagamos nuestra elección. Ésa me gusta, me la llevo. Si transigen con esto las llamamos decentes, respetables y modestas. Pero cuando tienen la impertinencia de hablar por sí mismas..."

¡Qué novela tan apasionante ha resultado ser "La mujer del teniente francés"! Me esperaba una especie de novela gótica en la cual John Fowles cuestionara ciertos clichés victorianos y me encuentro con una obra totalmente posmoderna en la cual, no solo deconstruye estos clichés, el amor romántico y los roles de género, sino que al mismo tiempo enfrenta al lector a ese mundo victoriano pero desde una mirada totalmente moderna y de ahora, usando una serie de técnicas que como he dicho al principio, la convierten en apasionante.

"Era apasionada e imaginativa. Charles había empezado a entrever la primera de estas cualidades; la segunda no. No podía advertirlas porque eran dos cualidades que la época repudiaba, parangonando a la primera con la sensualidad y a la segunda con el simple capricho."

En una novela que transcurre en la Inglaterra más puramente victoriana, la del 1867, Charles Smithson, futuro heredero de un tío soltero, caballero, y comprometido con la hija rica de un comerciante, conoce a Sara Woodruff, a la que llaman la mujer del teniente francés. A partir de aquí, en un argumento totalmente tópico, Charles atraído por el misterio que envuelve a Sara, la mujer prohibida, con ese morbo de un pasado tormentoso, no solo se siente atraído por ella, sino que se enamora. Un argumento muy victoriano y que puede sonar aburrido, y sin embargo los tejemanejes con los que Fowles envuelve su novela, convierten esta obra en una especie de reto para el lector.

"Charles la vio alejarse. Lo único que conservaba era la imagen de aquellos ojos, unos ojos exageradamente grandes, que parecían ver más y sufrir más. Y aquel modo de mirar tan directo."
"¿Quién es Sara?
¿De qué sombras ha salido?""
"Una vez mas su rostro causó en él un efecto extraordinario. Era como si cada vez que dejaba de verlo fuera incapaz de creer que pudiera producir aquel efecto y tuviera que volver a verlo. Parecía envolverle y rechazarle al mismo tiempo; como si fuera una imagen de un sueño, siempre quieto y, sin embargo, siempre más lejos."

John Fowles crea en el personaje de Sara Woodruff, una especie de abstracción, en el sentido de que la convierte en el modelo de mujer victoriana misteriosa, envuelta en una doble ambigüedad entre ser la heroína o la femme fatale, nunca definida, pero con un pasado que puede despertar el morbo en esa era victoriana tan reprimida. Sara que es una joven educada pero sin dinero, carga con un estigma de un pasado envuelto en turbiedad por sus amores con un teniente francés: la llaman la puta del teniente francés e incluso carga con un mote, Tragedia. Cuando acepta un trabajo como dama de compañía, la sra. Pouteney, lo hace con un perfil bajo ya que la sociedad en la que vive ya la ha condenado y marginado y de alguna forma debe sentirse agradecida por el hecho de que todavía se le dé alguna oportunidad. Así que ya tenemos los elementos primordiales de una buena novela decimonónica: amores atormentados, pasados turbios y unas convenciones sociales represoras jugando a destrozar estos juegos amorosos. Pero la maravilla en esta novela está en la forma en la que John Fowles analiza continuamente, desde su primera persona, estas convenciones de la novela victoriana porque usa esta pasión amorosa para analizar no solo la era victoriana desde una mirada de ahora, sino que reflexiona sobre el sentido del arte, y de la literatura en este caso. Metaficción pura y dura.

"Charles no lo sabía, pero en aquellos breves segundos de espera sobre un mar que parecía contemplar la escena expectante, en el luminoso silencio de la tarde turbado solo por el débil murmullo de las olas, se perdió toda la Era victoriana."

El lector no tarda mucho en descubrir que "La mujer del teniente francés" es una novela sobre cómo escribir una novela. El autor, invade continuamente su trama para situar al lector y recordarle que es una obra de ficción, que el argumento es perfectamente manipulable y usa su primera persona para que seamos conscientes, que todo es pura imaginación. Este resaltar continuo en el hecho de que seamos conscientes en la diferencia entre el mundo real, el del lector, y el ficticio, el del argumento de la novela, es lo que convierten esta novela en fascinante. Fowles no parodia esta era victoriana pero la analiza para que desde nuestra mirada contemporánea, tengamos una visión más clara de la naturaleza humana. Contraponiendo esta ficción con la realidad del narrador va analizando esta obra desde varias perspectivas, la suya, pero sobre todo la de la creación artística. El lector es consciente de eso así que desde el primer momento analiza esta historia, la de esta pasión amorosa como si la novela fuera un gran laboratorio y los personajes fueran sus conejillos de indias, tal como hacía George Elliot en Middlemarch. Fowles hace incisos continuamente y establece conexiones con el mundo victoriano para que el lector se sitúe y lo hace combinando el estilo de la novela decimonónica con un estilo mucho más modernista cuando se detiene en estos análisis desde la mirada contemporánea.

"¿Con qué nos enfrentamos en el s.XIX? Con una época en que la mujer era sagrada, y en la que cualquiera podía comprar a una niña de trece años por unas cuantas libras..., o por unos chelines si la quería solo por una o dos horas. Una época en la que se construyeron más iglesias que en toda la historia anterior del país, y en la que cada sesenta casas de Londres era un burdel..."

Una época en la que se sostenia categóricamente que las mujeres no tenían orgasmos, y en la que se enseñaba a todas las prostitutas a simularlos.
Una época en la que hubo grandes progresos y liberaciones en todos los campos de la actividad humana; y nada más que tiranía en el más personal y fundamental."

Y por otra parte, y como es imposible que John Fowles aborde, todo lo que supuso la era victoriana, decide detenerse en cuestiones concretas: el papel de la mujer, sobre todo la esclavitud que les suponía no ser libres económicamente hablando, y la represión que las convertían en unas marginadas en cuanto, se atrevían a poner un pie fuera de las reglas establecidas.

"Una mujer no contradecía a un hombre cuando él hablaba en serio; en todo caso, debía hacerlo con mesura y prudencia. Casi parecía que Sara se situaba en un plano de igualdad intelectual con él."

El otro gran tema que aborda a través de sus personajes se refiere a los estamentos sociales, muy encorsetados y como empieza a vislumbrarse, que había grupos sociales que comenzaban a despegar fuera de estas convenciones. Fowles cuestiona los matrimonios que eran un negocio en toda regla, la compra de maridos a través de la dote y sobre todo ese hombre diletante, representado en Charles, que no era libre del todo a menos que se rebajara a perder su libertad en favor de ciertos intereses.

"Lyme era una ciudad de ojos escrutadores y Londres una ciudad de ciegos. Nadie se volvía a mirarle. Era casi invisible, no existía. Esto le dio una sensacion de libertad, pero fue una sensación terrible porque él sabía que la libertad la había perdido ya. Era como Wynsyatt. En su vida, todo estaba perdido y todo le recordaba a su pérdida."

"Viajar otra vez. Si pudiera escapar, si pudiera escapar... Se lo repetía una y otra vez; luego metafóricamente se sacudió las solapas, por iluso, por romántico, por irresponsable."

Me resulta casi imposible abordar en esta reseña todos los conceptos en torno a los cuales Fowles envuelve su novela, jugando con ellos, exponiendo a sus personajes porque al hacerlo desde una visión de ahora, nos enfrenta a la condición humana y nos revela que realmente sus personajes llegado un punto rebasan esta máscara creada por él y los vamos viendo como lo que son, individuos que viven en una época determinada y rebasan la condición de ser meros personajes para convertirse en individuos casi de ahora mismo:

- Sara es una mujer consciente de sí misma y aunque debe rebajarse a jugar a un perfil bajo para sobrevivir en una época en la que no se podía salir del rol asignado ("-Dicen por ahí que busca usted en el mar las velas de Satanás "), poco a poco, Fowles va dando pistas de que no es una mujer común y corriente, sino que está buscando su lugar en el mundo. Lo tiene claro y lucha por ello; tiene el control absoluto aunque juegue a la oveja descarriada, pero es una forma de supervivencia.

"- Solo soy feliz cuando duermo. Cuando despierto, empieza la pesadilla. Me siento arrojada a una isla desierta, cautiva, condenada, y no sé cuál ha sido mi delito."

- Charles por otra parte, que aparentemente es el perfecto caballero victoriano, no tiene tan claro su lugar en el mundo y va cambiando dependiendo de quién se va encontrando en el camino: se siente atraído pero al mismo tiempo escandalizado por haberse encontrado con una mujer, en plena era victoriana ("- ¿Desea usted oírla? ¿Desea usted verla? ¿Desea usted tocarla?") , que habla por sí misma, se siente incómodo, se sorprende y al mismo tiempo atraído. De alguna forma Fowles expone y satiriza esta hipocresía social de la era victoriana, en torno al sexo sobre todo, y resulta fascinante la forma en que lo hace. Cambia los roles de género marcados y de esta forma convierte a sus personajes en seres de carne y hueso, aunque seamos todo el tiempo conscientes de que está jugando a escribir una novela.

"Entonces se dio cuenta que todos sus rasgos estaban supeditados a los ojos. Y aquellos ojos no podían disimular una gran inteligencia, una independencia de espíritu; también había en ellos un mudo rechazo de toda compasión, la decisión de ser lo que era."

Y llegado a este punto y sin que sea mi intención el desvelar demasiado, es imposible hablar de esta novela sin "el más difícil todavía" y es el de sus dos o tres finales en los que Fowles confronta su narración. El autor experimenta y lleva su novela a su última consecuencia porque una vez que está dentro del laboratorio y ha experimentado con la narración y con los conejillos de indias, inventa varios finales: uno tradicional, puramente victoriano, y otro más, llevándolo hasta otra perspectiva. La gracia está que se puede entrever quizás un tercero, más subterraneo y que en mi opinión convierte la novela en lo que es, una obra maestra del posmodernismo, aunque las etiquetas sean un rollo, vale. Una novela de la que habría que hablar mucho más y de la que sin embargo he intentado resaltar quizás, lo más evidente. Pero sí, ha resultado una novela reveladora e inesperada.

"¿Qué fue de Sara? No lo sé. Lo cierto es que no volvió a importunar a Charles, por lo menos en persona, aunque su imagen siguiera ocupando su mente. Es lo que suele ocurrir. Las personas desaparecen de nuestra vida al hundirse en las sombras de las cosas que están más cerca."
Profile Image for Tessa Nadir.
Author 3 books272 followers
June 23, 2021
Pentru aceasta recenzie mi-am notat multe idei pe diferite ciorne insa, acum recitindu-le, am simtit ca ar trebui sa le arunc pe toate si sa scriu la liber, din suflet.
Autorul scrie extraordinar de frumos, cu multe descrieri minunate care ajuta cititorul sa patrunda in atmosfera epocii victoriene. Cu stil si rafinament John Fowles face o analiza in amanunt a moralei, convenientelor si asteptarilor societatii din acel timp. Efectiv m-am simtit transpusa pe cheiul din Lyme Regis, in bataia vantului naprasnic, uitandu-ma la marea involburata, simtind picaturile reci pe obraz si asteptand plina de speranta sa zaresc vaporul la bordul caruia trebuie sa se afle iubitul meu, locotenentul francez. Am acordat asadar 5 stele pentru acest dar minunat al lui Fowles de a te rapi in lumea faurita de imaginatia sa si pentru ca am petrecut mai multe amiezi in aceasta dulce uitare in care timpul parca se oprise si toate problemele cotidiene se topisera.
Romanul este despre iubire dar sentimentul este pus in contradictoriu cu onoarea, cuvantul dat, calitatea de gentleman si ce se asteapta de la acesta si desigur datoria sa fata de societate si femeia aleasa, nu neaparat cea iubita. Si asa cum spunea George Eliot: "Dumnezeu e de neinchipuit, nemurirea e de necrezut, datoria, insa, e peremptorie si absoluta." In fata acestei dileme este pus Charles Smithson, un gentleman englez, logodit cu o bogata mostenitoare, Ernestina Freeman. Intre ei doi se va interpune Sarah Woodruff, 'iubita locotenentului francez', care prin tragedia ei il seduce pe Charles.
Din punctul meu de vedere cea mai mare provocare a romanului este sa intelegem atitudinea si firea protagonistei. Trebuie sa marturisesc aici ca eu nu am reusit s-o inteleg si in ciuda faptului ca de obicei tin partea eroinelor, aici consider ca adevarata tragedie ii apartine lui Charles. Ba mai mult, am ajuns sa cred despre Sarah ca ar fi psihopata. Este greu de explicat altfel de ce o femeie educata si cu principii s-ar auto-victimiza, ar cere indurare si mila si s-ar folosi de aceste lucruri pentru a intra in viata privata a unui barbat, distrugandu-i logodna, aducandu-l in patul ei si facandu-l infidel ca mai apoi sa-l respinga sub pretextul: "Eu nu pot fi inteleasa", "Nu vreau sa fiu ca celelalte."
Nu pot sa ma abtin sa nu aduc vorba despre cel mai scurt act sexual pe care l-am citit intr-o carte si citez de la "privitul in dormitor" pana la "Ah, Sarah." - "trecura exact 90 de secunde." Nu, n-o sa comentez asta.
Mi-a placut mult ca am aflat despre echinoderme, adica arici de mare pietrificati care mai sunt numiti si 'banuti de nisip' .
In incheiere stilul frumos al autorului trebuie sa primeze si in acest sens atasez cateva citate relevante:
"Pierdut era tot ceea ce alcatuise odata viata lui, si ceea ce alcatuia acum viata lui ii amintea ca totul era pierdut."
"Orgoliul barbatilor consta in dorinta de a fi ascultati cu supunere; Iar al femeilor, in stiinta de a folosi supunerea ca pe o arma care sa le conduca la victoria finala."
"Unii barbati se alina cu ideea ca exista femei mai putin atragatoare decat nevestele lor; in vreme ce altii sunt hartuiti neincetat de certitudinea ca se afla si altele, mai atragatoare."
"Cred ca inteleg de ce a fugit marinarul ala, francezul. Si-a dat seama ca ochii ei pot duce un barbat la pierzanie."
"N-am putut sa ma cunun cu barbatul acela - si atunci m-am cununat cu pacatul savarsit."
"Fiecare epoca vinovata - isi inconjoara cu ziduri inalte Versaillesul sau; eu, unul, urasc zidurile acestea cel mai mult atunci cand sunt inaltate cu caramizile artei si literaturii."
Profile Image for Sweet Jane.
116 reviews182 followers
December 23, 2018
"Δεν ξέρω. Αυτή η ιστορία που λέω είναι όλη φανταστική. Οι χαρακτήρες που δημιούργησα ποτέ δεν υπήρξαν έξω από τα όρια του δικού μου μυαλού. Αν προσποιήθηκα μέχρι τώρα πως γνωρίζω τη σκέψη των ηρώων μου και τα βαθύτερα ��ισθήματα είναι γιατί γράφω (ακριβώς όπως έχω χρησιμοποιήσει μέρος από το λεξιλόγιο και τη «φωνή» τους) σύμφωνα με το παγκόσμια αποδεκτό κατεστημένο της εποχής όπου διαδραματίζεται η ιστορία μου: ότι ο μυθιστορηματογράφος στέκεται πλάι στο ίδιο ύψος με τον Θεό. Μπορεί να μην γνωρίζει τα πάντα, ωστόσο προσπαθεί να προσποιείται ότι τα γνωρίζει. Όμως ζω στην εποχή του Αλαίν Ρομπ-Γκριγιέ και του Ρολάν Μπαρτ. Αν αυτό είναι μυθιστόρημα, δεν μπορεί να είναι μυθιστόρημα με τη μοντέρνα έννοια της λέξης"

Για μένα η Ερωμένη του Γάλλου υποπλοιάρχου είναι με διαφορά το καλύτερο βιβλίο του Fowles. Αυτή τη φορά επενδύει σε έναν δυναμό γυναικείο χαρακτήρα, διαφορετικό από αυτούς που μας έχει συνηθίσει, χωρίς όμως να αφήνει πίσω του την γνωστή μεταμοντέρνα πνοή της γραφής του. Εξαιρετικό έργο. Δύο λόγια παραπάνω στο Style Rive Gauche
Profile Image for Aslıhan Çelik Tufan.
646 reviews168 followers
March 10, 2020
Beklentileriniz nedir ne ararsınız bilemem ama Fowles i benim gibi Büyücü sonrası okumaya devam ediyorsanız, hayranlıktan ağzınız açık kalıp sonunda alkış tutmak isteyebilirsiniz. Bana öyle oldu ordan biliyorum.

Okuyunuz efenim!
Profile Image for Marc.
3,108 reviews1,177 followers
September 2, 2020
If you like Thomas Hardy, this is a must-read! Set in southern England, around 1868, Fowles (1926-2005) evokes the Victorian times and morals in a splendid way. In the first place it is a love story, but with a bonus: every now and then Fowles reminds the reader that this story is not quite his invention. His characters, he claims, have a mind of there own, and he's as eager as we to see what happens.

Now, all this is beautifully written and done, but... at the end Fowles presents 3 different endings, and with this I have a problem: the way he describes the second and the third one is done in such a provocative way, that I have difficulty to follow and believe it.

Also, the character of Sarah and the motives for her deeds remain a mystery; I think Fowles ment her to be a precursor of radical feminism, a woman that wants to change her destiny (like Charles does). In other words: the author introduces twentieth century motives into a nineteenth century plot, and that's rather awkward. But of course, this way Fowles proves authors really are gods and literature is not dead at all (like the structuralists of the sixties stated). And that really is a relief!
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,301 reviews22k followers
August 14, 2011
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 some vague and generalised ‘qualms’?) Authors are Gods – if they choose they can write about things that quite simply they could never know the first thing about: how it feels to be that woman standing over there in her billowing cape blowing out against the wind, what it means to be dead and yet to not expect judgement, what the rush of power is like in having just created an entire universe with all time and all space and all actions that shall ever take place therein laid bare and translucent before one. Although, more frequently, authors tend to speculate on that woman, any woman, as if it was she that was lying bare and translucent before them, much more that than they ever do in contemplating the hidden mysteries of universes yet uncreated. But, even so, don't in the least confuse that for modesty on their part. The inevitability of female desire for the all-too-male creations of these male fantasists, even if only realised in a spurting, premature ejaculation is not expected to be followed by an apology on his part, (“I’m sorry, I had hoped” and then trailed off) but rather by her saying, ‘Thank you, my dearest, for the best eighteen seconds of my life”.

And sometimes the world, the real world of living, breathing free agents that we imagine ourselves to inhabit, stands aghast or in awe or terrified by the worlds these minor demigods call forth into existence. “Look”, world says, “here is a man, a novelist, a writer of fictions, and he has summoned before us the very essence of Victorian England – and look, here are parts of France, Italy and the United States all brought equally back to life – he has made them even more real than was possible for the previous writers of fiction who lived in those times, he shows us this world as it must be seen, by our very modern eyes. Here the world stands – an age eviscerated, no, rather an age animated once again, only it is better this time for it has been brought back Frankenstein-like for our benefit by one of our own.”

To me, the chapter of this book that best explains what is going on here – besides the melodrama which must sustain the interest of the readers less concerned with the philosophical discussions that proceeds apace, at once by sleight-of-hand, or then tentatively hidden, just sideways from the page, or suddenly bold as brass and perhaps a little too upfront – is Chapter 13. A quick read of that chapter will not tell you whether or not you will like to read this book. It is too different from what the rest of the text appears to be and so will offer little help there in your decisions – but it is ‘what the book is about’, if, that is, the book is about anything. Perhaps I should ask questions – although, I hope you don’t expect such a catechism to help you.

What is the position of the author when he intrudes into the world of the novel he is writing (I’ll stick with ‘he’ here after a chat I had with my daughter yesterday about precisely this concern with pronouns, but also because in this case the author is all too very decidedly a ‘he���)? How much, even as the omnipotent creator of this little world, does he really know, or is he allowed to know, or does he choose to know? To what extent is the author free in his own creation? On this last point I can illustrate with one of my favourite instances in the book. It is the line describing one of the characters being discovered after her long absence – she is with a child – and the author would dearly love to have her found pushing a pram (see, the image leaps off the page even if you haven’t read the book) but he can’t because prams were not invented for another ten years. Such are the authors’ scruples. (don't for a moment think I've misplaced that apostrophe - fellow authors).

Oh, excellent, we think, we readers (or should I only speak for myself?). “Verisimilitude!” we say, if we are familiar with that word – but we think something very like it even if we are not. Nothing better than to have a pretend Victorian England that confines itself to the constraints of that other, that very real Victorian England, to that time, to the ‘facts’ of that other imagined world we call history. And so, given this verisimilitude, just how was she with the child if she was not pushing a pram? The negative image is all that remains, I’m afraid. In my memory the fictional character still pushes the nonexistent, the not yet invented, pram, despite all authorial warnings against my forming just such an image. Although, clearly that was his intent all along.

There are things that you will be told about this book before you read it that will not prove to be true. Firstly, you will be told that the book has two endings – there are, in fact, three endings. The first of the three is probably the ending that most closely reflects the ending we all choose in living out our own lives – or is that just me being rather cruel about you here? It is, after all, the dreariest ending of the three – the one even the author can only bring himself to rush through as if with a bad taste in his mouth. So just how cruel is it that I am being towards you and your dreadfully predictable life? My implying that you follow the same well-trodden path that convention sets out before you, and in making that endlessly dull path appear again before you simply in my mentioning that particular ending, that generally unmentioned ending of this book? It is, after all, the ending most readers choose to ignore when they say this book has only two endings – there must be a reason for that. A not very nice reason, I suspect.

But I have no right to mock you for the grey, one-foot-at-a-time, blandness of your trudging walk along the gravel stoned pathway of your existence – I am just as constrained and just as restricted as you. The mere fact I sit here rattling these chains may well draw attention to them, but like your chains, the ones you may prefer to hide or that you struggle to keep silent, the ones that nevertheless pinch against your wrists and nip the bony flesh of your ankles, these my chains here are still firmly in place, still just as locked tight – and whether I choose for them to make a noise in my rattling them hardly matters one way or the other. Drawing attention to bonds in no way loosens them, in no way frees me.

Secondly, you will be told that much of this novel is a playing out of very modern concerns within a vividly imagined Victorian England. I’m not so sure this is the case. If there is one motif in fiction that I particularly like to trace my fingers along in times of idle contemplation it is the idea that we all want to live within the fairytale of love, but that love repeatedly refuses to be confined within the very fairytale it itself promises. Rather, the greatest efforts (meagre as even these inevitably prove to be, truth be told) that we exert in the name of love never amount to what we expected them to. It is as if we would turn to the object of our love and say: “Look, all of this I have done, this entire universe I have created, and all this stands testament to my adoration of you! Can’t you see, can’t you tell what this, what all this has cost me?” And there it is – our gaze turns and returns yet again and always back to ourselves. Even as we exult that other name, that name that was the word that issued forth to create the entire universe, she becomes someone else, something else, a cipher we have used to hide our very own image in her name, Pygmalion like. A thing of mirrors and reflections. For writers are truly Gods.

This book is taught in high schools to 18 year olds – god pity them – and I’m nearly certain hours and hours of discussion is spent discussing the motivation of this French Lieutenant’s woman, why and if she lead the protagonist astray – but this really is not a book about her at all. Her motivations, her desires, her very being is of secondary interest at best. This is a book about a man who just wants to have some control, who wants to make a world where he is the hero of his own story, not the lackey, not the person indebted to others, not below his own wife, not caught. Is that man called Charles or John, I can’t remember which – or did I ever know? And he sees a woman who he thinks he understands, for he understands that she has somehow, despite the impossibility of such a choice, chosen to be herself, so he decides, outside of conventions, that she might be someone who just might be able to show him a way out. But there is no way out, really. We do not have time machines – we live decidedly within our own time – we do not get to be ahead of our time, whatever that could possible mean, not even when we are characters created in a world future to the one we are asked to live within by someone gifted by time’s passing and with that most singular power of hindsight, we still can only live out our own lives and we live them in the here and now, whatever here and now means (or whenever that means, perhaps) with ourselves barely a single thread in a tapestry all too great for us to even take in. It is our substance, even as it bumps up against the world, that hides from us how essentially ephemeral we are – unless, unless our shadow somehow stands black-against-white in some text somewhere, almost real, almost life-like. Otherwise, we remain, at best, the major character in the lonely narrative that forever runs foregrounded in our own minds, if nowhere else.

So, which ending did I prefer? Oh, but they are all the same – we live, we die and all paths taken lead inevitably to the grave. A much more interesting question is – is this fiction? Or rather, should we really care if this is fiction? Or perhaps even, should we care if this is ‘true’? Or, to ask the same question one last time, to what extent is the ‘made up’ even more true than the lived?

At least, that is what I think this book is about.
Profile Image for Kevin Lopez (on sabbatical).
85 reviews21 followers
May 10, 2023
The last book I read by the beautifully nuanced, poetic, and altogether mesmerizing novelist John Fowles was “The Magus.” I devoured that book and still think about it today, many years later, which is perhaps the ultimate compliment one can pay a writer: to ruminate endlessly on their work. I didn’t think Fowles would be able to surpass himself, especially with a novel that is, on its face at least, utterly different from the kind of mind-bending psychological-thriller he plotted for “The Magus.” Yet somehow, someway, he does. He manages to do in “The French Lieutenant’s Women” what I’ve only ever seen done by one other modern author I can think of, Hilary Mantel: that is, to take the well-worn and cliché-filled format of the historical novel and expand its parameters infinitely out unto the horizon, discovering new, hitherto unknown territories and in so doing elevating historical fiction to the highest form of literature. I don’t even know what “the highest form of literature” means, exactly; if asked to define it I’d probably stutter something largely unintelligible. But, like the Supreme Court Justice said of pornography, I know it when I see it. And this, well this is it. The fourth-wall breaking, the insertion of the author, writing in the 1970s, into his own supremely intricate narrative, unfolding a century earlier—every authorial trick, from the playful to the profound, just works. In addition to all this, it’s the first book I’ve read in quite some time that is a real page-turner. Despite its 500 some-odd pages and frequently arcane language (Fowles writes his Victorian-age characters not as essentially modern people dressed in period clothing—which even Mantel can be faulted for, though she manages somehow to make it not a fault at all—but truly finds their voices, showing us their deepest dreams, desires, fears, frailties, regrets, and all the rest) I breezed right through it, and have even gone back to it many times since, to reread a certain passage or to unknot a certain scene or subtle plot point, to ponder, or to better understand, or just to search for the elusive magician behind the curtain, to catch the sleight of hand hiding behind the rabbit-in-the-hat trick (not having been on Goodreads for awhile I haven’t updated what I’ve been reading, but I finished this book about a month and a half ago).

“The French Lieutenant’s Woman” is everything a novel could, and should, be. It makes one think about one’s world through the lens of a novel setting (no pun intended), while also freeing one to peer into one’s own world without some of the biases and baggage of the present. It forces you to face truths about yourself that you may never have recognized or even considered. It allows one to discover, or rediscover, a sense of wonder and appreciation for life, for love, for suffering and selflessness, for morality, immorality, meaning, and mortality.
Profile Image for Perry.
632 reviews533 followers
February 26, 2019
Once You Show Me Your Magic's Secrets, The Magic is Gone
[3.5 rounded up to 4]

You should know first off that I'm no fan of novels in which the author inserts him/herself by making crafty little comments that serve to remind me he made the damn thing up and/or to entertain the author by allowing her to toy with the conventions of storytelling.

I come to a novel to read a story that speaks truth and to lose myself in another world, and I hope the novel is a really good one that provokes me to me learn something about myself and/or the human condition. To accomplish this--call me old-fashioned--I need to be able to suspend my disbelief in the author's fantasies.

While I am intrigued by how writers create stories, I find it hard to see truth in fiction wherein the writer makes contemporary comments and otherwise reminds me that he made the whole thing up. I can only think of one novel in which I enjoyed this type of telling: Immortality by Milan Kundera. On the other hand, I didn't like his The Book of Laughter and Forgetting because he overly cogitates on his thought processes in creating the related stories as he is in the process of telling them.

To me, many novels of this ilk amount to a form of intellectual "dick-measuring" exercises, whereby one author gets to show the others how smart, cute and clever he can be.

I try to come up with a good analogy, but the best I can do at the moment is saying it's like going to a Vegas magic show--knowing, obviously, it is not really magic, but enjoying it because the magician tricks my eyes into believing the impossible--only to have the Houdini show me how he is deceiving me as he performs the "magic"!!!

Here, the narrator tells a century-old story of a Victorian love affair in 1867. Charles Smithson, an up-and-comer of mainly middle-class means, is engaged to Ernestina, a well-to-do innocent vacuous young lady. Soon, he swoons over Sarah Woodruff, a beautiful and poor woman who was recently jilted by her lover, a French lieutenant, and whom the townspeople treat as a whore outcast. The story was intriguing as far as it went as fiction... until Fowles began playing around and ruining the truth of the story for me.

Fowles gives the reader three different endings. I am not sure how I can fully spoil the ending unless I tell you....the three distinct endings. Yet, maybe the fact of three endings persuades you to read it since the chances are good that you will like at least one of three.
Profile Image for Rowena.
501 reviews2,517 followers
January 21, 2012
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. He also includes his opinions on 19th Century society which I believe enrich the story.
Profile Image for George K..
2,432 reviews318 followers
February 14, 2022
Βαθμολογία: 9/10

Πρώτη ��παφή με το έργο του Τζον Φόουλς και δηλώνω εξαιρετικά ικανοποιημένος, τόσο από την ιστορία και τους χαρακτήρες όσο κυρίως από την οξυδερκή γραφή, τον τρόπο αφήγησης και τη γενικότερη ατμόσφαιρα. Η αλήθεια είναι ότι θα ήθελα να διαβάσω τα βιβλία του Φόουλς με τη σειρά που εκδόθηκαν, οπότε κανονικά θα έπρεπε να πιάσω πρώτα τον Συλλέκτη και στη συνέχεια τον Μάγο, έλα όμως που η ΕΡΤ 2 θα προβάλλει την Παρασκευή που μας έρχεται την ταινία που βασίζεται στο παρόν βιβλίο, οπότε ήταν επιβεβλημένο να διαβάσω το βιβλίο για να μπορώ μετά να δω και την ταινία (σαράν��α χρόνων ταινία είναι, πότε και πού θα μπορούσα να είχα ξανά την ευκαιρία να τη δω, αν όχι σε λίγες μέρες;). Για καλό, όμως, "χάλασαν" τα σχέδιά μου, γιατί διάβασα επιτέλους ένα βιβλίο του Φόουλς, και έτσι ήρθα σε επαφή με μια τόσο δυνατή πένα, με ένα τόσο ενδιαφέρον μυαλό! Σίγουρα, το βιβλίο δεν είναι για όλα τα γούστα, ούτε για όλες τις ώρες, είναι κάπως αργόσυρτο και χαμηλών ρυθμών, ίσως λιγάκι βαρετό εδώ κι εκεί, με αρκετή πολυλογία, προσωπικά όμως απόλαυσα την κριτική ματιά του συγγραφέα απέναντι στη Βικτωριανή εποχή, απέναντι στα ήθη και τις αξίες των ανθρώπων εκείνων των χρόνων, ενώ... σκανδαλίστηκα λιγάκι από κάποια κόλπα του στην αφήγηση και την τεχνική, αν μη τι άλλο είχαν το ενδιαφέρον τους και έδωσαν αυτό το κάτι διαφορετικό στο είδος. Ναι, μου άρεσε πολύ το βιβλίο, μπορεί να χρειάστηκε λίγος χρόνος μέχρι να δεθώ με την ιστορία και τους χαρακτήρες, μέχρι να μπω στο κλίμα, μετά όμως πραγματικά χάθηκα στον κόσμο του βιβλίου, έγινα ένα με τους χαρακτήρες και το δράμα τους. Και απόλαυσα στον απόλυτο βαθμό τη γραφή του Φόουλς και το όλο στιλ αφήγησης.
Profile Image for Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship.
1,161 reviews1,254 followers
February 1, 2016
Let’s call it 3.25 stars. This novel is basically one big gimmick. Fowles writes well and has done his research, so he pulls off the gimmick fairly well. But it is still a gimmick, and the story itself isn’t strong enough to stand on its own. This review will contain some SPOILERS.

The story consists of a simple love triangle involving Charles (the gentleman), Ernestina (his proper young fiancée) and Sarah (the mysterious “fallen” woman). It makes a thin plot for a 467-page book; what sets the book apart is the intrusive narrator. The book is set in the 1860s, but Fowles writes it explicitly from a 1960s perspective, commenting on aspects of life at the time, and then veers off to talk about the writing of the story itself and the different ways it could possibly end.

It is an unusual choice, and in that sense it’s interesting, though in this day of author blogs, a “behind the scenes” look at the author’s process isn’t the novelty it may have been in pre-Internet days. As a reader who is interested in history, I did enjoy the author’s stepping in with asides like, “the Victorians talked a good game about chastity, but actually the number of brothels per capita was enormous,” or “let me tell you how this landscape has changed in the last 100 years” or “here are some weird household implements from the 1860s.” Historical fiction is generally expected to wear its research lightly, with the result that readers are often too busy identifying with the characters to learn much about the setting. This book doesn’t have those constraints, so the tidbits about the era are interesting, and Fowles writes well enough to get away with the occasional digression, expounding on his opinions of the differences between the two time periods.

But then we come to Sarah. Fowles tells us outright that he doesn’t know what’s going through her head – it shows, and that’s a real weakness, given that she’s the book’s second most prominent character. At first, Charles sees her as a simple “fallen woman,” ashamed and pining for the eponymous French lieutenant, who seduced and then left her. Cliché, but comprehensible. Then we learn that she never loved the guy at all; rather, she suffers from depression and feelings of isolation, and “ruined” herself on purpose to create an external cause for her outcast status and exempt herself from society’s expectations for respectable women. Now we are getting somewhere; this is what I want from literary fiction. But then we find out . . . that it was all a charade, and actually she just goes around faking maladies all the time, in hopes that a man will eventually appear, be overwhelmed by a sense of protectiveness and fall in love with her, so that she can . . . leave him? What? The author attempts to support this by having Charles read some 19th century psychological treatise claiming this is known female behavior and possibly caused by sexual repression. Which is clearly bunk in light of what we now know about mental illness, and leaves us with a nonsensical character, who may have engineered the whole plot to get back at men, via Charles, for the French lieutenant (whom she didn’t love anyway?) leaving her. Because that makes total sense. Or maybe she didn’t, and was actually motivated by . . . what? Who knows?

At any rate, if you love metafiction, you should probably give this book a whirl. If you don’t, though, the story isn’t particularly strong, and to me a basic task of fiction is the creation of a work that can be enjoyed simply for its plot and/or characters. So, while not by any means a poorly-written book, this isn’t one I’m likely to recommend.
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