The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman

by John Fowles


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Perhaps the most beloved of John Fowles's internationally bestselling works, The French Lieutenant's Woman is a feat of seductive storytelling that effectively invents anew the Victorian novel. "Filled with enchanting mysteries and magically erotic possibilities" ( New York Times), the novel inspired the hugely successful 1981 film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons and is today universally regarded as a modern classic.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316291163
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 09/01/1998
Series: French Lieutenant's Woman , #1
Pages: 480
Sales rank: 200,919
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

John Fowles (1926-2005) was educated at Oxford and subsequently lectured in English at universities in Greece and the UK. The success of his first novel, The Collector, published in 1963, allowed him to devote all his time to writing. His books include the internationally acclaimed and bestselling novels The Magus, The French Lieutenant's Woman, and Daniel Martin. Fowles spent the last decades of his life on the southern coast of England in the small harbor town of Lyme Regis.

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The French Lieutenant's Woman 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
John Fowles 'The French Lieutenants Woman' was the first book I've read in a long time that did not seem trite and false. Humanity exudes from every character explored and the greater ideas of love, freedom, and identity make this book a must-read. I have always been slightly enamoured of 19th-century Britain and this novel explores many of the contradictions of that era. A beautiful love story for the Romantic and an amazing thought-provoker for the Thinker.
sand7s More than 1 year ago
Very good book. I loved the characters. The cover. finished it very quickly
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book delivers just about everything a book can: complex ideas, a compelling and surprising plot, beautiful language, subtle eroticism and passion, and historical context. Absolutely fantastic!
name99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I was a schoolkid I remember a lot of fuss about this book, I imagine because the movie had just been released. Since then, I've been curious what the fuss was about. Finally listening to it was a major letdown.Maybe I'm an ignorant troll, but I just don't care about this sort of rambling story about people who cannot seem to get their acts together. The cross-cutting between now and then is cute, but one gimmick does not a novel make. (After listening to the work, I watched to movie in the hope that maybe an alternative interpretation would add more value. No such luck; I was just as unenthused about that.)
TheBentley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book much more than I expected to. Not only is the Victorian drama a good one, but Fowles' take on "post-modernizing" it is deftly accomplished. His authorial voice is charming and interesting--even when it should feel pedantic--and I found myself looking forward to the next time "the author" would appear. While many people have complained that the numerous anachronistic author asides take the reader "out of the story," I found just the opposite. For me, they were what anchored me to it. Be advised, this is not a typical Victorian romance. My response to that is, "Thank Goodness!" If you are the type of person, however, who relishes getting lost in a 19th Century setting, this is not the book for you.
Borg-mx5 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A challenging book. The author steps out to explain what he is doing. This was artfully done in the film too.
raizel on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Clever book that gives more than one possible future and also steps back to look at the way a story and its characters take on a will of their own. Also lots of information about Victorian life. Worth rereading.
sblock on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Gorgeous writing, compelling tale of Victorian repression, but still not sure how I feel about the author's periodic reminders that this is a novel and he controls the strings. I guess it seemed a little forced. And I'm still trying to figure out just what he was trying to say. That real life is more complicated than fiction? I guess my conclusion is that I loved this book more for its parts than its sum.
scrumptious on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Strange and fascinating.
hollysing on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
John Fowles masterfully plunges us into 19th century Victorian England with its social customs, sexual taboos and moral attitudes. Charles, engaged to Ernestina becomes fascinated with Sarah Woodruff, a multi-faceted character. The book is totally unique, not just because of John Fowles ability as a wordsmith, but because of the unique point of view. His 1960's narrator (when the book was written) comments on the lives and interactions of the 19th century characters.
veevoxvoom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Summary: A metafictional historical novel about a cast of characters in Victorian England. Charles is a typical Victorian gentlemen engaged to a typical Victorian lady, but then he meets Sarah Woodruff, an enigmatic and tragic woman with a blurry past, and he is drawn to her in ways that he does not understand.Review: A rich, enchanting work that functions on multiple levels. On one level there is the basic story of Charles and Sarah, their unavoidable passion for each other, and the complications that brings to Charles¿ engagement to the traditionally feminine Ernestina. On the other level The French Lieutenant¿s Woman is also a reflection on Victorianism and the values of that age, especially Victorianism as it contrasts against modernism. Fowles is particularly concerned with that fine edge, that sense of fin de siecle.Fowles also writes a lot about the nature of writing itself, and the capacities of fiction. The metafictional aspect of the novel comes from his narrator¿s constant interjections about the characters¿ motives and decisions. It¿s a self-reflexive novel in that it draws attention to the art of writing a novel, as well as the characters¿ own life beyond that of the writer¿s intentions.With all that said, The French Lieutenant¿s Woman seems like it would run the risk of being dry and boring, pseudo-intellectual with no entertainment. That¿s far from true. Fowles writes in a lively manner that kept me interested even when he talked about things that didn¿t interest me.Conclusion: I can see why it¿s so popular. One of those novels that¿s hard to define because it doesn¿t seem like it should be good, but it is.
MeditationesMartini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The usual metafictional elements and existential philosophy in Fowles' work are toned down in The French Lieutenant's Woman, to which the default critical reaction would probably (and seems to) be that it's more mature and integrated and well-realized and blahblah, as opposed to the vulgar formal experimentalism of his other works. But I dunno, I kind of miss the sensationalism of The Magus or the wormholes of Mantissa. What this book, as kind of a 19th-century dry run for A Maggot, has going for it in my opinion is two things in particular, both in support of the same end - Fowles' amazing powers of simulation, and the very old-fashioned realist way he goes about illuminating his characters' mental states and brain furniture as typical Victorian dudez (although he's postmodern about the upfront way he does it - artificially foregrounding the curtain the traditional novelist hides behind), one; and two and more, the wonderful, fantastic "Wikipedification" of the novel that he achieves, where notes and digressions give facts, supporting evidence, discuss situations in historical context, recall who else lived at site X and when, and generally give all the sort of infosurrounds that we (I) are increasingly going to the internet for as a standard part of reading. It's a paper text with its own (paper) hyperlinks, and that's pretty cool.And then he doesn't really know how to end it and treats us to some structural hay-making therefrom, which is okay, but also it's like, he really doesn't know how to end it, and the final fudge and paean to freedom are sort of a less clean-lined version of the end of The Magus. But if you had to learn about the Victorian Era and were only allowed to read one book on it ever . . . for its facts and psychology, this wouldn't be the worst option.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a fast and playful work, perfect for either fans of the Victorian novel or fans of the postmodern. Whether you find yourself loving Fowles for the style of this work or despising him for his skill at playing with expectations and style, you'll react to this book. For the longtime reader of classics, the allusions here are a constant enrichment to the text, but even the reader who's so far unfamiliar with the texts Fowles plays into his novel will find the book entertaining. It might end up being frustrating for the reader who expects a set traditional novel, but I believe it's well worth the ride, and it's far more readable than many other experimental texts. In general, I can't recommend it highly enough to anyone who wants a beautifully written and engaging escape into literature.
TheAmpersand on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent book all the way around. Fowles succeeds as a stylist both in his novel's "fictoin" sections, which are a pitch-perfect recreation of nineteenth century prose and its "non-fiction" sections, which are lucid, warm, and occasionally witty. The novel is well-constructed, effectively showing how Victorian morality and a harshly divided economic system hamstrung many of the people unlucky enough to live unconventional lives. Fowles research for this book was meticulous to a fault, and I learned a great deal about a typical Victorian's ideas about science, God, geography and love by reading this novel. Lastly, this novel succeeds as a po-mo experiment, bringing the unspoken assumptions that form the background of every Victorian novel you've ever read to the foreground. It's a testament to Fowles skill as a writer that this novel's characters come off as people rather than constructs, even when Fowles presents them to his readers as literary inventions. The novel is full of scenes of great emotional power and tenderness, and even readers completely uninterested in Fowles writerly experiments will likely enjoy this book's romantic elements. Still, I can't say I loved this book, but that's because "The French Lieutenant's Woman," like so many stories of star-crossed Victorian love, is more or less suffused with a sense of impending doom from the very first page. You know these characters will make poor decisions, and, since Fowles makes sure you know the brutal constraints of the society in which they live, you know they'll pay dearly for them. Reading through the end of the novel, then, is not unlike watching trapped insects wiggle helplessly under the beam of a gigantic magnifying glass until they expire. I got the same sensation reading "Jude the Obscure," and, truth be told, I didn't enjoy it much then, either. Even so, I'll recommend this one to any reader out there.
LamontCranston on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have had to read this this year for Literature and it appears that I am the only in the class to have managed the feat of reading it all the way through, I wonder what this says about my fortitude or the rest of the classes dedication?This is not a complex text, its writing is plain enough it is just that nothing at all happens in a quite boring story and plodding plot while the authors interruptions to make announcements and asides pull one out of the reading and IMHO were exceedingly annoying - take for example an early digression going on about the servant Sam explaining how he is like but unlike Sam Weller from The Pickwick Papers and further his similarities to a modern low class person scraping for respectability.Rather than having the skill to paint a character in a way that the reader can make the connection and draw these conclusions we simply have it beaten over our head.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very emotional novel. Simultaneously I wanted Charles to have a successful life, either with Ernestina or with Sarah, and wanted him to fall flat on his face for being the ignoramus he was. The early descriptions of Sarah¿s downfall at the hands of a cruel and deceitful Frenchman are well drawn, but somehow they ring false. Sarah is not as complimentary of her ex-lover as she might have been when describing her ensnarement and seduction. She keeps him below her, describing a rather uneducated man who was transparently false and manipulative. How on earth could a woman who was described as having the ability to at a glance discern the true character of anyone she meets fall for this character? Sarah explains when she tells Charles that she cannot reasonably hope to marry an equal, so therefore she must marry shame. How altruistic. Sarah¿s daily life with the cruel, hypocritical and bigoted harpy Mrs. Poulteney makes us sympathetic all over again though and we think that indeed Sarah must be a bit mentally unstable after all.At first I wanted to believe Sarah was a wronged woman just trying to survive in the ghastly restrictive Victorian world. I wanted to believe that Charles loved her. Then when he¿s presented with logical reasons to the contrary, I wanted him to take Dr. Grogan¿s advice and quit her; the scheming wench. He should have let the conventions of the day protect him. In one `ending¿ he does this and he and Ernestina marry and have a relatively successful (if not quite happy) life together. One breathes a sigh of relief at the bullet dodge. But then there is a lot more novel to get through and we¿re immediately told that this might not be really what happens. I found Sam¿s betrayal of Charles to be quite cruel despite Charles kind of deserving it. The scene where Charles leaves Ernestina is the most gut-wrenching of them all. She is palpably in pain and believes that Charles could have made her a better person and in return she would give him the ultimate bridal gift; faith in himself. That nearly made me cry because she totally nailed it. Charles lacks self-esteem in all but the most superficial way. He is a man of his time; liberally educated, an amateur scientist, a doubter of religious dogma, a gentleman of sufficiently independent means and will almost surely inherit an estate from a bachelor uncle. He knows that Ernestina is beneath him socially, but thinks that marriage is something he should do and she will do as well as any; at least she has wealth as a bonus. His perceived moral and social expectations drive most of his behavior. He wants to be normal, respected and liked. It¿s only when he allows himself to become emotional about Sarah, do we see him act outside his catechism. Though even then he views himself as munificent savior as Sarah herself assigns him this role. He feels gallant and romantic envisioning her rescue and elevation to his social rank. In the final ending, she eschews this even after her deliberate turning of the knife in his wound. She maintains that she will never marry and prefers to live with their child as a purported widow, drawing on the kindness of her new benefactor. She denies she ever intended to be cruel and destroy his life, but she is unconvincing. Charles leaves this final vignette as a broken and defeated man. It¿s not as satisfying as I thought it would be. I still harbor sympathy for fallible, old Charles and his delusions.Because this is the longest ending, I think it¿s the one Fowles most wanted the reader to accept. Some people were annoyed with this device and the other where Fowles editorializes the story along the way, commenting on differences between his modern era of 1969 and that of the story; 1867. I found it very interesting and diverting. Why should every storyteller tell his story in exactly the same way? The enigmatic quality to the solution adds to its overall worth and if it was done in a more straightforward way wo
BrianDewey on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fowles, John. The French Lieutenant's Woman. Back Bay Books, Boston, 1969. I bought this book at the state IE tournament at the University of Puget Sound. I put it in my bag and promptly forgot about it. I'm sure glad I found it and read it! This is a compelling book on three levels. First, and most basic, Fowles has created great characters and a compelling story. Second, he weaves in fascinating commentary on life in the Victorian era; it's a great work of historical fiction. And finally, the experimentation with storytelling is mind-blowing, right up there with some of the best of Tim O'Brien ("How to tell a true war story"). The alternate endings, the explicit interjection of the author into the story; all of these work to make the deeper meaning of the book that much more captivating. This book will definitely be worth re-reading in the future.
judye on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Still wonderful all these years later. I originally read this when it was published and have reread it to teach postmodernism. I now understand the style better but it's a great take on the Victorian novel.
nfenster on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book is so well-written that during one romantic passage, I nearly jumped off my chair. Magnificent.
Ysabeau on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just reread this after a twenty year gap. I had forgotten how fantastic it is. Multi-layered, complex, and yet still entertaining. A great post modern gothic. (It's much better than that sounds!)
littlebookworm on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't know I feel about this work. Strange to write a review and say that. I disliked the ending - it didn't have the connection that I wanted, and I hated Fowles's false ending. Yet something about it lingers in my consciousness, insisting on a rethink, a reevaluation, some sort of beauty that can't be explained just by such a thing as "plot". Perhaps this makes sense to no one but me.I would have read it for the Victorian commentary if nothing else, though. I loved that.
AlexTheHunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A beautiful book that blends elements of the Victorian with the twentieth century. Although all events of the novel are set in the nineteenth century, the narrator never hesitates to interpose twentieth-century remarks that intentionally force the reader to confront a century's passage of time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
John Fowles is a good writer and, as such, it's a pleasure to read his writings. However, while I thought his use of language in The French Lieutenant's Woman was much better than that of most authors, the plot was another story. Too much ruminating on the state of mind of the characters left me bored and led me to speed read through many passages. All in all, this book is an average product of a gifted writer. I grade it a B-.