Monday, August 26, 2013

"The French Lieutenant's Woman" by John Fowles (1969)

In a feat of seductive storytelling, John Fowles immerses us in the emotionally charged world of a Victorian love triangle and, through a startling act of literary invention, reveals the image of modern man reflected in the past. The French Lieutenant's Woman is perhaps the most beloved of Fowles's internationally bestselling novels; it is universally regarded as a modern classic.

  • First thing I noticed was the beautiful language. The narrative is powerful and descriptive, and the author is obviously capable of bending language for an effective usage. This told me right off the bat that the book would be well-written.
  • The author makes many historical and literary allusions; if you have never heard of Thomas Hardy or Darwin vs. Lamarck (on the theory of evolution), you may not understand such references. But it is cleverly employed on defining the characters, their roles in the story, and thematic events, and I loved the quotes at the beginning of each chapter.
  • The dialogue is also witty, lively, and interesting, and somewhat reminiscent of Victorian classics, but with a modern twist.
  • Honestly, it got a little confusing for me: there are three alternate endings in this book, and it's up to the reader's interpretation what really happened (I had to read up on Wikipedia in order to understand). Once I got it, I thought it was absolutely brilliant and creative, a new take from anything I had ever read before.
  • The only problem I would have with this book is the fact that I simply didn't like one of the important characters, who was consistently shrouded in mystery throughout the book: Sarah. I couldn't understand how she was constantly giving "brief but intense" looks and had the appearance of "submission and dominance" at once. Personally, the love affair just seemed too sudden and based entirely on "fate" and a "love-at-first-sight" appearance, so I couldn't really feel much for the two of them.
  • To the author's credit, his contradictory statements added nice irony and more mystery to Sarah's character, and the build-up of suspense was well-done. I was determined to find out more about Sarah (despite my inability to relate to her).
  • The ending did not disappoint. There are unpredictable twists in all of the alternate endings, making this a fun and interesting story. There is also no rush or outpouring of feelings, which suited the story. Just a sort of settled calm and summation of a philosophy, and I thought that did nicely.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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