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The French lieutenant's woman Unknown Binding – 2001


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Product details

  • Unknown Binding: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Barnes & Noble (2001)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0006RTR1U
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 May 2001
Format: Paperback
It is all too easy to be transported into the world so vividly created for us by John Fowles, as he details the love affair between Charles Smithson and Sarah Woodruff, whilst simultaneously exposing the hypocracies of Victorian England.
Haunted night and day by the face of 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' (Sarah Woodruff) Charles Smithson struggles to forget her and concede to a life with the entirely more conventional Ernestina Freeman. Theirs is the expected and typical Victorian pairing, but as the action progresses, Charles finds his initial curiosity towards the enigmatic Sarah developing into attraction and eventual desire. In his novel, Fowles powerfully depicts Charles's inner conflict between head and heart, painfully illustrating the consequences of allowing the heart to overrule in such a repressed, hypocritical society.
'The French Lieutenant's Woman', with its convoluted yet innovative narrative structure, use of multiple endings, enigmatic characters and reflexivity does not make for simple reading, but perservere and you will be rewarded. Fowles's gripping tale of illicit love, simmering passions, repressed sexuality and (ultimately) painful rejection is a haunting masterpiece. The characters and their situations will live on in your memory long after you have closed the book. A beautifully evocative, engaging and intruiging novel - this is a modern work of art and must not be missed.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Katie Stevens on 16 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
The French Lieutenant's Woman at times reads exactly like a Victorian novel; Fowles is able to mimic the style impeccably and I often forgot I was reading a modern piece of writing. However, the text is peppered with dry observations on the characters, the Victorians or the process of writing a story that come from such a modern perspective that they jolted me out of this false sense of period and made me aware of what the author was doing. Fowles has a very knowing, self-conscious narratorial voice in these passages which can put some readers off, particularly as they often interrupt the flow of the story. He does like to draw attention to just how clever he is being, but as I whole-heartedly agree with him it's very difficult to find this an irritating trait. In fact, I thought that Fowles observations and reflections on being Victorian, something obviously impossible in contemporary novels, added an extra layer of richness to the text. He uses the distance and perspective provided by time to make explicit the cultural points of view latent in these Victorian novels and provide commentary on them. I think it's great that he doesn't just write a historical novel butinstead uses a historical style and setting to produce something so lucid and clever.

The story centres around Charles Smithson, who is staying in Lyme Regis visiting his fiancee, Ernestina, prior to their wedding. There he meets Sarah Woodruff, also known as Tragedy or, less kindly, as the French Lieutenant's Woman. As he becomes increasingly fascinated by Sarah he is forced to reexamine his own values as his forthcoming marriage is threatened.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Keepin' the Wolf From the Door on 18 Mar. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"I do not know. This story I am telling is all imagination... I have disgracefully broken the illusion?"

"No."

Many would argue the real main character of this novel; the oblivious young gentleman searcing desperatly for his own identity, or the young woman- the French Lieutenant's Whore, in fact - that he falls in love with.

Both are incorrect. The most prominent character in this tale is Fowles himself. Writing from 1969, Fowles explores the Victorian era through every character he brings to our attention, with emotion that only comes from passionately studying the period. What manner of emotion? It ranges at times from commiseration to downright disdain.

Fowles understand the conventions of typical Victorian romantic novels and brutally exploits them. The is no fallen woman who find redemption in the love of a man. No lovers attempting to overcome their separate classes. This novel understands Dickens and resents every image he made of Victorian England. The novel doesn't hold back, often finding itself delighting in some of lives harsher truths.

The person you obsess and find yourself heart-sick over is often far from the idolised image you paint of them.

Some men are haunted by the fact that there are women in the world far more attractive that the one they're with.

And, despite every effort to pretend otherwise, women are capable of cruelty and manipulation that rivals, and even sometimes surpasses, men.

In "The French Lieutenant's Woman", Fowles creates a world impossible not to find yourself lost in lost, without using any of fiction's cheap tricks.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
Lyme Regis, Dorset, 1867. Sarah Woodruff, a young woman dressed in black, stands motionless at the end of a stone jetty and stares out to sea. Walking by are Charles Smithson and Ernestina Freeman, a respectable engaged couple. Ernestina tries to pull Charles away, saying Sarah is a well known local eccentric, nicknamed 'The French Lieutenant's... Woman'. Ernestina is being polite - the self-righteous people of Lyme really call Sarah a whore. Charles finds he cannot erase her image from his memory, and he is fated to meet her again...
So begins John Fowles's remarkable 1969 novel, which is an affectionate parody of Victorian 'sensation' fiction, a genre which offered its readers thrills, suspense and danger, always spiced with a love interest. Readers can follow the romantic triangle between Charles, Sarah and Ernestina, or pursue the narrator's digressions into evolutionary theory, social history, and the art of storytelling itself. The novel combines a powerful central narrative with fascinating intellectual games that are never allowed to detract from the unfolding events. The critic Linda Hutcheon has called it a 'historiographic metafiction', meaning it claims to be an authentic historical account of Victorian England and yet, paradoxically, shows how such accounts are made up of words, quotations, metaphors... that is, they are nothing but stories themselves. It is this, as well as the beautiful, enigmatic Sarah and her relationship with the handsome Charles, that creates the novel's fascination.
Fowles began the novel as an exercise in imitating nineteenth-century fiction, and thought it would be badly received, because it would seem too coldly intellectual. He was wrong - it is his most successful artistic achievement, and the most popular one along with The Magus.
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