The French Lieutenant’s Woman Audio Cassette – Abridged, Audiobook
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"A brilliant success... It is a passionate piece of writing as well as an immaculate example of storytelling" (Financial Times)
"Compulsively readable" (Irish Times)
"A splendid, lucid, profoundly satisfying work of art, a book which I want almost immediately to read again" (New Statesman)
"Brilliant...an artist of great imaginative power" (Sunday Times) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
'A brilliant success ... It is a passionate piece of writing as well as an immaculate example of storytelling.' (The Financial Times)
'Compulsively readable.' (The Irish Times)
'A splendid, lucid, profoundly satisfying work of art, a book which I want almost immediately to read again.' (New Statesman) --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
Top customer reviews
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. Charles is a thoroughly intriguing central character: although not always likeable, he is so open and honest with himself that it is impossible not to sympathise with him as he struggles with doing what is morally right but socially unacceptable. I got the impression that Fowles rather likes him even though he may not approve of him. His `sinister fondness` (p. 17) for spending time in the library, so frowned upon by his uncle, is another trait designed to make him appeal to the reader.
Fowles employs a similar tactic when talking about Sarah and her days at boarding school, designed to make her appeal to the reader and to make her relatable rather than aloof, as she initially appears. I felt I was manipulated into liking her, just as Charles is, while Ernestina on the other hand, the woman with a legitimate claim to affection, is not a sympathetic character at all. She is constantly shown playing games and acting rather than being sincere, a trait which continues even during moments of what should be genuine emotion.
Considering Fowles' frequent interruptions of the narrative and drawing attention to the fictionality of the characters, I was surprised at how invested I was in Charles and Sarah and what happened to them. In this novel, Fowles explicitly states that there is no `real' ending in fiction, just the author making things work out in his own way, yet still I cared about what `really' happened. This year I've discovered that it takes a lot for me to forgive an author messing around with the story: it has to have a point and it has to be well executed. The French Lieutenant's Woman exhibited both of these qualities and so was a fantastic book from beginning to end.
Fowles's omniscient narrator is so salient that he becomes one more character in the novel, literally; he even intrudes in the narrative at one point. It's not only that he has access to and comments freely on everything, but he does so in a time-conscious way, juxtaposing their society and world-view to ours. This line of analysis is one of the themes of the novel, but it's made attractive by adding healthy doses of irony and humour to the mix.
In my view, Fowles combined self-reflexivity with entertainment to produce a 20th-century classic.
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. In fact, you may find that he'll use them against you, building up your expectations only so he can crush them with a wit that few novelists possess. A lot of criticism aimed at the novel seems to be based on confusion as to what it actually is. Is it a story of two lovers trying to see if they can discover themselves in one-another? An in-depth essay on Victorian values? Or perhaps a lecture on how novelist creates novel?
In my opinion, it's all three of these. And if my conclusion on that matter has made you interested in picking this novel up, I utterly implore you give this novel the chance it has very rightfully earned. .
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