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not as gripping a read as his earlier novels
on 22 May 2015
Daniel Martin starts with a highly evocative description of a scene of haymaking in which a young Daniel Martin participates, prior to leaving home for Oxford, and later playwriting and scriptwriting. The novel is told in non-chronological parts, and with some episodes written by the woman, Jenny, with whom Daniel is currently having a relationship in Hollywood, a young film actress. The main story, however, is about Daniel, his love life over the years and particularly is a stocktaking for him at age 45 or so, and for others he has known at Oxford, including his first wife and her sister, as they approach middle age and all feel they haven't done perhaps what they might have done with their lives and as they have adolescent and young adult children of their own, living in a different time and place….
This is a highly philosophical novel, in which much of the action derives from a 'gratuitous act', as the author puts in in a section heading, committed by the sister of Daniel's first wife in Oxford many years before the start of the main action, but which now many years later precipitates the return to England of Daniel from Hollywood to take stock of his past…and which follows its own inexorable logic as the novel unfolds.
I enjoyed this rather less that all the other Fowles novels and short stories, perhaps because I've come to it last, but perhaps because it simply doesn't quite have the edge-of-the-seat plotting and story-line and is not quite so psychologically gripping as his earlier work. The dilemmas of the characters here are very much of their time and place - though midlife crises no doubt will continue to plague humanity…There is still much here that is memorable, however, and Fowles' world-view continues both to attract and to challenge the reader - at least this reader.