With the present one inevitably corrupts the past with one s modern attitude I happen to come across two versions of this novel at the same time this one and one featuring Meryl Streep on the front cover I was always going to pick this one as when I think of Meryl Streep The Deer Hunter immediately comes to mind and the last thing I wanted when picking up this book each day and seeing her face was to think of Linda the Vietnam War and Christopher Walken s sad demise playing Russian roulette This is afterall a book about Victorian sexual repression on the south coast of England A woman stands at the end of a deserted uay and stares out to sea this was a strong image that came to John Fowles one morning back in 1966 he at first thought he saw the image as the representation of a myth like many ancient stories of women left at home while their sea faring lovers travel off far and wide to war or to fulfill some divine destiny Eventually the woma If you like Thomas Hardy this is a must read Set in southern England around 1868 Fowles 1926 2005 evokes the Victorian times and morals in a splendid way In the first place it is a love story but with a bonus every now and then Fowles reminds the reader that this story is not uite his invention His characters he claims have a mind of there own and he s as eager as we to see what happens Now all this is beautifully written and done but at the end Fowles presents 3 different endings and with this I have a problem the way he describes the second and the third one is done in such a provocative way that I have difficulty to follow and believe it Also the character of Sarah and the motives for her deeds remain a mystery I think Fowles ment her to be a precursor of radical feminism a woman that wants to change her destiny like Charles does In other words the author introduces twentieth century motives into a nineteenth century plot and that s rather awkward But of course this way Fowles proves authors really are gods and literature is not dead at all like the structuralists of the sixties stated And that really is a relief Here the sheer power of the Victorian novel exploded revamped John Fowles invites you into an experiment he is conducting himself stick with it you mus I am infinitely strange to myself John Fowles The French Lieutenant s WomanThe reason I am drawn to literature to art to books considered to be classics is to watch some middle aged bearded man put on a pair of excuse the flamboyant analogy skates and suddenly pitch himself into the center of the ring and pull off a triple Salchow I love risk taking experimental literature With The French Lieutenant s Woman Fowles is boldly moving in a lot of directions at once pushing down fourth walls Chapter 13 umping forward and backward in time throwing himself into the path of the protagonist Charles and manages to control it all with a sharp elegance that is breathtaking He recreates a Victorian period novel and then deconstructs dissects and parodies it while we watch He bends into it elements of Darwinian and Marxist thought two revolutionary Men who lived during this period but are never displayed in the works of the Bront s Hardy Gaskell Dickens or Trollope Doing so he subverts both the age and the novel The French Lieutenant s Woman is a work of genius and a book that teased and challenged me on almost every page as I read it I think the greatest strength of this book is the utter uniueness of it I don t think I ve ever read a book like it It is set in the Victorian year of 1867 and yet the sensibility of the book is thoroughly grounded in the 1960s when it was written The language metaphors and focus of the book all come from the 1960s and the actions of the characters are all given the lens of the highly visible author who is in fact one of the major characters of the book much in the style of Thackeray though personally done here I thinkThe plot itself starts off as a flimsy Victorian melodrama if one were to remove everything but the bare skeletons of the action from it boy meets girl boy is engaged to girl boy meets mysterious amazing girl boy suffers crisis of love moral dilemmas abound and then it develops into something else much modern with modern situations and dilemmas But it is how it is described that is the best p art of the book the focus is on the philosophies the problems the context of the era Fowles is deeply involved in trying to explain the actions of his characters with pages long meditations and research into the Victorian pysche based on thinkers papers popular opinions and events of the era For example the main character Charles is an amateur scientist and is a very strong Darwinist Fowles gets involved with class issues capitalist society poetry the suffrage movement feminism and of course the overarching focus of the book sexuality and its repression and unrepressionIt is here that comes my only real criticism of the book that at times the book is very dated to the 1960s in its utter obsession with sex and bohemia and fuck the system kind of rhetoric Which still rings with many today so perhaps it isn t a problem for all I ust found it sort of threw me out of the magic of the story when he tried make his characters 1960s magic the story when he tried to make his characters 1960s heroesAnother large and fascinating part of the book is that John Fowles allows us to see him at work He shows us the road not taken in statements like but much elouently put than this Well I could do this but that would betray the character but it is the formula where shall I go from here He lets the reader see behind the curtain and see his process lets them know that he recognizes what he is doing and what he could have done or should have done by convention He muses on what the character might want or what he might want and the various conventions that an author has at his disposal to most effectively display what he wants to convey I did not think that it threw me out of the book at #All It Made It Even Interesting Actually I D Recommend #It made it even interesting actually I d recommend book for even people who don t usually like Victorian literature It has so modern a voice and discusses so many issues that we find of relevance today that perhaps your eyerolling can be kept to a minimum With a title like The French Lieutenant s Woman it s gotta be a romance novel with a cover featuring some Fabio like male model in a 19th century French army uniform that s ripped to pieces to expose his abs as some buxom wench showing a lot of thigh clings to him and he waves a sword in the air NoOh so it was the basis for some award winning movie with Meryl Streep back in the 80s Then it s got to be some boring ass lame period piece with all kinds of proper English folk walking around with sticks up their asses as they talk about their proper English ways and how they musn t remove the sticks Not really Well then what the hell is this book It s not what I was expecting that s for sureSarah Woodruff is a governess who has scandalized the English community of Lyme Regis by falling for a French naval officer who had been washed ashore and then left her behind after she ruined herself for him I guess back in those days a woman couldn t ust eat a bunch of ice cream get drunk with her girlfriends and then forget about some erk who did her wrong Hooking up with a loser was grounds for a lifetime of people shaking their fingers at you Sarah doesn t even have the decency to hide her shame She insists on going out walking by the ocean as she is clearly pining for Frenchie in spite of strict orders from her pious lady employer not to walk around where decent folk can tell what she s thinkingCharles Smithson is a Victorian era gentleman engaged to Ernestina and visiting her aunt in the area After he accidentally comes across Sarah he gets interested in her story and tries to convince her to stop making her situation worse by being so openly miserable and letting him help arrange for better employment in London where her scandal won t be so well known But Sarah plays a dangerous game of asking Charles for clandestine meetings for advice while acting like she has no urge to change her life Naturally Charles finds himself falling for her despite warnings from a local doctor that Sarah is addicted to melancholia and may only be interested in spreading her misery aroundAt first this seems like it s going to be a pretty standard Victorian era tragic romance But John Fowles took some serious detours in this book First he openly writes it as a god like narrator from the future who knows how silly and hypocritical a lot of English society was then It gets even stranger when he starts writing about the writing of the story itself He complains that characters aren t behaving the way he thought they should Then he begins presenting alternate versions of the plot based on decisions by the characters that vastly change how the book would end as he explains that the only fair way to end the story is to present all the ways that it possibly could end It s also not entirely clear about who you should be sympathizing with here Is Sarah a woman ahead of her time being unfairly treated by a bunch of hypocrites Or is she a slightly unbalanced woman taking a hatred of men out on Charles by gaining his pity and love at the possible cost of his reputation Is Charles a good man living in an age that traps him with outdated ideas of duty and honor Is he ust a selfish snob who gets cold feet about his own upcoming marriage and deliberately acts stupidly to try and stop it It could be that all of these factors are true Or that none of them areWhile I liked the writing and the way that Fowles played with the structure of a traditional novel the problem for me is that I was so unsure about Sarah and Charles that I couldn t ever really get engaged with them emotionally At times I felt bad for one or both of them and at other times I didn t like them at all I ended up admiring the book than I enjoyed it. Ion for the enigmatic Sarah Charles is hurtled by a moment of consummated lust to the brink of the existential void Duty dictates that his engagement to Tina must be broken as he goes forth once again to seek the woman who has captured his Victorian soul gentleman's hea.
free download ¸ eBook or Kindle ePUB ã John FowlesAll writers create worlds that do not exist so there should be no ualms that this novel recreates a world a very Victorian world a world populated with its own people all now long dead that had its own writers and chroniclers all also now very much dead that had its own ideas and tendencies and fears and preferences and prejudices all of which we can no longer now really hold as our own should there Or was the gap too long for you to remember that the subject of that sentence was some vague and generalised ualms Authors are Gods if they choose they can write about things that uite simply they could never know the first thing about how it feels to be that woman standing over there in her billowing cape blowing out against the wind what it means to be dead and yet to not expect Ejercito Y Milicias En El Mundo Colonial Americano judgement what the rush of power is like in havingust created an entire universe with all time and all space and all actions that shall ever take place therein laid bare and translucent before one Although freuently authors tend to speculate on that woman any woman as if it was she that was lying bare and translucent before them much that than they ever do in contemplating the hidden mysteries of universes yet uncreated But even so don t in the least confuse that for modesty on their part The inevitability of female desire for the all too male creations of these male fantasists even if only realised in a spurting premature ejaculation is not expected to be followed by an apology on his part I m sorry I had hoped and then trailed off but rather by her saying Thank you my dearest for the best eighteen seconds of my life And sometimes the world the real world of living breathing free agents that we imagine ourselves to inhabit stands aghast or in awe or terrified by the worlds these minor demigods call forth into existence Look world says here is a man a novelist a writer of fictions and he has summoned before us the very essence of Victorian England and look here are parts of France Italy and the United States all brought eually back to life he has made them even real than was possible for the previous writers of fiction who lived in those times he shows us this world as it must be seen by our very modern eyes Here the world stands an age eviscerated no rather an age animated once again only it is better this time for it has been brought back Frankenstein like for our benefit by one of our own To me the chapter of this book that best explains what is going on here besides the melodrama which must sustain the interest of the readers less concerned with the philosophical discussions that proceeds apace at once by sleight of hand or then tentatively hidden ust sideways from the page or suddenly bold as brass and perhaps a little too upfront is Chapter 13 A uick read of that chapter will not tell you whether or not you will like to read this book It is too different from what the rest of the text appears to be and so will offer little help there in your decisions but it is what the book is about if that is the book is about anything Perhaps I should ask uestions although I hope you don t expect such a catechism to help you What is the position of the author when he intrudes into the world of the novel he is writing I ll stick with he here after a chat I had with my daughter yesterday about precisely this concern with pronouns but also because in this case the author is all too very decidedly a he How much even as the omnipotent creator of this little world does he really know or is he allowed to know or does he choose to know To what extent is the author free in his own creation On this last point I can illustrate with one of my favourite instances in the book It is the line describing one of the characters being discovered after her long absence she is with a child and the author would dearly love to have her found pushing a pram see the image leaps off the page even if you haven t read the book but he can t because prams were not invented for another ten years Such are the authors scruples don t for a moment think I ve misplaced that apostrophe fellow authorsOh excellent we think we readers or should I only speak for myself Verisimilitude we say if we are familiar with that word but we think something very like it even if we are not Nothing better than to have a pretend Victorian England that confines itself to the constraints of that other that very real Victorian England to that time to the facts of that other imagined world we call history And so given this verisimilitude ust how was she with the child if she was not pushing a pram The negative image is all that remains I m afraid In my memory the fictional character still pushes the nonexistent the not yet invented pram despite all authorial warnings against my forming ust such an image Although clearly that was his intent all alongThere are things that you will be told about this book before you read it that will not prove to be true Firstly you will be told that the book has two endings there are in fact three endings The first of the three is probably the ending that most closely reflects the ending we all choose in living out OUR OWN LIVES OR IS THAT JUST ME BEING own lives or is that ust me being cruel about you here It is after all the dreariest ending of the three the one even the author can only bring himself to rush through as if with a bad taste in his mouth So ust how cruel is it that I am being towards you and your dreadfully predictable life My implying that you follow the same well trodden path that convention sets out before you and in making that endlessly dull path appear again before you simply in my mentioning that particular ending that generally unmentioned ending of this book It is after all the ending most readers choose to ignore when they say this book has only two endings there must most readers choose to ignore when they say this book has only two endings there must a reason for that A not very nice reason I suspectBut I have no right to mock you for the grey one foot at a time blandness of your trudging walk along the gravel stoned pathway of your existence I am ust as constrained and The Craft Of Gardens just as restricted as you The mere fact I sit here rattling these chains may well draw attention to them but like your chains the ones you may prefer to hide or that you struggle to keep silent the ones that nevertheless pinch against your wrists and nip the bony flesh of your ankles these my chains here are still firmly in place stillust as locked tight and whether I choose for them to make a noise in my rattling them hardly matters one way or the other Drawing attention to bonds in no way loosens them in no way frees meSecondly you will be told that much of this novel is a playing out of very modern concerns within a vividly imagined Victorian England I m not so sure this is the case If there is one motif in fiction that I particularly like to trace my fingers along in times of idle contemplation it is the idea that we all want to live within the fairytale of love but that love repeatedly refuses to be confined within the very fairytale it itself promises Rather the greatest efforts meagre as even these inevitably prove to be truth be told that we exert in the name of love never amount to what we expected them to It is as if we would turn to the object of our love and say Look all of this I have done this entire universe I have created and all this stands testament to my adoration of you Can t you see can t you tell what this what all this has cost me And there it is our gaze turns and returns yet again and always back to ourselves Even as we exult that other name that name that was the word that issued forth to create the entire universe she becomes someone else something else a cipher we have used to hide our very own image in her name Pygmalion like A thing of mirrors and reflections For writers are truly GodsThis book is taught in high schools to 18 year olds god pity them and I m nearly certain hours and hours of discussion is spent discussing the motivation of this French Lieutenant s woman why and if she lead the protagonist astray but this really is not a book about her at all Her motivations her desires her very being is of secondary interest at best This is a book about a man who I M Not Stiller just wants to have some control who wants to make a world where he is the hero of his own story not the lackey not the person indebted to others not below his own wife not caught Is that man called Charles or John I can t remember which or did I ever know And he sees a woman who he thinks he understands for he understands that she has somehow despite the impossibility of such a choice chosen to be herself so he decides outside of conventions that she might be someone whoust might be able to show him a way out But there is no way out really We do not have time machines we live decidedly within our own time we do not get to be ahead of our time whatever that could possible mean not even when we are characters created in a world future to the one we are asked to live within by someone gifted by time s passing and with that most singular power of hindsight we still can only live out our own lives and we live them in the here and now whatever here and now means or whenever that means perhaps with ourselves barely a single thread in a tapestry all too great for us to even take in It is our substance even as it bumps up against the world that hides from us how essentially ephemeral we are unless unless our shadow somehow stands black against white in some text somewhere almost real almost life like Otherwise we remain at best the major character in the lonely narrative that forever runs foregrounded in our own minds if nowhere elseSo which ending did I prefer Oh but they are all the same we live we die and all paths taken lead inevitably to the grave A much interesting uestion is is this fiction Or rather should we really care if this is fiction Or perhaps even should we care if this is true Or to ask the same uestion one last time to what extent. The scene is the village of Lyme Regis on Dorset's Lyme Baythe largest bite from the underside of England's out stretched southwestern leg The major characters in the love intrigue triangle are Charles Smithson 32 a gentleman of independent means vaguely scientific bent. .
Is the made up even true than the livedAt least that is what I think this book is about CRITIUEPrologueA woman stands at the end of a deserted uay and stares out to sea She is waiting for a novelist to return from a voyage to America His ship comes into view She sees him He sees her too She will feature in the novel that he will one day write about what he saw from his point of viewHistorical FictionSuperficially The French Lieutenants Woman appears to be a work of historical fiction set in England in the period between 1866 and 1869However it can also be read as a post modern pastiche of a Victorian era novel written 100 years laterMetafictionThe implied narratorauthor says that he is writing this account in 1969 He self consciously makes choices about the construction of the novel in the body of the novel He also offers three alternative endings Thus it ualifies as a work of metafiction even if the author John Fowles would subseuently deny that he was a post modernist After all it was modernists who pioneered metafictional techniuesWhite male American post modernists were eually reluctant to embrace Fowles as a post modernist not ust because he was English but because his novel broke the cardinal rules of their art form despite its use of metafiction it was popular and commercially successful it had an intriguing plot and it was made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons To them Fowles wasn t an author like us He was a true individualist He didn t want to run with their herd Meryl Streep in the film of the novelThe Narrator in 1969The narrator is one of the omniscient kind though mischievous than godlike From time to time he refers to someone who might have been spying on the characters like a peeping tom However the fact that he lives in 1969 means that he could not physically have been present to observe the events that occurred in the nineteenth century even if at one point the narrator shares a train with Charles Smithson These events occurred in his imagination and were the product of creative decisions he made Nevertheless he allowed his characters some freedom of choice in what they did How the narrator describes these characters and events reflects the views of a person who lived in 1969 even if the narrator might eually have been a product of the author s imagination Thus the novel presents the Victorian era through a perspective of the twentieth century If we read the novel in the twenty first century we add a second successive lens through which to view the narrative There is no guarantee that we would read the novel and draw the same conclusions as a person who read it in 1969There is much in the novel to think and write about However what remained interesting to me throughout the novel was what I could infer from the title itselfFrench LibertinismIt was significant that the woman was owned or possessed by someone and that that someone was FrenchThe Frenchness hints at the extent to which the novel anticipated or described the anti Gallicanism that motivated BrexitFor centuries England and France had been at war and despised each other s cultures France was ostensibly Roman Catholic and England Anglican Church of England or Protestant Socially despite the influence of Catholicism France was libertarian while England was puritanical Sexually the English viewed the French as lusty libidinous licentious libertines The English labelled syphilis as the French disease while the French labelled it as the Neapolitan disease You named your afflictions after your enemiesThe chief male protagonist Charles Smithson has spent six months in his early adulthood in Paris The City of Sin where he used the services of prostitutes At the time it was uite common for English men to engage in sex tours of France and Europe whatever their marital status He returned to England a healthy agnostic if a somewhat serious man The chief female protagonist Sarah Woodruff has fallen in love with a French merchant naval officer while she was employed as a governess Soon after he returned to France and has never returned It s widely suspected in the local Dorset community that she had lost her virginity to the French lieutenant The perception is that she has fallen victim to a nasty French libertine and she is ostracized made an outcast Ever since she has lived with her shame confident that she will never marry have children or enjoy happinessYet like Emma Bovary she still dreams of these things I imagined Sarah as looking like Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot in Persuasion than Meryl StreepConventional Ownership and PossessionThe second inference from the novel s title is the fact that Sarah is viewed as owned or possessed by the French lieutenantThis ownership is analogous to a conventional Victorian marriage in which the husband owns or possesses his wife like a chattel Marriage marks the end of a woman s freedomSarah seeks a relationship in which she can retain her own freedom However she suspects that her reputation will prevent her from finding a husband and her shame and moral and social norms will preclude any other type of relationshipCharles Parisian exploits have made him eually sceptical about the concept of marriage even though he s engaged to be married to Ernestina Freeman the of the wealthy owner of a retail emporium Ernestina is a typical Victorian girlwoman she is The Favoured Feminine Look Was The Demure The Obedient The favoured feminine look was the demure the obedient the Having met Sarah Charles becomes dissatisfied with the prospect of marriage to Ernestina He is obsessed with Sarah and sees her as a like mind and soul Her shame is nothing to him In his mind they both crave freedomBeyond the Pale I Wish to be What I AmParadoxically Charles wishes to make Sarah his wife the language of ownership and possession is unavoidable in menSarah on the other hand has MOVED ONE STEP CLOSER TO FREEDOM one step closer to freedom the pale and has no desire to retreat I wish to be what I am not what a husband however kind however indulgent must expect me to become in marriage Upon the Salt Unplumb d Estranging SeaUltimately Fowles has mapped out the arena upon which the battle of the sexes will be played out Some terrible perversion of human sexual destiny had begun he Charles was no than a footsoldier a pawn in a far vaster battle and like all battles it was not about love but about possession and territory In this far vaster battle each gender would struggle to assert its own humanity and authenticityTo this day as in the novel the two genders continue their struggle upon the salt unplumb d estranging sea that separates themVERSE WORSEKissing in the BrackenIf you thought you heard two loversKiss in the bracken by the brookThough you know you shouldn t do itStill you ust want to have a lookAll you really need to do isPeruse the pages of this bookSOUNDTRACKview spoilerLesley Gore You Don t Own Me Gore You Don t Own Me Live and the Dominos Thorn Tree in the GardenThere s a thorn tree in the garden if you know Where Are You Susie Petschek just what I meanThe Only Ones Another Girl Another PlanetI think I m on another world with you with you I m on another planet with you with youLou Reed Modern Dance Serveert Roadmovies Williams You Can t Rule Me hide spoiler Because because I do not know I live among people the world tells me are kind pious Christian people And they seem to me crueller than the cruellest heathens stupider than the stupidest animals The French Lieutenant s Woman is a baffling book It baffled me and I have no doubt it has left a trail of baffled readers behind it I wonder why no one has blurbed it with The French Lieutenant s Woman proudly baffling people since 1969 yet It would be the most honest blurb in history for sure Even stranger I read it slowly closely eyes and ears and brain cells wide open and yet I feel as if I have understood nothing as if I haven t understood the book Which isust as possible as we ve already established the book has long set itself the very specific goal of making you uestion your own wits And yet it does it without malice It doesn t take pleasure in your stupidity it doesn t gloat over it It doesn t even pity it nor sympathize with it No It is simply indifferent to it You wouldn t feel as stupid if it showed to care and then it would amuse no oneBecause The French Lieutenant s Woman is a microcosm on its own It needs nothing and no one and no matter how many times the God of this world will address you reader because the truth is that to it to Him you do not exist You can be an Ideal Reader at best but please leave your self outside thank you very much There s only so much space in here The rival you both share is myself In my mind in believe this novel will always be two the metafictional experiment and the human story There is no hierarchy between the two and I will always be able to relive the book adopting in turn one of these two perspectives Both if I feel like wearing my brains outBut at the end of the day I find I don t care As long as I can relive it and reread it and think about it I don t care if it so cruelly escapes me still I ll ust take whatever little it is willing to give Like times like manners And the times were puritanicalThe copulatory theme was repeated in various folio prints in gilt frames that hung between the curtained windows Already a loose haired girl in Camargo petticoats was serving the waiting gentlemen with Roederer s champagne In the background a much rouged but seemingly dressed lady of some fifty years of age cast a uiet eye over her clienteleJohn Fowles recreates the atmosphere of the Victorian era with an enviable thoroughness and he never fails to be rich in intriguing details So The French Lieutenant s Woman rightfully remains one of the great milestones in literatureBut there is also a kind of the warning against gullibilityWe can sometimes recognize the looks of a century ago on a modern face but never those of a century to come On comparing the past. ; his fiancée Ernestina Freeman a pretty heiress daughter of a wealthy pompous dry goods merchant; Sarah Woodruff mysterious fascinatingdeserted after a brief affair with a French naval officer a short time before the story begins Obsessed with an irresistible fascinat.