Monday, January 22, 2007
8. "The French Lieutenant's Woman" ~ John Fowles
So, I'm riding through this tale of Victorian romance, recognizing the nods to Jane Austen, the winks to Tennyson, then hit chapter 13 with high velocity. The author deems us stupid/naive/ignorant enough to insert himself into the book?
You need to know this before you begin in order to enjoy the process.
Charles and his fiancee Ernestina are visiting Lyme Regis, a seaside town in England, to introduce Charles to the meager society and count down the days until their wedding. On their first walk along the port, they see a figure in black who stares seaward fixedly. Ernestina tells Charles about the "Tragedy" or "French Lieutenant's Woman," a fallen woman who still searches for her lover to return.
In twists of accident and purpose, the woman (Sarah) and Charles meet. Her circumstances and intelligence trap Charles into a less than moral desire to help her.
You can see what's coming.
Or can you? Because, since Fowles inserts himself into the work, actually describing the writing process and the people as characters, he creates a world where anything can happen, a very God-like task for someone whose characters are strict Darwin supporters.
Fowles writes, "Fiction usually pretends to conform to reality: the writer puts the conflicting wants into the ring and then describes the fight." So, in a very unique style, Fowles gives three endings to the novel. It's like the choose your adventure books from my youth.
It poses the question: what is truth? What is reality? Who is driving the bus?
After relaxing into this unusual style, I could not put the book down. Unfortunately, none of the endings satisfied my need for closure. Perhaps this was the author's intent.
4.2 out of 5.0 French Kisses.