Friday, April 07, 2006
The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles [March/06]
I read this book for one of my classes at university. It is a rather long novel, which is not always that bad, but it it also one of those books that you feel could have ended long before it actually does. John Fowles passed away last year, but during his lifetime wrote many novels that are loved by many and studied in classrooms around the world. The French Lieutenant's Woman is a highly researched novel in order to be able to better reward the reader with a sense of what life was like in Victorian England. An Englander himself, Fowles seemed to want to bring to his readers a sense of what his life was like several years before.
The novel starts out with a lovely new couple on the days leading to their marriage. Tina and Charles met at a party and after a courtship got engaged. Tina is the prized only child of a upper middle class family while Charles is a man that had decided that it is about time that he settled down. Tina is rather naive throughout the novel, you can tell she lived a rather sheltered life, while Charles spends the novel wishing for something other than he has and telling the readers that he is not ready for marriage. In the very early pages of the novel we are introduced to The French Lieutenant's Woman. A young woman, named Sarah, who was believed to have fallen in love with a young lieutenant and walked the docks awaiting his return. Charles' is the only one that she tells the truth, or what she says is the truth, to later in the novel.
This may seem confusing, what is Charles' doing with another woman, but their paths cross in the early pages of the novel and continue to. She finds in Charles' someone to express her sins to, and he finds in her his ticket out of a marriage that the reader knew was not meant to happen. Fowles follows this love triangle, we have Tina unaware that anything is going on until she is told, Sarah who seems to want something out of someone elses lover, and Charles' who seems to always want the one thing he can never have. Fowles also uses this novel to express to the reader what it was to be a gentleman in Victiorian England by having Charles have discussions with himself over the correct behaviour for a man in his situation and also by a narrator that offers his opinion of the novel at every oppurtunity.
This book is different than you might consider a romance novel. The narrator tells you what to think about the situation and instead of a clear chain of events, you are often left with choices as to how things should play out. It is an interesting novel, but not very engaging.