The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) by John Fowles

The French Lieutenant's WomanThe French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don’t Look Now, The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Reverse psychology is a practical ploy for anyone to get an unsuspecting victim to do as he/she desires. But could this tactic work effectively in a novel? Can a reader be told by a novelist within the confines of the formal novel that the story is an imagination and yet the reader still believes that the characters are as real as any human being?

IMG_0013

In The French Lieutenant’s Woman John Fowles answers these types of questions and challenges the Victorian and conventional forms of the novel by doing two things really well: first, he makes it very clear he is a postmodern novelist telling a story about imagined characters living in the Victorian era; second, Fowles provides two endings for the exact same characters.

BRITAIN FOWLES OBIT

John Fowles breaks from convention in his novel The French Lieutenant’s Woman by taking a form of the Victorian novel and adapting it with twists using postmodern and unconventional techniques within the story. Regardless, the story remains beautiful and believable.

“The sense of the beautiful,” however, is derived from an awareness and understanding “accompanied by that particular feeling of release” and establishes a beauty which is “the truth of feeling” (Gardner, On Moral Fiction 144).

John-Fowles-006

In Chapter 13 Fowles creates this “feeling of release” by breaking from the conventional storytelling method; he ends up spending four pages advising the reader that the characters are not real but that they are alive:

This story I am telling is all imagination. These characters I create never existed outside my own mind. If I have pretended until now to know my characters’ minds and innermost thoughts, it is because I am writing in…a convention universally accepted at the time of my story:

that the novelist stands next to God…if this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in the modern sense of the word…We also know that a genuinely created world must be independent of its creator; a planned world…is a dead world. It is only when our characters and events begin to disobey us that they begin to live.

When Charles left Sarah on her cliff edge, I ordered him to walk straight back to Lyme Regis. But he did not; he gratuitously turned and went down to the Dairy…In other words, to be free myself, I must give him, and Tina, and Sarah, even the abominable Mrs. Poulteney, their freedoms as well. There is only one good definition of God: the freedom that allows other freedoms to exist. And I must conform to that definition (95-96).

fw

E.M. Forster warned against this in Aspects of the Novel:

“May the writer take the reader into his confidence about his characters? Answer has already been indicated: better not…It is confidences about the individual people that do harm, and beckon the reader away from the people to an examination of the novelist’s mind” (81-82).

IMG_0024

Then, let us argue that if Fowles had not broken the conventional storytelling method, the narration and the tale would have continuously maintained the highest form of art in literature.

The scenes and characters are well-crafted. The time and setting in a Victorian England well studied and conveyed. The reader, however, would always have in the back of his/her mind the awareness that the novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, is a dead thing, a book to be read and studied but a thing not of its own accord, not alive and free from the novelist’s strings of manipulation; in basic terms, an overly sentimental novel with a fairytale ending that defies the laws of reality during a highly formal time period.

John-Fowles-Quotes-1

But when Fowles deliberately and skillfully cuts those strings over the characters and plot, the novel begins to become more alive and, arguably, more than simple imagination, more than sentiment. The novel and its characters become free and beautiful, not melodramatic and sentimental.

By stating the obvious, “this story I am telling is all imagination,” and by freeing the characters from the novelist’s will, Fowles is able to establish a deeper truth than what the novel could have done if it had maintained an author writing a novel with the expected conventions.

John Fowles The Collector

IMG_4558

Nevertheless, Fowles is not satisfied with removing himself from the unfolding of events and granting the characters of The French Lieutenant’s Woman free will. He takes the story to a new level by providing two very distinct endings, both as real as the other. Fowles argues to himself and to the reader:

Fiction usually pretends to conform to the reality: the writer puts the conflicting wants in the ring and then describes the fight—but in fact fixes the fight, letting that want he himself favors win. And we judge writers of fiction both by the skill they show in fixing fights (in other words, in persuading us that they were not fixed) and by the kind of fighter they fix in favor of:

the good one, the tragic one, the evil one, the funny one, and so on…The only way I can take no part in the fight is to show two versions of it. That leaves me with only one problem: I cannot give both versions at once, yet whichever is the second will seem, so strong is the tyranny of the last chapter, the final, the “real” version (406).

fowles_magus1974[5]

In this writer’s and reader’s opinion, Fowles fails at this last statement; the first ending, for me, where Sarah presents Charles with his daughter who is only a toddler is far lasting and more real than the final version because Fowles foreshadows the event when Charles visits a prostitute similar in appearance and discovers the woman’s child:

“Holding the small body on his knees he dandled the watch in front of the now eager small arms. She was one of those pudgy-faced Victorian children with little black beads for eyes; an endearing little turnip with black hair” (319).

jf

An identical scene with Charles and his daughter takes place in the first of the two endings: “He fumbled hastily for his watch, as he had once before in a similar predicament. It had the same good effect; and in a few moments he was able to lift the infant without protest and carry her to a chair by the window” (457).

It would appear that there was some fight fixing by the writer after all. Without the former scene to foreshadow the first ending with Charles and his infant daughter, the last ending might have become a more viable outcome for the novel, but concludes with being more a forethought than an afterthought of the first ending. A reader might argue that a novel simply cannot have two endings.

120354-John+fowles+quotes+5

John Gardner in The Art of Fiction provides some relief to just such an argument: “The reality of the world of the tale, in other words, is that of a moral universe. What ought to happen, possible or not, does happen” (73).

The two alternate endings are not possible for a narration that should adhere to the laws of verisimilitude, but, as Gardner states, what should happen does happen. Both endings are as real for the reader as the possibilities they ascertain.

In The French Lieutenant’s Woman John Fowles shows his love for crafting and telling stories. The pleasure in allowing his words to break from convention by taking a Victorian themed novel and producing a postmodern work of art shows on every page, especially at the close of the book with two separate endings for Charles and Sarah.

“The true writer’s joy in the fictional process,” Gardner writes, “is his pleasure in discovering, by means he can trust, what he believes and can affirm for all time” (The Art of Fiction 81).

120244-o

Fowles does exactly this. He allows himself to discover his characters by opening himself and the reader up to the characters’ possibilities—a brave but necessary act from a writer; and Fowles illustrates how breaking from convention can establish new forms of writing, new shapes of verisimilitude.

When he points to the sky and says, “Don’t look!” The tempted reader must look and, thereby, becomes satisfied because he/she knows the truth and the lie, despite what others, perhaps publishers and editors, believe to be proper.

John-Fowles-006

Nevertheless, I will happily admit that Fowles is a brilliant writer and one of my all-time favourite because he dares to push the limits of writing and does not follow archaic literary traditions but braves the waters of his own talent, of his own limits, of his own possibilities. And that is also why The French Lieutenant’s Woman is one of my favourite books, despite how harsh I may have sounded in my review in its use of meta-fiction.

This book is a must read, at least once before you head off into that final sunset.

IMG_0016

IMG_0015

IMG_0014

IMG_0179

IMG_0181

IMG_0180

Other Books to Consider:

IMG_0182

IMG_0184

IMG_0183

IMG_0039

IMG_0026

IMG_0032

Donate_Button

Bibliography

Gardner, John. The Art of Fiction (1984). New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print.

—. On Moral Fiction (1978). New York: Basic Books, 2000. Print.

Forster, E.M. Aspects of the Novel (1927). New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1985. Print.

Fowles, John. The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969). New York: Bay Back Books, 1998. Print.

John-Fowles-006

IMG_0013

 

 

Vanity of Vanities by CG Fewston

hem1

copy-copy-group-2-copy.jpg

CG FEWSTON is an American novelist who is a member of AWP, a member of Americans for the Arts, and a professional member and advocate of the PEN American Center, advocating for the freedom of expression around the world.

CG FEWSTON has travelled across continents and visited such places as Mexico, the island of Guam, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macau, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Taipei and Beitou in Taiwan, Bali in Indonesia, and Guilin and Shenzhen and Beijing in China. He also enjoys studying and learning French, Vietnamese, Cantonese and Mandarin.

CG FEWSTON earned an M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Administration (honors), an M.A. in Literature (honors) from Stony Brook University, and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Fiction from Southern New Hampshire University, where he had the chance to work with wonderful and talented novelists like Richard Adams Carey (author of In the Evil Day, October 2015; and, The Philosopher Fish, 2006) and Jessica Anthony (author of Chopsticks, 2012; and, The Convalescent, 2010) as well as New York Times Best-Selling novelists Matt Bondurant (author of The Night Swimmer, 2012; and, The Wettest County in the World, 2009, made famous in the movie Lawless, 2012) and Wiley Cash (author of A Land More Kind Than Home, 2013; and, This Dark Road to Mercy, 2014).

Among many others, CG FEWSTON’S stories, photographs and essays have appeared in Sediments LiteraryArts Journal, Bohemia, Ginosko Literary Journal, GNU Journal (“Hills Like Giant Elephants”), Tendril Literary MagazinePrachya Review (“The One Who Had It All”), Driftwood Press, The Missing Slate Literary Magazine (“Darwin Mother”), Gravel Literary Journal, Foliate Oak Magazine, The Writer’s DrawerMoonlit Road, Nature Writing, and Travelmag: The Independent Spirit; and for several years he was a contributor to Vietnam’s national premier English newspaper, Tuoi Tre, “The Youth Newspaper.”

You can read more about CG FEWSTON and his writing at

www.cgfewston.me & https://www.facebook.com/cg.fewston/https://hk.linkedin.com/in/cgfewston

[ File # csp13641219, License # 2590673 ]Licensed through http://www.canstockphoto.com in accordance with the End User License Agreement (http://www.canstockphoto.com/legal.php)(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / andreykuzmin

A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN won GOLD for Literary Classics’ 2015 best book in the category under ”Special Interest” for “Gender Specific – Female Audience”…

Finalist in the 2015 Chatelaine Awards for Romantic Fiction…

Finalist in the 2015 Mystery & Mayhem Novel Writing Contest…

A_Time_to_Love_in_Tehran gold medal

Praise for A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN:

“Fewston delivers an atmospheric and evocative thriller in which an American government secret agent must navigate fluid allegiances and murky principles in 1970s Tehran… A cerebral, fast-paced thriller.”

Kirkus Reviews 

“A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a thrilling adventure which takes place in pre-revolutionary Tehran. Author CG FEWSTON provides a unique glimpse into this important historical city and its rich culture during a pivotal time in its storied past. This book is so much more than a love story. Skillfully paired with a suspenseful tale of espionage, A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN is a riveting study of humanity. Replete with turns & twists and a powerful finish, FEWSTON has intimately woven a tale which creates vivid pictures of the people and places in this extraordinary novel.”

LITERARY CLASSICS

copy-attlt-cover1.jpg

CG FEWSTON‘s new novel,

A TIME TO LOVE IN TEHRAN, was published on April 2, 2015 —

10 years to the day of the publication

of his first novella, A FATHER’S SON (April 2, 2005)

copy-the-new-america-by-cg-fewston1.png

“Thus one skilled at giving rise to the extraordinary

is as boundless as Heaven and Earth,

as inexhaustible as the Yellow River and the ocean.

Ending and beginning again,

like the sun and moon. Dying and then being born,

like the four seasons.”

found in Sources of Chinese Tradition, p 5

columbia-university-motto.png

cg and axton 2015

View all Reviews

copy-1c.jpg

View all my reviews

Advertisements

50 responses to “The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1969) by John Fowles

  1. Hi, I do beliеve this is an excellent blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will revisit once ɑgain ѕince i have bookmarked
    it. Money and freedom is the best way tο change, may yоս be rich anԀ continue to guide otheгs.

    Like

  2. Howdy! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and say I really enjoy reading through your posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that cover the same topics?
    Thank you so much!

    Like

  3. Hello I am so delighted I found your blog, I really found
    you by accident, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Anyhow I am here now and would just like to
    say thank you for a tremendous post and a all round enjoyable blog (I also love the theme/design),
    I don’t have time to browse it all at the moment but I have saved it and also added your RSS feeds, so when I have
    time I will be back to read more, Please do keep up the awesome job.

    Like

  4. I really like your blog.. very nice colors & theme.
    Did you create this website yourself or did you hire someone to do
    it for you? Plz answer back as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got
    this from. thanks

    Like

  5. That is really fascinating, You are an excessively skilled blogger.
    I have joined your feed and sit up for searching for
    more of your magnificent post. Also, I’ve shared your site
    in my social networks

    Like

  6. Just want to say your article is as surprising. The clarity in your post is just cool and i could assume you are an expert on
    this subject. Fine with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post.
    Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.

    Like

  7. Heya i’m for the primary time here. I found this board and I to find
    It really useful & it helped me out much. I am hoping
    to give one thing again and help others such as you aided me.

    Like

  8. Hey there would you mind letting me know which web host you’re using?

    I’ve loaded your blog in 3 different browsers and I must say this blog loads
    a lot faster then most. Can you suggest a good web hosting provider at
    a honest price? Kudos, I appreciate it!

    Like

  9. I seriously love your blog.. Excellent colors & theme.
    Did you create this amazing site yourself? Please reply back as I’m looking to create my very own site and would like to know
    where you got this from or exactly what the theme is called.

    Thank you!

    Like

  10. I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you make this website yourself or did you
    hire someone to do it for you? Plz reply as I’m looking to design my own blog and would like to find out where u got this from.
    cheers

    Like

  11. Hi, I do think this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it
    😉 I’m going to return yet again since I bookmarked it.
    Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and
    continue to guide other people.

    Like

  12. Woah! I’m really enjoying the template/theme of this site.
    It’s simple, yet effective. A lot of times it’s
    challenging to get that “perfect balance” between superb usability and visual appearance.

    I must say that you’ve done a fantastic job with this. In addition, the blog loads
    super quick for me on Safari. Exceptional Blog!

    discount michael kors handbags

    Like

  13. Howdy, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar one and i was just wondering if you get a lot of
    spam feedback? If so how do you protect against
    it, any plugin or anything you can suggest? I get so much lately it’s driving
    me insane so any support is very much appreciated.

    Like

  14. Excellent goods from you, man. I have understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too magnificent.
    I actually like what you’ve acquired here, really
    like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it.
    You make it enjoyable and you still take care of to keep it wise.

    I can not wait to read far more from you. This is really a great site.

    Like

  15. Hi, I do believe this is a great site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I will
    return yet again since i have book marked
    it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may
    you be rich and continue to help others.

    Like

  16. I am sure this piece of writing has touched all the internet visitors, its really
    really nice article on building up new blog.

    Like

  17. It’s in point of fact a great and useful piece of information. I’m glad that you just shared this helpful information with us.
    Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  18. Pingback: The Tragedy of American Fiction (2014) by C.G. Fewston | C.G. Fewston·

  19. This is really fascinating, You’re a very skilled
    blogger. I have joined your feed and ook ahead to in quest of extra of your magnificent post.
    Also, I have shared your web site in my sochial networks

    Like

  20. Please let me know if you’re looking for a article author for your blog. You have some really good articles and I think I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some content for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please send me an email if interested. Thanks!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s