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

The French Lieutenant’s Woman is a 1969 postmodern historical fiction novel by John Fowles. The plot explores the fraught relationship of gentleman and amateur naturalist Charles Smithson and Sarah Woodruff, the former governess and independent woman with whom he falls in love. The novel builds on Fowles’ authority in Victorian literature, both following and critiquing many of the conventions of period novels. … Part of the novel’s reputation concerns its postmodern literary qualities, with expressions of metafiction, historiography, metahistory, Marxist criticism, and feminism. Stylistically and thematically, the novel has been described as historiographic metafiction.[6] The contrast between the independent Sarah Woodruff and the more stereotypical male characters often earns the novel attention for its treatment of gender issues. … Set in the mid-nineteenth century, the narrator identifies the novel’s protagonist as Sarah Woodruff, the Woman of the title, also known as ‘Tragedy’ and as ‘The French Lieutenant’s Whore’. She lives in the coastal town of Lyme Regis as a disgraced woman, supposedly abandoned by a French ship’s officer named Varguennes who had returned to France and married. Employed as a servant in the household of the very pious Mrs. Poulteney, she spends some of her limited free time on The Cobb, a stone jetty where she stares out to sea. One day, Charles Smithson, an orphaned gentleman, and Ernestina Freeman, his fiancée and a daughter of a wealthy tradesman, see Sarah walking along the cliffside. Ernestina tells Charles something of Sarah’s story, and he becomes curious about her. Though continuing to court Ernestina, Charles has several more encounters with Sarah, meeting her clandestinely three times. During these meetings, Sarah tells Charles of her history, and asks for his emotional and social support ….”
Guardian – The French Lieutenant’s Woman: a novel that comes from both the head and the heart
NY Times: On the Third Try, John Fowles Connects (Nov. 1969

Ammonite fossils on the beach near Lyme Regis. The narrator often reflects on Smithson’s fascination with science and natural history, while referring to the fossils found near Lyme Regis.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Books and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The French Lieutenant’s Woman – John Fowles (1969)

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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 )

Connecting to %s