The French Lieutenant’s Woman

First literature related blogging post, so I am sure this will be far from perfect.

I picked up ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman just under a year ago in a fantastic second-hand bookshop, along with an Evelyn Waugh and Nancy Mitford, for some ridiculously cheap price.  As often happens with books I buy, it has sat on my bookshelf waiting for the opportune moment to be read, and this presented itself when I found out the A Level class I would be observing/teaching on my second placement were studying this.

Unfortunately due to the craziness that is teacher training, it has taken me forever to read, and as I only decided to begin lit blogging halfway through the novel, I’m not sure I can offer many insightful comments.  However I did enjoy reading this, and I found Fowles’ ‘interruptions’ rather amusing; they prompted me to think more about the process of writing and how wrapped up we as readers become in the lives of various characters, although I did not feel as strong an interest in Fowles’ characters as I do in other novels.  This might be because of the amount of time it took me to read the novel, or just because they didn’t appeal to me.  For the time being I’ll put it down to timing, and then if I ever get around to re-reading I might have a different opinion.

Fowles creates a believable Victorian world, that he steadily seems to pick apart, constantly reminding the reader of the artificiality of the novel.  Sarah (the French Lieutenant’s woman) is possibly the biggest catalyst in this destruction of Victorian ideals, refusing to conform to the social expectations of a woman in the nineteenth century, stating ‘I do not to share my life.  I wish to be what I am, not what a husband, however kind, however indulgent, must expect me to become in marriage.’  This was probably one of the only actions of hers that I admired ( not that I am against marriage) as for the majority of the novel she is devious and somewhat manipulative, but then these are often the best characters.  If I re-read I will definitely be on the lookout for subtle indicators as to her future actions, one of which had already been highlighted for me during A Level discussion.  But then how much does it really matter, as Fowles states himself, ‘these characters I create never existed outside my own mind,’ so surely the emphasis should be on analysing the author, and not the figments of his imagination?

As there are only four school days left, and I deserve a treat I have purchased Isabel Colegate’s ‘The Shooting Party,’ so I might begin that tomorrow, especially having read Book Snob’s glowing review.  For the time being I shall relax and wait in eager anticipation of Julian Fellowes’ ‘Titanic!

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