The French Lieutenant's Woman
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The French Lieutenant's Woman

3.85 (37,610 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

The perfect gift for Valentine's Day Charles Smithson, a respectable engaged man, meets Sarah Woodruff as she stands on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, staring out to sea. Charles falls in love, but Sarah is a disgraced woman, and their romance will defy all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age. Widely acclaimed since publication, this is the best-love of John Fowles' novels.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 480 pages
  • 128 x 196 x 32mm | 339.99g
  • Vintage Publishing
  • Vintage Classics
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New ed.
  • 0099478331
  • 9780099478331
  • 111,130

About John Fowles

John Fowles was born in England in 1926 and educated at Bedford School and Oxford University. John Fowles won international recognition with his first published title, The Collector (1963). He was immediately acclaimed as an outstandingly innovative writer of exceptional imaginative power and this reputation was confirmed with the appearance of his subsequent works. John Fowles died in 2005.show more

Review quote

"A brilliant success... It is a passionate piece of writing as well as an immaculate example of storytelling" * Financial Times * "Compulsively readable" * Irish Times * "A splendid, lucid, profoundly satisfying work of art, a book which I want almost immediately to read again" * New Statesman * "Brilliant...an artist of great imaginative power" * Sunday Times * "Marvellous 1969 novel... You can read this book again and again, always finding something new and always falling in love with the hapless Charles." -- Val Hennessy * Daily Mail *show more

Review Text

"Marvellous 1969 novel... You can read this book again and again, always finding something new and always falling in love with the hapless Charles."show more

Back cover copy

'A brilliant success... A passionate piece of writing' Financial Times Charles Smithson, a respectable engaged man, meets Sarah Woodruff as she stands on the Cobb at Lyme Regis, staring out to sea. Charles falls in love, but Sarah is a digraced woman, and their romance will defy all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age. Widely acclaimed since publication, this is the best-love of John Fowles' novels. See also: The Collectorshow more

Rating details

37,610 ratings
3.85 out of 5 stars
5 28% (10,682)
4 39% (14,591)
3 24% (9,208)
2 6% (2,320)
1 2% (809)

Our customer reviews

The French Lieutenant's Woman is a novel set in the late 1800's and written in the 1960's by John Fowles, with possibly the most emotionally intriguing protagonist ever. It centers on Charles Smithson, as he ploughs through his engagement to the bland Ernestina Freeman. He meets the eponymous Sarah Woodruff; an eccentric, enigmatic woman who right away intrigues him as she challenges social conformity and more astonishingly, his intellect. But Sarah's reputation precedes her- she is frowned upon by the town for her questionable past. The plot starts off plain and slow paced, but what kept me going is the eccentricity of the narrator. And I am glad I kept going; because this is a book that has certainly made a mark on me. Fowles writes what I can only assume is himself into the book as an omniscient narrator. At the same time, he manages to integrate himself into the story as a character. At one point he is in a train, staring at Charles, and at others he describes himself as he is looking through their windows, or following them on the street! The characters are written with so much depth and authenticity that one starts to doubt their existence, every character, that is, except for the protagonist. Sara is only described as Charles sees her: clouded by the society's image of her at times, and by his emotions towards her at others. Psychoanalysts would have a field day with Sarah. Several times in the book she is compared to sadistic sociopaths of her time. Yet there remains an air of mystery around her behavior. One thing remains certain though; she doesn't want to fit in. She kept the façade of a sinner throughout the plot just to be shunned from society. Charles is a paleontologist and a Darwinist. So we find that he is often at loss between his science and the religious beliefs of his time. And this is perhaps one of the most prominent themes in the book. There rarely passes a story arc without an argument about natural selection and evolution. At one point, Darwin's On the Origins of Species is even used, in lieu of a bible, to swear upon, shedding the light on the driving force of modernism: an acceptance of science that does not follow the established beliefs. Plot aside, the most valuable thing offered by this book is an objective look at the Victorian era as a whole. The epilogue to every chapter is a poem, article, saying or anecdote from the era that provide an insight to the behavior of the characters at times, and to the society as a whole at others. Fowles also dedicates a few chapters to the comparison between the main characters and modern characters. The book is also riddled with footnotes further explaining the Victorian mindset. If the Victorian era intrigues you as it does me, then this is a book you cannot miss. Fowles' knowledge of it is comparable to one who had lived it. And I will most certainly read it several more times just to get lost in its depths.show more
by Zeenah
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