Saturday, 16 March 2013

"French Lieutenant's Woman" John Fowles

It is genius!!!

Now let’s talk.

There are stories that have to be read slowly with breaks, sometimes with a glass of wine. "French Lieutenant's Woman" by Fowles is one of them. I relished the story, enjoyed the erudition and generosity of the author. The novel was a revelation. It is not a fast food, so it deserves expensive surroundings and time.

The rhythm of the narrative coincides with the pace of the middle of 19th century' life. You feel like walking slowly in the woods, examining in detail all around, sometimes you sit down on a stump and your eyes catch details of which, if not Fowles, you would not have thought. In short, it is not an action story.

The author is very visible, he constantly interferes, comments, sometimes goes into a totally different direction. And I like what he does, because if he stays behind, subtle and invisible like Chekhov in his plays, a superficial reader (like me) will not think it through.

I liked that Victorian England was spoon-fed to me. This is not a novel; it is above all a great guide on Victorian England. Fowles touches all aspects of history: religion, science, sanctimonious morality, customs and traditions of all sections. The text is smart and it can be divided into many citations. As a stylist I found Fowles’s comments on clothes and fashion marvelous. The characters are described very well, and it was through them Fowles was able to convey the mood of the époque and the changes occurring during that time. Despite the slow pace and thoroughness, Fowles surprises by twists in the plot.

Now, about Sarah, the main character. At first I thought it would be another version of Anna Karenina, Lady Macbeth, or the main character of the Awakening by Kate Chopin. Sarah immediately fit into the famous list of ostracized women. I was looking forward to read the "English" version of events, however I got surprised...

The middle of the 19th century, a small town in England at the seaside, a woman with an incredible longing gaze is on the promenade. This woman is known as the French Lieutenant's Woman. Her nickname is based on rumors that she was the mistress of a French officer, who promised to marry her, but abandoned her and, apparently, was not going to come back. Charles Smithson, a poor nobleman engaged to the daughter of a wealthy merchant sees Sarah while walking. Meeting with a mysterious woman will not leave Charles untouched....

My opinion about Sarah was changing as I was reading the novel. She is one of those rough diamonds, which comes to the world with a programmed mission and character. It does not matter whether she is poor or rich, she will fulfill what she is destined for. The force of her personality is so great that she, like a hurricane pulls into her vortex all those who happened to be nearby. I admire the image created by Fowles. But I find Charles, the main character, is much closer to me. Maybe it is because Fowles explained him better.

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