I think this is the only book of John Fowles that I ever finished, and I really enjoyed it — it is one of those books which draws you in and becomes, in the process, something that shapes some part of you. I couldn’t necessarily say what effect the book had on me in a permanent sense but I remember at the time being profoundly affected, and perhaps it is purely the writerly part of me that responded to this densely plotted and intense psychological drama. It could have been that I was at the right point to read it — being at University; it has something of being ‘one of those kind of books’ about it. It might be a book to say that you have read to impress people, but for me it was a more personal thing. I personally hate that kind of reason for doing something — that it is the done thing. I think that this book might defeat a lot of people in the same way and for the same reasons that Ulysses
seems to — that it takes a commitment to read it. You get out of it what you put into it so I didn’t resent it in the least; it was a long time before another book had quite the same impact on me and those are the kind of books you want to read.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman
lacked something for me; some hook. It may have been something overly self conscious in it’s structure that kept booting me out of the flow of the narrative. Sometimes if you can spot te author having one of those clever moments it is like being nudged by someone in the cinema who has worked out the plot twist, or being tapped on the shoulder in an art gallery and being told by some amatuer enthusiast what the painting is doing. The Collector
not getting read was pure procrastination and nothing but, but this book, despite it’s size, drew me in and convinced me that the world which I had chosen to enter was worth staying in. Below is a synopsis from Wikipedia:
“The story concerns young and intelligent Oxford graduate Nicholas Urfe, who takes up with Alison Kelly, an Australian girl he meets at a party in London. Prior to meeting Alison, Nicholas had accepted a post teaching English at the Lord Byron School in the Greek island of Phraxos. This provides a convenient “escape” for Nicholas as the affair with Alison gets more serious than he had hoped for. Bored, depressed, disillusioned, and overwhelmed by the Mediterranean island, Nicholas contemplates suicide, then takes to long solitary walks. On one of these walks he stumbles upon the wealthy Greek recluse Maurice Conchis, who may or may not have collaborated with the Nazis during the war and apparently lives alone on his island estate.
Nicholas is gradually drawn into Conchis’s psychological games, his paradoxical views on life, his mysterious persona, and his eccentric masques. At first these various aspects of what the novel terms the “godgame” seem to Nicholas to be a joke, but as they grow more elaborate and intense, Nicholas’s ability to determine what is real and what is not vanishes. Against his will and knowledge he becomes a performer in the godgame, and realizes that the enactments of the Nazi occupation, the absurd playlets after de Sade, and the obscene parodies of Greek myths are not about Conchis’s life, but his own.”
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