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The French Lieutenant's Woman | [John Fowles]

The French Lieutenant's Woman

At Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast, a young Victorian amateur palaentologist, Charles Smithson, is struck by a solitary figure standing at the far end of the Cobb, staring out to sea. It is Sarah Woodruff, known to the locals as 'poor Tragedy' since her apparent liaison with a French sailor who has since deserted her. Although Charles is already engaged to a young heiress, he is immediately beguiled and eventually infatuated with Sarah.
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Publisher's Summary

At Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast, a young Victorian amateur palaentologist, Charles Smithson, is struck by a solitary figure standing at the far end of the Cobb, staring out to sea. It is Sarah Woodruff, known to the locals as 'poor Tragedy' since her apparent liaison with a French sailor who has since deserted her. Although Charles is already engaged to a young heiress, he is immediately beguiled and eventually infatuated with Sarah.

©1969 John Fowles; (P)2002 Chivers Audio Books

What the Critics Say

"Paul Shelley's subtle presentation does full justice to Fowles' artful, mysterious tale....Never once does he lose the listener as the author moves between the past and present, commenting on Victorian customs, politics, and morays. And never once does he give away the novel's surprise ending. Enthusiastically recommended." (AudioFile)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (414 )
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3.9 (193 )
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4.1 (187 )
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Performance
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  •  
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 09-16-13
    Darwin8u Mesa, AZ, United States 09-16-13 Member Since 2011

    A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Writes with a sharp elegance that is breathtaking"

    The reason I am drawn to literature, to art, to books considered to be classics, is to watch some middle-aged, bearded man put on a pair of (excuse the flamboyant analogy) skates and suddenly pitch himself into the center of the ring and pull off a triple Salchow. I love risk-taking, experimental literature. With 'The French Lieutenant's Woman', Fowles is boldly moving in a lot of directions at once (pushing down fourth walls [Chapter 13], jumping forward and backward in time, throwing himself into the path of the protagonist Charles) and manages to control it all with a sharp elegance that is breathtaking.

    He (re)creates a Victorian period novel and then deconstructs, dissects and parodies it while we watch. He bends into it elements of Darwinian and Marxist thought (two revolutionary Men who lived during this period, but are never displayed in the works of the Bront√ęs, Hardy, Gaskell, Dickens or Trollope. Doing so, he subverts both the age and the novel. 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' is a work of genius and a book that teased and challenged me on almost every page as I read it.

    26 of 26 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Walter Monte CarloMonaco 06-06-05
    Walter Monte CarloMonaco 06-06-05 Member Since 2003
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    "Very fine writing and reading"

    This is my first review of an audible book. Had to recommend it. Amazing story, remarkable insight into both the Victorian, and mid-20th century cultures. Best of all: this is truly an OUTSTANDING reader -- believable (accurate) accents, great pace and tone. The skills of both the author and the reader add up to sophisticated story telling at its very best. This is a book to return to again and again.

    22 of 22 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Richard dallas, OR, USA 04-29-05
    Richard dallas, OR, USA 04-29-05
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    "Great drama, great reader."

    There was a big-time film version of this novel, with fine stars. I saw it but can't remember it. This presentation is one I will never forget. If you liked the film, which I dimly recall presents a romance between two cast members as well as the one in the film itself, I think you will like this much better. It is the most enjoyable and unusual writing about Victorian times I know of and the narration by Paul Shelley is perfection. Just be warned. This is not light reading and the ending may stun a sensitive soul. Like me.

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin Knob Noster, Macau 02-17-07
    Robin Knob Noster, Macau 02-17-07 Member Since 2002
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    24
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    "Victorian culture from 20th Century Viewpoint"

    As an audible listener for a number of years I have found that books of this length (over 17 hours) have the great potential of becoming tedious. This is NOT one of them. As other reviewers have mentioned this is a book that will keep you interested throughout, both because of the story itself, but also because of the narration. And the author's tendency to let the reader into his own mind and to understand the choices he makes in telling the story are quite engaging. One of the best aspects is not being able to quite predict what will happen next, even up to the very end.

    11 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dale Washington, DC, USA 05-03-05
    Dale Washington, DC, USA 05-03-05 Member Since 2003
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    "A Stunning Novel"

    I have been listening to two Audible books per month for two years now. This is not only the finest book I have ever listened to, it is probably also the finest I have ever read. The story is compelling and the asides addressing the foibles of the Victorian era are genius. The narration is simply superb. I have tried reading the book several times over the years, and the intricacy of it on the written page always dissuaded me. Thank goodness I did not miss out on it any longer. A sensational listen.

    22 of 23 people found this review helpful
  •  
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 09-13-08
    connie Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada 09-13-08

    trying to see the world with my ears

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Clever, excellent listening"

    This is a must for fans of 19th century literature, and as far as I know (I hope that I'm worng), a unique novel. It's as though Fowles was channelling by turns Hardy, Eliot and Trollope with a controlled authentic sounding Victorian voice, interspersed with a postmodern wink and a nod to the "death of the author." It's a novel that I will pick up in print to catch some of the voice play.

    The narration was excellent, too and suited the text so well. The narrator was one of those rare male readers who can "do" female voices - that is, distinguish among all the characters - without a silly falsetto or similar affectation.

    I saw the movie back in the early 80s, but didn't really get it. Now I think I will watch it again and better understand what the screenwrtier was trying to do.

    This should be a required close study for anyone who attempts historical ficition (esp. 19th century) - Perhaps then there might be better stuff passed off as "historical fiction."

    14 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A. Frazier VA 07-20-07
    A. Frazier VA 07-20-07 Member Since 2005

    AFY

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    "Metafiction meets realis"

    Fowles' novel is spectacular and the reading does it justice. It is metafiction in the guise of realism. The narrator's entries into the text and the fascinating ending contrast and play with the "truth-telling" function of traditional realism.

    I'm a regular audible listener, listening to books during walks, and I extended my walks to get some extra listening time on this one.

    12 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    S. R. Gibb New Zealand 10-18-11
    S. R. Gibb New Zealand 10-18-11 Listener Since 2010
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    "Brilliant"

    I had seen the movie which was okay, but the book has so many more layers. The entwining of the story, some history of social attitudes during the victorian era, and even some gentle humour make the whole experience a delicious feast that infuses with the sights and aromas of victorian rural England
    If you have even the least interest in the victorian era, read this book. The narration is great too. Overall I award this book the the ultimate prize ...... 3 chocolate fish.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leela Australia 12-05-13
    Leela Australia 12-05-13 Member Since 2013
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    "A Novel Look at the Victorian Era"
    Any additional comments?

    A historical fiction set in the Victorian era, that is not only a detailed insight into that time, but also a homage to 19th Century fiction, and the emergence of the novel. A time capsule within a time capsule, perhaps. Confused? Intrigued? Listen to this fabulous recording and find out. I should add that the characters are meticulously and delicately explored, and the scenery, as well as the philosophies, moods, and social trends of that time in history, are vividly evoked by a skilled author. I also suggest checking out the film version, made in 1981, which although set in the present time (the 'present time' of the 1980's, that is), provides a delightful slant on the ideas expressed in the novel.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Can't just sit and listen VA 03-04-14

    I like to listen while I exercise, do housework, knit, etc., so I usually prefer a light read for an audiobook.

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    "Well written but got a bit too postmo at the end"
    Would you listen to The French Lieutenant's Woman again? Why?

    No. The ending has a really bizarre twist which kind of ruins it for another read.


    Any additional comments?

    Some of the writing is exceptional. However, it is also very self-aware. A 'writerly' text almost more than a 'readerly' one.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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