French Lieutenant's Woman (Fowles) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Fowles manipulates all the story-teller's artifices to challenge our usual assumptions about the authority of the novelist....At first the narrative voices seems to be that of the traditional Victorian author....It is appropriately enough in Chapter 13 that the new rules of the game break through the surface. [Until then Fowles has followed] "a convention universally accepted...that the novelist stands next to God; but after all he actually lives in the world of Alain Robbe-Grillet and Roland Barte [French theorists]." The dogma of the responsible omniscient narrator is dead [which allows the author a] new freedom.... Our final impression is of pleasure and even, on occasion, awe, at so harmonious a mingling of the old and the new in matter and manner.
Ian Watts - New York Times (11/09/69)

Dazzling...audacious...highly rewarding....A remarkable, original work in which at least two visions operate simultaneously, the one Victorian and melodramatic, the other modern and wise. An outlandish achievement!
Joyce Carol Oates - Washington Post Book World

By giving characters their freedom, Fowles also liberates himself from the tyranny of the rigid plan; but there remains a more basic limitation of fiction, and from this Fowles frees himself by means of his double ending: "The novelist is still a god," Fowles says in The French Lieutenant's Woman, "since he creates (and not even the most aleatory avant-garde modern novel has managed to extirpate its author completely); what has changed is that we are no longer the gods of the Victorian image, omniscient and decreeing; but in the new theological image, with freedom our first principle, not authority." Thus, although the novel seems in many ways a Victorian novel, the author reminds the reader that it is not; it is actually a novel of our time, with "this self-consciousness about the processes of art [that] is a hallmark of much twentieth-century fiction."
Gale Research

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