What is so striking about John Fowle’s THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN is how much the voice of the narrator intrudes into a story, set in 1867, in which a gentleman paleontologist prepares for his marriage with a suitable young lady, while allowing himself to be distracted by another woman, the French lieutenant’s woman, who exerts a powerful pull on his imagination.
The narrator’s voice insistently reminds the reader that this novel is set in 1867 (the novel was written in 1969) and also comments on Victorian mores as the novel goes along, making what is known in Philosophy as “meta-comments”, that is comments about the novel itself. As the novel progresses towards its end, this voice becomes ever more apparent, especially during the most famous part of the novel, in which Fowles presents his reader with three alternative endings. What is magical is how Fowles manages to do this without annoying the reader. Five stars. A book club recommendation.