I just finished re-reading John Fowles' The French Lieutenant's Woman for the fourth or fifth time over the last eight to nine years. In grad school, I also read most of the published academic criticism of the book. I feel thoroughly familiar with the book. So why, after all this time and study, do I find myself at points unable to put the book down? How, when I know all that will happen, do I read some passages with piqued energy, racing with anticipation? Why do I still feel challenged by its themes, enraptured by its style? How does Fowles succeed so completely at pulling me into the world of his novel?
That's what I want when I read a novel: to be pulled emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually into its fictional world. I want it to engulf me, so that while reading I am virtually experiencing its world, and when I am not reading it, that world lingers with me wherever I go. Fowles succeeds.