Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rereading "The French Lieutenant's Woman"

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.


  1. I, too, love TFLW although I have not read it as often as you have. I love the quotation from Martin Amis about rereading "Pride and Prejudice"==it's words to the effect that after many readers he still is sucked into the anxiety that Darcy and Elizabeth might not get together. He calls it the "panic of unsatisfied expectation" and this compels him to keep on reading.

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