“The French Lieutenant’s Woman” by John Fowles
Review copyright © 2021 by Doug Reeder
Post-modernism is hard to do well, but Fowles juggles his intrusions from his time well. Readers are distanced from the Victorian Era, and Fowles does well to explicitly contrast the 20th century with the 19th.
Fowles’s characters are people of their time, but Fowles makes them sympathetic to us. The three possible endings don’t feel like a cop-out. His quotes from Victorian literature flesh out the time, and the reader who finds them opaque can skim them.
Unreliable narrators are fine, but fiction still requires plausibility for characters’ actions. (Nonfiction does not.). It’s never good when a character says
Do not ask me to explain what I have done. I cannot explain it. It is not to be explained.
That line broke my suspension of disbelief, leaving me with a clever text, but without a true story.