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Fowles, John

novel woman described smithson

(British, 1926– )

Fowles has lived for many years in the English seaside resort of Lyme Regis, the location for The French Lieutenant's Woman (1969). In 1867 respectable and wealthy amateur palaeontologist Charles Smithson falls under the spell of a strange, ‘fallen’ woman, Sarah Woodruff. Smithson's pursuit of Sarah wrecks his engagement to a respectable young woman. While Fowles draws from the traditions of the nineteenth-century novel, he also experiments with the form, suggesting, for example, alternative endings to the novel. The natural environment of Lyme is described in rich detail. Place is also central to The Magus (1966), set on the Greek island of Phraxos, where the light, landscape, and lush vegetation are vividly described. A young schoolteacher, Nicholas, arrives on the island, ostensibly to do research. He is caught up in a series of mysterious events which seem to be part of a fantastic conspiracy designed to force him to confront his inner self. While this complex novel is written in a naturalistic style, it has a strongly surreal and mythological quality. Fowles's first novel, The Collector (1963), is a psychological thriller in which the narrator is a lonely repressed clerk who collects butterflies. Following a win on the football pools, he acquires a remote cottage, kidnaps a young art student, and imprisons her in the cellar. The novel ends in her death, and his plans for his next victim.

Thomas Hardy, Bruce Chatwin, Graham Swift. See HISTORICAL  DJ

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