I was a great John Fowles fan in the Eighties. This is my copy of The French Lieutenant’s Woman, dated 1981, a paperback edition by Triad Granada. It is well-thumbed, well-read, as are all my Fowles paperbacks including The Collector and The Magus. I remember being disappointed with the film, disliking the two-strand screenplay. I haven’t read the novel for years, but it remains on my shelf and I will re-read it soon. I find once the details of a story have been forgotten, the pleasure of re-reading increases exponentially. The story
Famous for its multiple endings, The French Lieutenant’s Woman received a mixed reception on publication. It explores the relationship of gentleman and amateur naturalist Charles Smithson, and Sarah Woodruff, former governess and independent woman, with whom he falls in love. Set in the mid-19th century, Woodruff is a ‘disgraced’ woman who lives in Lyme Regis where she spends hours walking The Cobb, a stone jetty where she stares out to sea. Smithson arrives in town and, seeing this lonely figure beside the sea, is curious about her.
Starring Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons [above], this film was released in 1981 with a stellar cast, director [Karel Reisz], music by [Carl Davis] and a screenplay by Harold Pinter based on the Fowles novel. It was nominated for two Oscars – best actress [Streep] and best adapted screenplay. Streep won a BAFTA for her role. Actors considered for the role included Robert Redford and Richard Chamberlain, actresses up for the role included Francesca Annis, Charlotte Rampling, Gemma Jones and Helen Mirren.
The storyline differs from the novel in that there are two strands, the Victorian drama from the book featuring Woodruff and Smithson, and a modern-day strand about the filming of the story in which the two actors [played by Streep and Irons] fall in love. Watch this clip on You Tube, the scene where Smithson first sees Woodruff standing on The Cobb [above] on a wild and windy day. Filmed on location in Dorset.
The first edition
This hardback ticks the ‘first’ box – first edition, first impression – and is signed by the author. Although slightly faded, its sale price is £750 at Peter Harrington. Published in 1969 by Jonathan Cape.
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Still loved: THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN by John Fowles #oldbooks via @SandraDanby http://wp.me/p5gEM4-2jK