"But I live in the age of Alain Robbe-Gillet and Roland Barthes; if this is a novel, it cannot be a novel in the modern sense of the word."
English writer re-imagines the Victorian novel for the modern era. While remaining faithful to the form and themes of 19th century novels, he also inserts what could not be part of those novels, namely sex and characters discussing controversial subjects like Darwin, the fossil record, socialism, and evolution. Marx and Tennyson provide many of the chapter's epigraphs. Fowles, like a good post-modernist, addresses the reader, which astute readers will know is actually an old device that goes back to the roots of the English novel (Fielding, Smollett). Unlike many post-modernists, this works both as a conventional novel and as a play on a novel. If you've seen the film (Harold Pinter did the screenplay), which added a present-set storyline, the book is far more creative, provocative, and absorbing. Also check out "The Collector" by the same author.
Sarah's character is portrayed ambiguously, leaving the reader to wonder if she is genuine or slyly manipulative. Three different endings are presented for the reader to choose from. A dark feeling of tragedy is woven throughout the novel.
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