John Fowles: A Maggot
The beauty of The French Lieutenant’s Woman was its post-modernist treatment of a Victorian novel, whereby we could get both a Victorian novel and a post-modern novel out of it. In this novel, the same principle applies but the Victorian novel is buried in the post-modern novel. For some people, this works. For me, it did not really come through. This is not to say that this novel does not have its pleasures. We get Magus-like identity problems – no-one is quite who they seem. Moreover, their relationships with the other characters also seem to move around. This is all good fun even if it sometimes seems like just an excuse for different people to have sex with one another.
However, where the novel loses me is the UFO bit. Some people like science fiction UFO novels. I am not inherently adverse to them but I do find they grate when parachuted into a post-modernist Victorian literary novel. It may well be justified to bring about the religious sect and Rebecca’s giving birth to a baby who turns out to be Ann Lee, founder of the Shakers but it doesn’t really work for me. Fowles’ own justification for this plot twist at the end – more pomo stuff with the author as character/commentator – is that he admires religious dissenters. So do I. So write a book about them.
First published 1985 by Jonathan Cape