First Edition: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

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 French Lieutenant’s WomanThe 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.

The film 

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. The French Lieutenant’s WomanWatch 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.

If you like old books, check out these:-
‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen
Watership Down’ by Richard Adams
‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll

‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ by John Fowles Buy at Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Still loved: THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT’S WOMAN by John Fowles #oldbooks via @SandraDanby

4 thoughts on “First Edition: The French Lieutenant’s Woman

  1. Alastair Savage

    I loved this book too, and I would also thoroughly recommend The Magus by Fowles. It’s funny to think of the Cobb in stormy weather as I always remember it bathed in sun while on childhood summer holidays.


    1. sandradan1 Post author

      I have ‘The Magus’ too but admit I don’t remember it, also ‘The Collector’ which I do remember. Wasn’t there a BBC series of that? SD


        1. sandradan1 Post author

          ‘Try ‘The Collector’, it is quite creepy. A man collects butterflies, until he then collects a woman.
          Just looked at my shelves and I also have ‘Mantissa’.. don’t remember that one! SD



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