Bookish Discussions

The French Lieutenant’s Woman: The Greatest Post-Modern Novel Ever?



“We are all in flight from the real reality. That is the basic definition of Homo Sapiens.”

3 out of 5 stars

Read: 14 January – 17 January, 2019


I was asked to read John Fowles’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman for my Victorian Afterlives seminar. I’m not saying I was glad to be assigned it, but that’s also kind of what I’m saying. It’s a tricky one to review because I loved the post-modern and neo-Victorian aspects of the book, but I hated the actual plot. Do you see what I mean? I don’t know how I can be at such crossroads with a book, but, alas, here I am.

It’s about Charles Smithson, a respectable and engaged middle-class man, who falls in love with Sarah Woodruff – the French Lieutenant’s Woman. Sarah is a fallen woman in her own right, staring out to sea, waiting for her man to return. There is much more to her story, as we see through Charles, who gradually falls in love with her. Their romance ‘defies all the stifling conventions of the Victorian age‘.

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Bookish Discussions · Reviews

Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent:


Rating: 2.5 stars | Read: 9 August – 11 August, 2018

‘You told me once to forget you are a woman, and I understand it now – you think to be a woman is to be weak – you think ours is a sisterhood of suffering! Perhaps so, but doesn’t it take greater strength to walk a mile in pain than seven in none? You are a woman, and must begin to live like one. By which, I mean: have courage’

I’ve had my eyes on Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent for a while now. It’s a widely read and loved novel in and out of the book community. It won the Waterstones Book of the Year in 2016 and was shortlisted for the 2016 Costa Novel Award, so naturally my expectations were sky high. I’m not, however, one to enjoy hyped books. I’ll have high expectations, but I will go in knowing they probably won’t be met. This was most definitely the case with The Essex Serpent.

It opens in London, 1893. ‘Cora Seaborne’s husband has died, and she steps into her new life as a widow with as much relief as sadness. Retreating to the countryside with her son, she encounters rumours of the ‘Essex Serpent’, a creature of folklore said to have returned to roam the marshes. Cora is enthralled. Along the way, she collides with the local minster, William Ransome, who thinks the cure for hysteria lies in faith. Despite disagreeing on everything, he and Cora find themselves drawn together, changing each other’s lives in unexpected ways…’ (Serpent’s Tail).

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Bookish Discussions · Reviews

Daisy Goodwin’s Victoria:


Spoiler free | Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars | Read: 9 May – 13 May, 2018

I don’t know about you, but I am a huge fan of the ITV show Victoria. By chance, I stumbled across this book when browsing the web. I purchased it immediately when I realised that Daisy Goodwin, who wrote the script for the show, novelised the first four episodes. The novel is primarily concerned with Victoria’s ascension to the throne, how she copes with the pressures of being Queen at eighteen, and the types of relationships she experiences (with her mother, with Lord Melbourne, and with Prince Albert, for example). Whereas the show also brings to life the servants and maids of the Palace, the novel is strictly concerned with Victoria (and rightly so).

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