Charles Smithson, a fairly intelligent Victorian gentleman engaged to marry a respectable young thing, becomes fascinated by a dark-haired beauty who stands on a breakwater and stares out to sea. Thinking perhaps to help Sarah out of her misery, he falls deeply into her secrets and mystery. I have described him as protagonist and her as antagonist mainly because we see things mostly from his point of view, though she is the center of the narrative. This classic Victorian love story is couched within a post-modern, self-conscious meditation on authentic existence, evolution, and Marxism. Fowles also takes brief essay-like excursions into Victorian sex mores, the wonders of wild nature, and other historical topics. The ideas never overwhelm the plot, but merely offer themselves as extra cream for the discriminating reader to enjoy. And the book has three different endings!
This report prepared by David Loftus