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The French Lieutenant's Woman

From Academic Kids

The French Lieutenant's Woman is a 1969 novel by John Fowles. The plot concerns the love affair between a Victorian gentleman and a woman who has been jilted by a French officer, scandalizing the "polite society" of Lyme Regis. The book was inspired by the 1823 novel Ourika by Claire de Duras, which Fowles translated to English in 1977 (and revised in 1994).

Fowles makes his plot intertwine on itself, laying it out linearly at first, only to have it curl back on itself later with a "that was what might have happened, or maybe this is what really happened." Along the way, he discourses on Victorian customs, the theories of Charles Darwin, and the poetry of Matthew Arnold.

Film

In 1981, Hollywood undertook to make this story into a movie. Instead of trying to create a screenplay that literalised the plot construction that Fowles had laid down, Harold Pinter invented a modern parallel. He did this by revealing a story within a story -- showing us the lives of the actors who portray Fowles's characters. The characters' story ends one way, the actors' another.

The movie stars Meryl Streep and Jeremy Irons. It was directed by Karel Reisz. It was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Meryl Streep), Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

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