The writer John Fowles is dead. He was 79. The flurry of newspaper obituary notices was a startling reminder about a man who had long been out of the public eye, but there was a time when he was one of the most widely read writers. I remember reading him in the Seventies and Eighties. The Collector, The Magus, The French Lieutenant’s Woman, Daniel Martin, The Ebony Tower were all bestsellers.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman is one of my favourite books. It’s as solid as any great Victorian novel, and clever, experimental and ambitious like the works of Gabriel Marquez and Salman Rushdie. Fowles is as erudite as Anthony Burgess — and far more sensuous, almost reminiscent of Lawrence Durrell.
The French Lieutenant’s Woman was made into a memorable movie, with a script written by this year’s Nobel Prize winner, Harold Pinter. I was absolutely captivated by Meryl Streep in the title role.