John Fowles has the distinction of being both a best-selling novelist and one whose work has earned the respect of academic critics. Why his novels are best-sellers is clear enough. Fowles has tremendous narrative drive, the ability to compel his readers’ attention from the beginning of his novels to the end.1 He so beguiles us with uncertainty in his fiction, so tantalizes us with a variety of possible outcomes, that we keep turning the pages of his novels eagerly to find out what happens in the end. Often we are enticed by the prospect of discovering whether the male and female main characters of his novels will remain together in erotically charged relationships or finally decide to part and lead separate lives. In some of the novels the relationships run to sexual extremes, and our curiosity about them does not stop short of prurience. Voyeurism, prostitution, kidnapping for sexual purposes — all these and more are to be found in Fowles’s fiction, though he treats these subjects with a notable seriousness of purpose.
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