Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday's Forgotten Book: A Maggot, by John Fowles

(Been busy all this week, hence no blogging. And this will be short.)

I don't know whether any book by John Fowles could be called forgotten, since he must be one of the highest regarded British authors of the last thirty decades. But I don't see a lot of discussion on him lately, so when I read this, I thought I'd do a Forgotten Book post about it.

A Maggot is a historical novel, but it's not for a historical novel purist. The events of the book take place in the early 18th century, but the narrator makes clear that "he" narrates the text from the late 20th century, i.e. from now (the book is from 1983, if I remember correctly [it's not at hand and I don't feel like opening a new browser and checking]). In this regard, the book resembles Fowles's best-known novel, The French Lieutenant's Lady. Both are essays on the historical novel, not historical novels per se. Fowles also uses many different narrative techniques - some pieces of the book are told in present tense, some are transcripts of interviews or interrogations and some are the narrator's own ponderings and mini-essays. This can be annoying if you're accustomed to more straight-forward narratives.

What's it about, then? A Maggot tells about mysterious events regarding a disappeared duke (or whatever, I already forgot, a man of nobility in any case) and his servant who's found dead hanging from a tree. The events involve a known prostitute. There's also a sort of private eye, a lawyer who interrogates some of the people that had to do with the said events. There are fantasy or even science fiction elements in the book, but we never know if they are only imagination.

The reader is left unconscious of what actually happened, which works very well, in my view. I had some trouble getting into the book, but halfway through I was actually quite excited about it. The ending is powerful and links the book in actual events that have taken place. (If you want to know what they are about, read the book.)


pattinase (abbott) said...

At the time I read this, I thought it to be the most brilliant book I'd ever read. Have to try it again.

Juri said...

Yes, Patti, Fowles is certainly brilliant. I really liked THE MAGUS and the butterfly collector book, THE COLLECTOR, is it?