I first read this when I was 19. I had seen the film. (I later learnt that the will they?/ wont they? element with the ‘actors’ was the filmmaker’s attempt to recreate the authorial voice of the book.) I found the interruption to the action of the novel irritating. The social commentary, I felt, got in the way of the story. After reading The Collector, I thought that I would give it another chance.
Fowles’ interjections are exactly what makes this so exceptional; I loved it the second time. The central narrative of Charles, set to marry Ernestina but meeting Sarah (the ‘fallen woman’) is so cleverly intertwined with the critique of Victorian values.