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John Fowles Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Publication Order of Non-Fiction Books

The Aristos (1964)Description / Buy at Amazon
Shipwreck (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon
Steep Holm (1978)Description / Buy at Amazon
Islands (1978)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Tree (1979)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Enigma of Stonehenge (1980)Description / Buy at Amazon
A Short History of Lyme Regis (1982)Description / Buy at Amazon
Thomas Hardy's England (With: Jo Draper) (1984)Description / Buy at Amazon
Lyme Regis Camera (1990)Description / Buy at Amazon
Behind the Magus (1994)Description / Buy at Amazon
Wormholes (1998)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Journals: Volume 1 (2003)Description / Buy at Amazon
The Journals: Volume 2 (2005)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Collections

The Ebony Tower (1974)Description / Buy at Amazon

Publication Order of Anthologies

The Penguin Book of Modern British Short Stories(1987)Description / Buy at Amazon

John Fowles was an internationally renowned novelist best known for writing ‘The Magus’, a bestseller that was inspired by the time the author spent on the Greek Island of Spetses.


John Fowles was born in 1926 in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex to a family of merchants. Robert John Fowles, the author’s father, worked with a Tobacco importer (Allen & Wright). Gladys May Richards, his mother, died when he was six.

Gladys, whose family hails from Essex, met Robert at a Tennis Club after she moved to Westcliff-on-Sea. There was no reason to believe that the pair would hit it off, not only because the war had ruined Robert’s health but also because he was a decade older than Gladys.

Yet it only took the pair a year to court and marry, with Fowles coming into the world just months after that. Fowles’ earliest memories largely revolved around his cousin Peggy who, at the age of 18 when he was born, not only worked as his nursemaid but also acted as his constant companion for several years.

Because he spent the first sixteen years of his life as an only child, the author spent a lot of time reading. He was especially drawn to Richard Jefferies’ books and characters.

Following his time at Alleyn Court Preparatory School, John Fowles joined Bedford School in 1939. This was just as the Second World War was kicking off

Fowles’ father was a war veteran. Despite showing an interest in the law at a relatively early age, Robert went into the army following the completion of his legal training. He joined the First World War as a member of the Honorable Artillery Company.

During the years that followed, the author’s father was struck with many a tragedy, this including the death of his brother Jack and his father. It fell on the shoulders of Robert to take care his brother’s children as well as a number of young half-siblings.

But Robert did not buckle under the pressure, choosing to forego his dream of practicing law in favor of raising his extended family. It was in that climate that the author’s father made the decision to go into the Tobacco trade.

John Fowles wasn’t as unfortunate. He spent four years at Bedford School, exceeding expectations as an athlete and even becoming head boy before departing in 1944. Life after school took Fowles to Edinburgh University where pursued a Naval Short Course.

His plans for the Royal Marines were upended when he found himself at Okehampton Camp near Devon. Fowles none the less performed his duties to the best of his abilities, though he eventually left the military service behind in 1947.

Choosing to go back to school, the author set his sights on French and German at New College, Oxford. Those years saw Fowles’ politics transformed. Initially, a hopeful youth determined to maintain the British status quo it was at Oxford that Fowles began to nurture anarchist ideals.

Writing came naturally to him. He saw it as a means of expressing his unique views on life in his community, though he did not immediately pursue a career in the field, instead choosing to go into teaching.

His most notable assignment was at the Anargyrios and Korgialenios School of Spetses on a Greek Island. An English master at the time, it was on Spetses that John Fowles met his wife (Elizabeth Christy).

Teaching in Greece was a fulfilling experience for Fowles. It was there that he began to experiment with poetry. He formed close relationships with other expatriates and he would have gladly spent the rest of his life on the Island.

However, when the author and his colleagues at his school attempted to initiate reforms, Fowles was amongst those that were fired, this forcing him back to England. Fowles was initially separated from Elizabeth, not only because of the move back to England but also because she was married at the time.

But circumstances drove them back together. They were married in 1957. By 1960, the author had begun work on ‘The Collector’, his first novel, which he used to garner the attention of a publisher at Jonathan Cape.

By 1963, Fowles had become a published author. While British critics appreciated his debut work, American reviewers were put off by the elements of existentialism in the novel.

The tentative reception from the United States did not slow Fowles down. He stopped teaching and started writing full time. He continued to put out bestsellers and was eventually named one of the Fifty Greatest Writers to ever come of Britain.

Despite the strong political views of his youth, Fowles came to be known as a recluse even after becoming the curator of the Lyme Regis Museum. The author lost his wife to cancer in 1990.

John Fowles married again in 1998. He died in 2005.


John Fowles was fortunate to see three of his works receive notable adaptations. The first was ‘The Collector’ which became a psychological crime film of the same name directed by William Wyler and released in 1965.

‘The Magus’ was also adapted into a British Mystery film two years later, directed by Guy Green. Fowles pushed for the making of this adaptation and even wrote the screenplay. However, the movie was panned by almost every notable critic that watched.

‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ was a better-received adaptation. The romantic drama was released in 1981, directed by Karel Reisz.

+The Magus

Nicholas Urfe is a young Englishman who enthusiastically accepts a teaching position at a school on a remote Greek Island. What starts as an exciting new friendship with a local millionaire devolves into something more dangerous. It isn’t long before Nicholas is fighting for his life and sanity.

This book tells the story of a confident young man who’s yearning for a little bit of mystery in life. Nicholas gets a little more mystery than he bargained for when he takes a teaching job in Greece.

+The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Sarah Woodruff is a governess whose life in the English Community of Lyme Regis is upended when she falls for a French Naval Officer that washes ashore and then abandons her after ruining her reputation.

Charles Smithson is a financially stable Gentleman who should be happily engaged to a beautiful heiress. Charles accidentally encounters Sarah while visiting his aunt and, despite warnings from the locals, falls for her, this causing his life to take a strange turn.

Book Series In Order » Authors » John Fowles

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