Daniel Martin (novel)

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Daniel Martin
First edition (UK)
AuthorJohn Fowles
Cover artistMon Mohan[1]
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherJonathan Cape (UK)
Little Brown (US)
Publication date
Oct 1977
Media typePrint
LC ClassPZ4.F788 Dan PR6056.O85

Daniel Martin is a Bildungsroman novel written by English author John Fowles and first published in 1977 by Jonathan Cape. It follows the life of the eponymous protagonist, using both first and third person voices, whilst employing a variety of literary techniques such as multiple narratives and flashback. The author suggests that the book is concerned with "Englishness - what it is like to be English in the late 20th century.[2]

Plot summary[edit]

Daniel Martin is the story of a Hollywood screenwriter who returns to his native England when a friend from university asks to see him before he dies. With flashbacks to his childhood in the 1940s and time at university in Oxford, a tale of frustrated love emerges. The dying man (Anthony) asks him to look after his wife Jane. Daniel had, in fact, married Jane's sister, despite loving Jane and having spent one night with her.

While in England, Daniel improves relations with his daughter (Caro) and his estranged wife (Nell). Then Daniel and Jane go on a cruise visiting Egypt, Syria, and Lebanon; and the two fall in love again. Daniel breaks up with his Scottish girlfriend, and the two lovers are reunited at the end of the book.

Characters in Daniel Martin[edit]

Character Information
Daniel Martin The protagonist
Nell Daniel's ex-wife
Jane Daniel's lifetime love, Nell's sister
Anthony Jane's husband, Daniel's friend
Caro Daniel's daughter by Nell
Jenny Daniel's Scottish girlfriend


In summer 1969 Fowles commenced work on 'The Two Englishmen', which he renamed 'Futility', which then became Daniel Martin. A second draft was begun in April 1974 and he worked on the novel consistently throughout 1974/75. Final amendments were made in March 1977.[3]

Major themes[edit]

The novel can be seen as autobiographical. John Fowles states in an interview: "You are every character you write. In Daniel Martin, where I describe myself travelling all over America, I probably revealed more of myself than anywhere else."[4]

In exploring the relationships between the main characters, Fowles takes the chance to expand upon such topics as aesthetics, philosophy of cinema, archeology, imperialism and the differences between Britain and the United States.

John Gardner calls upon Daniel Martin many times in the first half of On Moral Fiction; it is to him a reflection of John Fowles's valid opinion regarding art—namely, that true art ought to instruct. The same notion was Gardner's central thesis in On Moral Fiction.

Literary significance and reception[edit]

Robert McCrum states "It was the American literary press that saluted Daniel Martin; the English critics who murdered it."[5] Writing in The New York Times William H. Pritchard opined "This new, long, ambitious novel must be judged [Fowles's] best piece of work to date and is a masterly fictional creation, dense with fact."[6]


  1. ^ Modern first editions - a set on Flickr
  2. ^ Mel Gussow Talk With John Fowles in The New York Times, November 13, 1977 retrieved January 1, 2008 (may require subscription)
  3. ^ Fowles, John The Journals Volume 2, London: Jonathan Cape, 2006
  4. ^ Adam Lee-Potter Fair or Fowles? in The Observer October 12, 2003 retrieved January 1, 2008
  5. ^ Robert McCrum in The highs and lows of being John Fowles, The Observer, November 13, 2005. Retrieved January 1, 2008
  6. ^ William H. Pritchard, September 25, 1977 Book Review in The New York Times

Further reading[edit]

  • Park S. Time and Ruins in John Fowles's "Daniel Martin" in "John Fowles" Modern Fiction Studies 1985, vol. 31, no 1, pages 157-163 ISSN 0026-7724
  • Post-Pastoral in John Fowles’s "Daniel Martin" Wilson Organization Environment. 2005; 18: 477-488
  • Discussion threads on Daniel Martin: http://fowlesbooks.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=5