Erotic and terrifying, The Collector, John Fowles’s first novel and an immediate best seller, remains a chilling tale of a beautiful girl’s abduction by a psychopath. The lovely Miranda’s struggle to free herself from a specially designed cellar prison and Fred Clegg’s obsession to possess her, as he does the butterflies in his collection, form one of the most gripping psychological thrillers ever written. In Fowles’s hands, The Collector becomes a macabre parable about the captivity we all experience... in that cellar of the mind and hear where we too are unwilling “guests.”
I say: However gripping this novel was, I somehow expected more. Perhaps I have been jaded and desensitised by literature, but somehow I felt like there was something missing. I am not sure I can pinpoint exactly what it was because I felt that Fred was weird and disgusting enough to make my skin crawl; Fowles did an excellent job of carving out one of the vilest people I’ve ever read about, and at the same time managing to make me sympathise with him (as much as I didn’t want to). And I think that was the best part of this novel; being inside of Fred’s mind and hearing his emotions and thought process.
It was eerie and just plain uncomfortable.
The novel is set up in three parts, the first being inside of Fred’s head following how he obsesses over Miranda and later kidnaps her; the second being made up of a diary that Miranda kept while being locked up in the cellar; and the last part focusing again on Fred. As disturbing as I found Fred’s thoughts, I must concede that Fowles’ writing really shone when focusing on them. It was clear from the start that there was something inherently wrong with him, but I could never have imagined how serious it really was.
I’m not a psychologist, so I can’t give him a diagnosis, but clearly there was a need for one.
I wasn’t too fond of Miranda’s diary entries, and they actually made me like her less than I did before. This sounds terrible, I know, and the last thing I mean is that she deserved what happened to her; all I am saying is that I didn’t really like her after reading the diary. There was some serious desperation her words that made me cringe and clutch my
pearls heart, but ultimately I couldn’t understand a lot of her actions. And perhaps I wasn’t supposed to. I mean, who can calculate how they would react in a situation like that. However, Miranda came across as very intelligent and introspective and I perceived a rather clear dissonance between what she was saying and how she was acting.
But perhaps that was due to desperation.
Either way, I would recommend this book, but only to people I know could handle it – especially the end; which was just the type of end that I usually desire, and yet this time I wished it would have ended differently.
*This is my seventh entry in The Classic Bribe Challenge (which is an additional incentive for me to work on my Classics Challenge).