Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Review: The Collector by John Fowles

Vintage edition book cover of The Collector by John Fowles
I would never have read this if it wasn't for Charlotte, although I say that about a lot of books. Usually in a good way, but every so often I like to poke her about the misery of Hope: A Tragedy. Thanks Charlotte.

She's headed a little closer to forgiveness with The Collector though. I knew very little going in, but I ended up with a dark and twisted novel that I absolutely couldn't put down.

Plot summary: Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.

I really, really loved this book. The first half is told from the perspective of Frederick, who is an avid butterfly collector. He loves having beautiful specimens that he can admire in his own home whenever he chooses. It's told in a sort of stream of consciousness way, but not too obnoxiously. I didn't quite realise until a good portion of the way into the book, so it doesn't halt the flow of the narrative in the slightest.

Frederick is so perfectly described. I feel like he could jump out of the page and judge me from a distance. I didn't hate him, but then I'm not entirely sure you're meant to. Some of his views and mannerisms annoy me, but those are aspects of his general personality, not his kidnappery ways. It's a sign of the truly amazing characterisation.

And Miranda. I loathed her. She didn't seem like a real person at all, but then I suspect that, again, that's sort of the point. She's a twenty year old art student who's incredibly concerned with the impression she makes and looking down on everybody that doesn't understand art the way she does. Her diary, then, is possibly her just writing as the person she's trying to be, which is therefore why it doesn't always seem overly genuine?

And partly, too, it's been a sort of indulging in wicked vanity about myself. Knowing I am a rather special person. Knowing I am intelligent, knowing that I am beginning to understand life much better than most people of my age. Even knowing that I shall never be so stupid as to be vain about it, but be grateful, be terribly glad to be alive, to be who I am - Miranda, and unique.
Ugh. Her perspective is interesting though, to see her view on the events already described by Frederick. The only flaw in the book at all is that her descriptions of her life before do tend to go on a bit too long. She has a complicated relationship with an older artist and she's studying at the Slade... it's frankly just not as interesting as the fact that SHE'S BEEN ABDUCTED, FOR GOD'S SAKE. 

He is solid; immovable, iron-willed. He showed me one day his killing bottle. I'm imprisoned in it. Fluttering against the glass. Because I can see through it I still think I can escape. I have hope. But it's all an illusion. A thick round wall of glass.
I wasn't sure about the ending, but it's been going round and round in my head since I finished reading and I don't think it could have ended any other way. It just fit the theme perfectly. Speaking of, the theme of 'collection' is hinted at throughout the book, but in an oh-so-subtle way and it's very clever. The final paragraphs are appropriate and haunting, and I LOVE THIS BOOK. 

Read Charlotte's review of The Collector at Lit Addicted Brit.


  1. I've had this book for ages and keep meaning to read it for RIP but never actually do... But THIS year! Maybe. We'll see haha.

    1. DO, Laura! It's really good, I promise :)

  2. Criminal Minds riddle, Julian Barratt-approved AND endorsed by two of my favourite people? *dons sunglasses* Bring it on...


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