John Fowles – The Collector

Cover image of The Collector by John FowlesWhat is your worst nightmare? Being held captive by some psychopath?

Well, that’s what John Fowles – one of the great English writers of the 1960s – focuses on in The Collector. You might think this plot line has been done to death, but this classic from 1963 probably invented this now-cliched storyline.

The Californian Literary Review says that:

“The Collector works by stealth, its creepiness slowly crowding you, until the experience of reading the novel becomes almost as claustrophobic as the captivity in which one of the protagonists is held.”

They’re right, this book is creepy, probably because of the way that it is written – just as you think it is all going to be resolved, it starts from the beginning again. The book is split into two halves, it first tells the story from “the collector’s”  point of view, and then his victim, the arty and lovely Miranda.

Frederick is odd, it’s easy now to see the beginnings of a serial killer: he collects butterflies, can’t connect with people and lives with his aunt. All his crazy ideas and fantasies probably would have stayed just that, but as luck would have it he suddenly has the means to collect the one thing he admires most when he wins the football pools.

First edition cover

He comes across an isolated house in the country for sale and he’s not really interested until an outside, underground cellar takes his fancy. He never really plans to take Miranda, but he gets lucky time and time again. Unfortunately, Miranda isn’t lucky at all. Her only hope of escape is by befriending him and playing along with his sick fantasy. We get a glimpse into her despair through diary entries and her attempt to keep herself motivated through re-living her happy days as an inquisitive art student.

The Collector is a fascinating and disturbing insight into what might motivate a lonely, maladjusted young man into kidnapping and destroying the life of the young girl he thinks he loves. It’s also quite a sad read of a young girls’ desperate struggle to survive and her attempt to try to understand her captor. Finally it’s an interesting peek into English life in the early 60s.

This book has also seen some great covers, the butterflies are always well done.

Keep reading:

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