Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, January 3, 2011

"The Collector" by John Fowles

I'd never heard of this title or author before I read about the book on Rachel's blog back in October, but she convinced me to read it. The story sounded awfully creepy and perfect for Halloween. So I'm a few months late (or a number of months early!) but I decided it would work just as well to read it as the year came to a close.

This is the story of a socially inept butterfly collector who is fascinated by a local girl to a disturbing degree. When he suddenly comes into an unexpected sum of money, he finds himself with the means to make Miranda notice him. In Fred Clegg's maladjusted mind, the best way to reach this goal is to abduct the girl and hold her prisoner in his cellar.

From the very beginning it is evident that something about the narrator is off. It's not a matter of low intelligence, because Clegg is sharp enough, but there is just something missing from him that keeps him from being a complete human. Fowles really very impressively (if unsettlingly) portrays the mind of the captor.

Cover of the first edition (1963)
I wouldn't say this in public if it weren't for the fact that the author is no longer living, but I think what creeped me out the most was how much thought the author put into the scenario. He planned this kidnapping and imprisonment out to an amazing level of detail. It makes me shiver to think how deeply he delved into the abductor's unbalanced mind. Clegg is not pure evil--Fowles doesn't take the situation to horrifying extremes, and any abuse is subtle and passive--but, even so, the stalking and obsession and their results are disturbing enough.

To be fair, though, Fowles also gave us the opposite perspective, as the second part of the book is narrated from the pages of the captive's diary. We follow Miranda through what, remarkably, can be compared to the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). It's interesting to find that, during her captivity, Miranda transforms into a more mature and thoughtful person. Almost like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis . . .

Fowles also wrote The French Lieutenant's Woman, which I've added to my wish list.

17 comments:

Rachel said...

That is a really interesting point which I don't think really occured to me... how deep Fowles needed to get into his characters head.. hmmmm you have me pondering.. that is creepy.. but cool (in a creepy author kinda way)..

I have also added more Fowles titles to my TBR after reading this novel. Apparently 'The Magus' is one of his best works.

Trisha said...

I think this one has been on my shelves, unread, for like ten years. I should give it a try soon.

Jamie said...

Oooh sounds creepy! I'm going to be adding this to my list because I love a good creepalicious read now and then! Great review! I always think about the detail that I see in really sick and twisted and movie and then I start to wonder about the people who wrote it..lol. There are some people with some crazy ideas spinning in their heads. At least some people use it for good and write literature or produce movies :P

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I've not heard of this one, but am always impressed (and afraid) at the lengths an author has to go sometimes to make their stories believable. This one sounds like something I should read in October...

She said...

When I first read your description of the book, I thought it sounded awfully like Silence of the Lambs... maybe that's where the idea came from...

Anywho, I know what you mean about being disturbed by the care an author takes with writing creepy things. I felt this way with American Psycho. Definitely not an author I want to meet IRL.

Becky (Page Turners) said...

I read this late last year and reviewed it recently, here is the link to my review if you are interested

http://www.pageturnersbooks.org/2010/12/collector-by-john-fowles.html


I loved this book because of how creepy it was. Fowles created this absolutely realisitic scenario - to the point where I almost felt as though I was there with the characters watching it unfold. It was strangely compelling because you are so freaked out you would rather not read on, but you can't stop.

Kristi said...

I'm embarrassed to say that I've never heard of this book. It sounds really creepy, but in a good way. Maybe I'll save it until October.

Kathy said...

Rachel--know what's funny? I realized I already had The Magus on my wish list. So I guess I *had* heard of Fowles before, but I forgot. Not surprising, considering my memory. :)

Trisha--ten years! I am surprised the book has not started following you around at night saying "reeeead meee" in a creaky voice. Looking forward to hearing what you think of it!

Jamie--*that* is the perspective I need to take. Instead of being creeped out by the way Fowles got into Clegg's mind, I should just think "at least he only wrote a story instead of actually acting it out . . . "

Natalie--I hope you're not too disappointed if you save it up expecting to be really scared. It wasn't creepy to the point of fearing for my life or anything. See below for more of an explanation . . .

She--I haven't read Silence, but I've seen the movie and I would say The Collector is its kind and sweet little sister. Nobody gets eaten and nobody gets made into a dress. The creepiness is much more subtle. But still worth reading!

Becky--thanks for the link to your review! I saw it before I posted mine (did you hear about the book from Rachel too?) but didn't open it to read it until after I wrote mine . . . and now I'm really glad I didn't, because I would have been so tempted to use your line, "he collects her." :) That was a good one!

Kristi--don't be embarrassed! I hadn't heard of it before October. AND, now you *have* heard of it! ;)

All--interesting side note: there is a quote before the novel begins that says "Que fors aus ne le sot riens nee," which looked French to me, though I found some of the words unfamiliar. Turns out that's a quote from a poem in medieval French called La Chatelaine de Vergi. The line translates to something like "not a soul knew of it but themselves."

Jayne said...

I also thought 'Silence of the Lambs' with this. It sounds very chilling indeed. I think any writer has to get into the head of their character though, so that doesn't bother me, otherwise I would spend a lot of time being bothered by films and books!

Kathy said...

Definitely chilling--especially to imagine it happening to me . . . what if someone were watching me like Fred watched Miranda? Of course then I realize my three stinky little kids will scare any would-be stalkers away pretty quickly, and I feel much better. ;)

Lesa said...

Never heard of this and it does sound like a good creeyy one-- especially since people in real life keep turning up who've been kept prisoner right in the middle of regular neighborhoods. Yikes!

Lesa said...

See it so affected me, I couldn't even type creepy!!

Kathy said...

Haha Lesa! Yes, that was one of the "creeyiest" aspects of the book--that it's not at all far-fetched.

Meg said...

Kathy:

I have your copy of The Collector from Paperback Swap! I found your blog through the helpful bookmark that you included in the book. Thanks for sharing and I'm looking forward to starting it this week.

Megan

Kathy said...

Cool! Glad you got to come visit. I hope you enjoy the book--it's a good one!

rohit said...

An enjoyable read The Collector John Fowles . loved the way you wrote it. I find your review very genuine and original, this book is going in by "to read" list.

Kathy said...

Rohit--glad you enjoyed my review. I bet you won't regret putting the book on your "to read" list!