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)|
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.