The Collector by John Fowles

John Fowles' The Collector is a dark and disturbing book, with some of the best characterisation I have ever read.

The Collector is the story of Frederick Clegg, a lonely man who is socially and emotionally challenged. He is unable to form relationships with other people, and incapable of participating in life . Instead he collects things, mainly butterflies, and enjoys photography - pursuing hobbies and interests in which he can admire the world that he seems incapable of understanding. He observes life, people and beauty from a distance, longing to reach out but not knowing how.

He becomes fixated on Miranda, a young art student whom he has lived near for some time. He follows her and learns about her life, obsessing about where she goes, who she sees and what she wears.

Unsatisfied by admiring her beauty from afar and unable to form normal human relationships - he does the only thing he knows how to - he collects her.

After a lot of planning Frederick eventually captures and imprisons Miranda in an elaborate set up in his home's basement. She becomes the pride of his collection and he is deluded enough to believe that she will eventually come to love him in the way that he loves her.

Miranda is almost as complex as Frederick himself. She is a passionate person, pursuing her life and her art with all of her enthusiasm. Miranda eventually comes to see that Frederick, or Caliban as she calls him, will not grant her her freedom and she begins on a course of action designed to break free of her cage.

Miranda is not a particularly likable character. She is posh and self obsessed, feeling herself to be entirely superior to Frederick. She appeared to be somewhat of a spoiled brat, someone too pleased with themselves and their abilities to be very sympathetic. And yet, I felt for Miranda. I was constantly hoping for her freedom, whilst feeling sickened by the cruelty displayed by Frederick.
The mood of The Collector is dark and creepy, perhaps one of the creepiest books I have ever read. Fowles brings the characters, particularly Frederick Clegg, to life and it is at times extremely disturbing. I found myself feeling as though I was in the rooms with the characters watching the events unfold.

The characters themselves are so real that it was almost scary at times. It was almost as if Fowles was possessed by them as he wrote the book, particularly the character of Frederick Clegg.

The way in which Fowles wrote The Collector is perhaps responsible for the level of realism that he was able to create.  The first half of the book is told from Frederick Clegg's perspective, and the second from Miranda's perspective. Fowles creates two entirely distinct voices, and by exploring the same events from the differing perspectives we are given a deep look into the dark world that Frederick has created for himself and his captive.

Just as Fowleshas written the book from two perspectives, The Collector is a book of duals, of opposites. Frederick is enamoured by the beauty he sees in the world, yet he is a cruel and ugly person. He desperately wants love and companionship and yet he full of hate. In The Collector we see the clash of the upper and lower classes. Master and slave. Warden and captive.

The Collector is a wonderful piece of literature that is sure to draw you deeply into the creepy and disturbing mind of Frederick Clegg.

What kind of read is this?
It is a small book and a quick read, but emotionally challenging.

Do I recommend that you read this book?
Yes, it is worth every minute.

Do I recommend that you buy this book?
I am pleased that I own it, although I am not sure that it is one that I will re-read frequently.

Star Rating

6.5 / 8

Brilliant, couldn't put it down. I would recommend it. 

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


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