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The Collector by John Fowles

The Collector (1963)

by John Fowles

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With this creepy tale of captivity, Fowles slinked onto the literary scene in the early 1960s. It’s one of the strongest debut novels you’re likely to read and also one of the most memorable, although elements of its plot have been recycled countless times in novels, plays, TV dramas and films ever since.

Fred is a loner obsessed with collecting butterflies and a young university student called Miranda. His fixation with Miranda is entirely justified in his own mind and winning a large sum of money gives him the privilege to indulge his fantasy of living a life with her, albeit at the expense of her own freedom.

The novel is cleverly crafted from two points of view both of which feel extremely claustrophic to the reader. That of Fred’s is logical, devoid of emotion, calculated and paranoid. That of Miranda’s is a whirlwind of conflicting emotions, snobbery, loathing and a longing for what she regards as the people and things that hold true value in life.

Fowles very intelligently plays with the reader’s sympathies so that, by the time the novel ends, you find yourself re-examining the convictions you hald at halfway, when all you had was Fred’s perspective. Thus, there is conflict not only between the characters but within you as a reader as Fowles forces you to hold your own moral judgement up to scrutiny.

There’s no question that what Fred is doing in holding Miranda captive is wrong. His motivations though are not as cut and dried as you’d like them to be. More troubling is that Miranda isn’t as innocent as you’d like her to be either, on a number of different levels.

The novel concludes in an even more troubling way leaving you wondering what on earth the future holds. For Fowles, the future held some much more important but no less challenging novels for those who want to engage with them. No more so, I think, than The Magus, where the ideas that he first explores in The Collector come to maturity with a far more complex and rewarding novel. ( )
  arukiyomi | Nov 28, 2015 |
I am confused by this book.

The subject matter seemed promising - a disturbed individual who is a collector of butterflies who then decides one day to collect a woman. I thought maybe this could be a story about being inside a disturbed individual's mind - or maybe it is a story of hope or survival or an unconventional tale of how the woman survives. It was neither.

Fred/Ferdinand - whoever he was, was as bland as a sheet of paper. Miranda was silly, helpless and chose to spend her time obsessed over an older artist and art or obscure politics in general or how many things she could get - and she also felt one dimensional. Nothing really happened. Fred collects Miranda and she stagnates in a room. Thats literally it. The author could have ran with so many different concepts and ideas but nothing happened at all. I was so completely underwhelmed from this book which supposedly had a
controversial subject matter. I was expecting it to be at least interesting. ( )
  4everfanatical | Nov 26, 2015 |
I really enjoyed reading John Fowles' "The Collector"... what a fabulous debut novel! This was picked as a group read so I really didn't know much about it.... I expected a book about a butterfly collector who had an unrequited love with a girl down the block... written more in the vein of Fowles' "The French Lieutenant's Woman."

It is about a butterfly collector with an unrequited love... but he kidnaps her and keeps her in his basement. Just when I got to the point of thinking that I've love to know more about events from his victim's point of view, the narration switches to Miranda. Great stuff!

Fowles does a great job of building tension as his collector, Fred Clegg, explains away all his actions and Miranda tries increasingly desperate moves to escape. It was an easy read... the action was well-paced, making this novel hard to put down. ( )
  amerynth | Nov 11, 2015 |
I was looking for something creepy to read in the month of October and I picked this up on a whim at my favorite used book store. After winning the lottery Ferdinand suddenly has the means to kidnap and keep the girl he has been obsessing over, Miranda. The book is first told from the perspective of Ferdinand and then from the diary of Miranda. Even though Ferdinand doesn't physically hurt Miranda, as the story goes on you get to see how deeply rooted his mental disturbance is. And I wasn't expecting the ending so bonus points for that. It was definitely a creepy little book. After I finished the book I watched the movie from 1965. It combined the two lead characters viewpoints and was also quite good though once you know the ending it's not as affecting the second time around. ( )
  arielfl | Nov 5, 2015 |
Welp, that was pretty fucked-up.

Basically, one third of the book is telling the life of Miranda being locked up in the cellar from both her and Fred's point of view. I thought that Fred was simply a very misunderstood and lonely soul. He does things that are wrong but doesn't seem to know how vile they are. It was only near the ending that Fowles really invoked the feeling of hatred towards Fred in me. From the narration, you could tell that he was gradually steeping into an inhuman behaviour. I realized how disgusting he was and his nonchalance about Miranda's death was horrifying. Furthermore, Fred kept insisting that he was at least better than those who would have defiled Miranda in his place and that the fact that he didn't should make her grateful, which was sick. Not doing those foul things does not make him any less forgiveable. At all.

Fowles also has a terrific skill of invoking sympathy in readers. From Miranda's diary entries, she often mentioned of this G.P. guy whom she harboured feelings for but was confused at first. She admitted it later in the story(which was of course too late) that she loved him and whatnot. This made the ending tons more tragic that it was. You would think how someone could be so selfish as to destroy what could have been a better life of another..

This normally isn't the kind of book I'd read but I don't regret it one bit after doing so. John Fowles is a very exceptional and masterful writer and I think everyone should definitely give this book a read! ( )
  novewong | Jul 8, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Fowlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Schouwen, Frédérique vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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que fors aus ne le sot riens nee
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When she was home from her boarding-school I used to see her almost every day sometimes, because their house was right opposite the Town Hall Annexe.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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This is a tale of obsessive love-the story of a lonely clerk who collects butterflies and of the beautiful young art student who is his ultimate quarry - remains unparalleled in its power to startle and mesmerize. (0-316-29023-8)
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Ferdinand has always loved collecting butterflies, but when he becomes obsessed with a young college student, he decides to add her to his collection, against her wishes.

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