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The Collector by John Fowles

The Collector (1963)

by John Fowles

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (97)  Italian (2)  French (1)  Spanish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (102)
Showing 1-5 of 97 (next | show all)
“We all want things we can't have. Being a decent human being is accepting that.”

Published in 1963 this book is creepy and claustrophobic, it infuses the reader with a sense of gratitude for freedom and daylight.

Ferdinand Clegg is a loner who works as a clerk and spends his free time catching butterflies and watching them die before pinning them into a display case. The more magnificent the butterfly, the greater his desire to possess it. When he catches sight of the beautiful art student Miranda Grey, the stage is set for his terrible transition from collector of butterflies to girls. Miranda is the perfect specimen. Delicate, captivating, gifted and in love with life, she's the prize catch. Fred is overcome by a sudden desire to pin her, to own her, to hold her up against the light and study her in ravenous detail.

He has recently won the Football Pools which the gives him the financial ability to pack his only living relatives off to Australia, give up work, buy an isolated house with a cellar which he converts into a guest room and a van with a storage compartment, ideal for catching prey.

The book is told in three parts from the point of view of the captor and victim, through the excerpts of a diary, before returning to the captor detailing their opposing points of view. We are first given an insight into the mind of a man whose transformation to kidnapper seemed inevitable from the very beginning. Fred is especially terrifying because he seems oblivious to his own perversion and to the harm he inflicts on others. He believes he's Miranda's host and not her captor. He watches her, but he's not a stalker. She's his guest and not his victim. She has everything she needs in her room except a key, so why is she so unyielding, so ungrateful? He's the perfect psychopath.

Fred blames class distinctions for his actions. If he wasn't common and uneducated, he wouldn't be isolated from his peers. If he wasn't angry and alone, he wouldn't need to kidnap the likes of Miranda: beautiful, wealthy, popular, just to get her to notice him. He's not a predator, but a man dealt an unfair hand and forced to act accordingly. However, there's a sense that he's been leading up to this event his whole life. He is a deviant, who is only able to relate to women if they're tied up or unconscious.

In contrast Miranda is young, childish,popular and spoilt. Miranda tells her side of the story via rambling diary entries and reminiscences about her past life from which she has been forcibly removed. She misses her friends and relationships, but most of all she misses her freedom. She remembers her sister, a boyfriend, past holidays, trips to the river, the sunshine, fresh air, apple trees. She knows that life's going on around her and it's almost too much to bear.Like Fred's butterflies, she's slowing suffocating in her underground cell.

Miranda's story generates an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia. As she struggles to breathe in Fred's stifling cellar so does the reader. Never has freedom tasted so exquisite!

This book is beautifully written and seems all the more remarkable because it is the author's début novel. Yet it also makes for uncomfortable reading but hopefully makes the reader more appreciative of the simple pleasures of life like being able to look out of a window and seeing the sky and nature's vast palette of colours. ( )
  PilgrimJess | Apr 25, 2017 |
This was my first John Fowles book but it certainly won't be my last.

I read it quite a few years ago, before I was a really big reader but I still enjoyed it very much. It's an accessible classic, despite all its creepiness. Fowles has quite a clinical, masculine writing style in this novel and I think it works quite well.

He develops the narrator's character very slowly, piece by piece. I quite like stories that linger with you, as this one did, for me. It feels quite domestic at first - it's very slow-building, and brooding.

I don't want to say too much, for fear of spoiling it. So I'll let you read this book for yourself. Go into it knowing nothing about it, as I did, and see what it does to you. ( )
  lydia1879 | Aug 31, 2016 |
A nice book.
Very interesting way of telling the story. First Frederic's that was quite interesting and compelling. Then from Miranda's point of viee, that was also interesting, but less captive to me because the story line was already laid out.
The book really has an open ending, but from the way Frederic was described, I think I know how the story will continue 😃 ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Aug 4, 2016 |
People who know me and my love for insects might be a bit surprised to learn that I really don't approve of, and don't understand, the mania for collecting them. I had to for an assignment once in college -- for a whole semester, I was out there with a killing jar and a set of pins and all the other accoutrements. I was going to be graded on my collection, on its variety and the quality of its specimens and all the rest. As excuses for being outdoors when everybody else was (supposed to be) studying in the library or whatever, it was all right.

But I would have rather been given a quality camera and a notebook to scribble down observations about how the insects behaved while they were, you know, still alive.

The male protagonist, Frederick "Call me Ferdinand" Clegg, in John Fowles' astonishingly creepy The Collector feels differently about things. To see a rare or unusual butterfly -- he only collects butterflies, though he thinks of going into moths -- is to want it dead and pinned in a box. And since he's a very socially maladjusted man, as certainly all insect fanciers are*, he takes the same attitude towards certain specimens of other species as well. Such as lovely (human) art student Miranda, whom he encounters in one of those unfortunately magical moments in which a young man is prone to mistake an anima projection for true love, right around the time he also happens to win the football pool at work, meaning he has stumbled into the mid-century equivalent of Eff You Money.

To his credit (I guess) he decides that this specimen is better enjoyed alive, the better to someday live out his fantasy that she is going to, I guess, succumb to Stockholm Syndrome** and fall in love with him and marry him and have his babies. So he takes most of his pool winnings and buys and furnishes a human-sized terrarium for her, in the cellar of a secluded country cottage. As one does.

The fascinating thing through these early chapters is watching our man engage in some serious mental gymnastics: he's not really going to do this thing, but what if he did? He pretends to himself that he's treating it all as an elaborate thought experiment and is thus astonished, in a way that we readers are not, to find himself actually doing the things he's thought of. Buying the house. Fixing up the cellar. Stalking the girl. Carrying a cloth soaked in chloroform in his coat pocket.

This would all be very interesting reading right there -- watching a still-pretty-ordinary-despite-his-peculiarities-guy fighting this impulse he's had. But Fowles takes us from thought to deed, and just as we're thoroughly squicked out and sick of this character, Fowles seems to agree and flips the perspective; the second half of the novel is told from the perspective of Miranda, the collected, the victim.

And that's the other fascinating thing in this book, because we learn, long before Miranda becomes the author of chapters of The Collector, that while Clegg may think he's captured a pretty, helpless butterfly, he's really captured something much more powerful. Some kind of bee, maybe; Miranda has a sting. Miranda is smart and self-possessed and has a highly developed emotional intelligence that leaves Clegg floundering from their first face-to-face onwards. Not one scene between them goes according to Clegg's script; its only his extraordinary grip on his delusion, or his delusion's grip on him, that defends him from her deft emotional manipulations.

Unfortunately, that's all either of these characters turn out to be: fascinating, Clegg in his maladjusted inability to resist his icky and absurd impulses, Miranda in her repulsive fixation on class and on her idea of herself as one of the few rare and talented special ones who must battle against the ugly ordinary people. She's a mid-century epitome of the know-it-all feel-it-all fix-it-all College Girl Who Is So Much Better Than You. Though her fate is horrifying, the reader (at least this reader, who may have personality problems of her very own, oh yes) winds up kind of relishing watching her endure it, a little bit.

Which means that Fowles is a genius at eliciting reader complicity in the horrors he is depicting. This one goes on the strongly-disliked-but-undeniably-admired shelf next to Robert Silverberg's Book of Skulls. It wasn't quite the hate read that Book of Skulls was, but it certainly was not a pleasure read, either.

But it sure is remarkable. Somewhere between 3.5 and 4 stars, really. I was generous just because of the sheer quality.

*Sideshow Bob Grumble.

**Though that phenomenon and its terminology were not described until ten years after The Collector was first published. ( )
  KateSherrod | Aug 1, 2016 |

I first came across The Collector while watching Criminal Minds (The episode with someone called The Fisher King), and somewhere in my mind a made a special note of this book. When I saw it some time later, I really wanted to read it. (My cover by the way has a butterfly on the cover, which in my opinion fits the story much better than the one shown here on Booklikes).

It's a story about a young man, who has won a lot of money in some kind of lottery and can now do as he pleases. One of the things he likes to do is collect things. When he sees a beautiful young woman one day, he wants to collect her as well. Next thing she knows, she wakes up in her new cell, the principal piece is his collection. He's sure that she will eventually like him (He's already expecting Stockholm syndrome?)...

This book was written in 1963, which makes it - I think - one of the first books in the modern sub genre 'psychological thriller'. I really liked this one. It was very elaborate, didn't try to shock people by disgusting details of rape or torture. It did however shock me on many other levels, like the fact he never thinks he's doing something wrong, he just making sure they can get to know each other well enough to fall in love.

It also shows the major point of this story, the fact that the main character is a coward, he can never life with his own choices. It shows trough everything he does. (The spoiler will give you some examples)

- Instead of just trying to make her fall in love with him the normal way, he abducts her

- When she starts getting sick he promises to move her upstairs, buy her medicine, get her to a hospital, but never does any of these things, even if this means she'll die.

- When she's dead, he plans to kill himself, but obviously, never does.

- He's absolutely sure he'll never be able to love any one else, for about five minutes. (this last one did creep me out a bit, because how many woman could he have held in that cell without anyone noticing?)

I also really liked the POV. It's mainly the man's, but sometimes it switches to the woman's and we get some parts again, but from the different POV. It gives insides in the different motives they have for displaying certain behaviour, and how they let their own judgement be clouded with (false) hope.

This really is an interesting read, it's one of my favourite thrillers. I would definitely recommend this book! ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
John Fowlesprimary authorall editionscalculated
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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