After remembering the Beat The Backlist challenge I’m participating in, I decided to read The Collector by John Fowles, first published in 1963.
Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time. Alone and desperate, Miranda must struggle to overcome her own prejudices and contempt if she is understand her captor, and so gain her freedom.
The first half of this novel is told from the viewpoint of Frederick, the collector, who has upgraded from collecting butterflies to collecting women. What I found most interesting about Frederick’s narrative was his thought pattern and his justification for his actions – he recognised kidnapping Miranda wasn’t the most courteous way of getting to know her better but once she got to know him, she’d see it was for the best, surely. This idea that he’s not harming her physically and he’s not a murderer so really, when you think about it, it’s not that bad.
Part two is narrated by Miranda in the form of diary entries. This is where the novel lost it’s way for me a bit – Miranda spent the majority of the time talking about an artistic friend of hers, G.P, and while I can understand her reminiscing about her life before being kidnapped and the life she could have if she escaped, I would have liked to see more of her entries being dedicated to her current situation. As Miranda is narrating the same set of events as Frederick, there is quite a bit of repetition but the events are told from a different angle, her perspective rather than his.
This novel is concluded in two shorter parts, three and four, narrated again by Frederick. I find his thought-process simply fascinating and thus this made him my favourite of the two characters – other characters play a minor role in this novel but they are the only two, the reader gets to know. I really liked the ending of this novel and felt it wrapped things up nicely.
The Collector is direct and to the point, there’s no airs and graces, this is the collector’s story and he’s got a job to do, there are no subplots, no insight into who could be missing or searching for Miranda, no look at the people in Frederick’s life. The focus is solely Frederick, the collector and Miranda, the art student, and I thought this worked really well to pull the reader into this story and the inner workings of both character’s psyches.
A lot of this novel reminded me of Perfect Days by Raphael Montes; the idea that if you kidnap someone, they will fall in love with you and you can live happily ever after, right!? So if you enjoyed Perfect Days, and are partial to an older publication, you may enjoy The Collector too.