John Fowles’ ‘The Collector’ is my all time favourite book. Now, that’s not an easy thing to say when you consider the book is about the kidnapping of a young woman and creates an odd sort of sympathy with the kidnapper. However, this is exactly why I love this book so much. Yes, the subject matter is dark and troubling, but Fowles’ writing made me detest Miranda and, well ‘like’ would be going to far, but at least feel for Frederick. Fowles is a genius.
Frederick is a collector of butterflies and ‘collects’ Miranda. Miranda attempts to understand him, desperate to find a way free, however Frederick does not want anything from Miranda, but he simply wants to keep her. This is perhaps what makes him so fascinating as you descend further into his madness. There is no way to reason or bargain with Fred, he is not interested in money or sex. Furthermore, evil is presented in a man who would appear little more than ‘a bit odd’ to the outside world. Fred is similar to a number of kidnappers and abusers who, when discovered, leave their family and community shocked that truly horrendous things could happen right under their noses. Fowles shows how little we know about the people we pass in the street every day.
However, despite this clearly evil character there is something about Fred that couldn’t help but ‘like’ (really not the correct word). Fred is unable to use his lottery win for good or to improve himself, instead Fowles questions the link between money and morality. Fred is not only a fascinating villain, but a mediocre member of the middle class who desires to posses more and escape from his own insignificance.
Miranda herself did not appeal to me. I found her narrative passages boring, partly due to the events being retold, but also because she seemed to be forever whining – and not always about her kidnapping. Whilst I understand Miranda is the real victim of the text, I was not invested in her nor worried about what happened to her. Whilst I am sure this is by design, it did make reading her narrative tiresome, and when I’ve re-read the book I’ve skipped much of it.
I’ve used parts of this novel to create a poem, using Cigarettes after sex ‘Nothings going to hurt you baby’ and Belle and Sebastian’s ‘Piazza, New York Cather’ as well. Dissecting it and finding lines that I liked was another great way to appreciate Fowles’ incredible writing.
So, if you want to be thoroughly creeped out by sympathising for a kidnapper, give this book a try! If you want more literature like this why not try Nabokov’s Lolita or Carol Ann Duffy’s The Devil’s Wife (even if you aren’t a fan of Duffy it’s still an interesting poem).