Book Review: The Collector by John Fowles

The Collector by John FowlesThis book had been on my wishlist for a while and it was chosen randomly in the challenge I participated in at Shelfari.com. So, I got this book from the library to read it for the challenge. Not long before, I had read Room by Emma Donoghue, another story in which a young woman is held captive by a man.

The Collector: What it is about

Frederick is in his twenties when he wins a lot of money in the lottery. He grew up with his aunt, uncle and his disabled niece Mabel. He’s a lonely town clerk who collects butterflies in his spare time.

He becomes obsessed with a girl called Miranda from the local art college, and he buys a house in the countryside in an isolated location. The house also has a cellar. When he gets the chance, he kidnaps Miranda and puts her in the well-prepared cellar. There she has all the comforts such a situation can give and he treats her respectfully, hoping she will start to love him after a while.

Miranda keeps a diary, and the second part of the book is formed by her diary entries. We find out she has been obsessed with a much older artist, G. P., who she had an affair with.

In the final part of the book, we find out what eventually happens to Miranda and Frederick.

The Collector: What I thought

4 out of 5 stars 

This was a creepy book, especially because Frederick was being very respectful and good to Miranda. The only thing he did wrong, really, was imprisoning her. He didn’t seem to think that was wrong, as long as he treated her well. In a way, she was like the butterflies he collected: he kept them (pinned) in organised drawers and could look at them when he wanted to. Miranda was another item he collected for his enjoyment.

I didn’t like the middle part of the book so much, as Miranda’s relationship with the artist didn’t interest me much. There were some philosophical reflections that I also found less interesting. They may have fitted better in another context, but I was eager to know what would happen to Miranda in her current situation.

There is also the notion of class being discussed. Frederick is working class, Miranda is middle-class. Therefore, Frederick feels inferior to Miranda while she looks down on his use of language and his old-fashioned ways. This book is from 1963 when class differences in England were larger than now.

Overall, this was a scary story because Frederick had a very odd idea about what was right or wrong. He didn’t see anything wrong in keeping Miranda imprisoned and it wasn’t clear for a long time how this story would end.

Rating: 4/5

I read this in: Dutch (De verzamelaar), the original language is English

Number of pages: 272

First published: 1963

Genre: classic, thriller


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About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at bookhelpline.com. In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

21 Responses to Book Review: The Collector by John Fowles

  1. This has been on my wishlist for ages too. I’m sorry to hear the middle bit didn’t work for you, but pleased it worked overall.

    I’d also agrue that there is still a strong class structure in England and that not much has changed. It is easier to rise through class boundaries with education, but as I have family members in both working and middle classes I notice a big difference in attitudes and way of life – from them, and everyone around them.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jackie, you’re probably right. I lived in England for 15 years and did notice class differences but I have the feeling it’s less than it used to be (although I wasn’t there in the 1950s of course). It’s certainly much, much stronger than in the Netherlands, where the majority seem to be lower middle class. No tracksuits and football shirts for them.🙂

  2. I LOVED this creepy book when I read it years ago. It was fun reliving it through your review Judith.

  3. Nadine Nys says:

    I can be very short about this one, Judith… You did it again.
    Is this the John Fowles of The French Lieutenant’s daughter? It must be him. It is ages ago I read that book. Perhaps worthy of a re-read?

    • Leeswammes says:

      Nadine, shall we set up a service where I send my finished books straight to you?😉

      If you lived closer we certainly could do that. Your poor wishlist, I feel sorry for it.

      Yes, it’s the same Fowles. It appears The Collector was his first novel (I had to check Wiki to find out about the Lieutenant book and noticed this).

      • What a great idea about sending your finished books to me, Judith,… and how lucky I am that we live at a (relative) great distance from each other🙂
        This week I have ordered one book from BookDepository, downloaded two free e-books, and yesterday, went shopping, ended in a bookstore, and bought three more books; I wonder, is this an addiction?

      • Leeswammes says:

        Yes, definitely an addiction! I love new books.

        Will you do a In My Mailbox type post sometime? I’d love to see what you got. Or just a quick picture on twitter.🙂

  4. Alex says:

    I was commenting on another blogger who named this book one of the best of 2011. I don’t exactly think it’s one of the best I’ve ever read, but it’s definitely one of the most haunting! Good point about the class differences – I hadn’t noticed it, but you’re right.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Alex, it is very haunting, because the guy is so nice and so wrong in his head. You have no idea what he will be doing to her (if anything). Very scary because of that.

  5. heavenali says:

    I read this years ago – and really enjoyed it – if that’s the right word : ) – it is a real flesh creeper – but brilliantly written I thought.

  6. Ally says:

    I can’t wait to read it during summer🙂 Now it’s time you watched the movie🙂

  7. Leslie says:

    You’ve been reading some creepy books lately. A few of them I wouldn’t mind reading myself!

  8. Sounds like a great book. I’ve heard a lot about this author, and have yet to read a title. I love the idea that Fowles didn’t pain the character with broad strokes….I hate when my characters are stereotypes. Villains are always more complicated than that.

  9. I read Fowles’ The Magus not long ago, and it, too, was creepy but in a different way. It was a mess-with-your-head type of book in that you (and the protagonist) have no idea what is and isn’t real. Though I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite book, it definitely stuck with me.

    I’ve heard a lot about The Collector, and yours is actually the second post I’ve seen about it recently, so I may just have to give it a go as well. Great review. Sounds sufficiently creepy.

  10. Chinoiseries says:

    I see that I completely missed this review. How was the Dutch translation? I was mostly surprised by Miranda’s diary, never expected to hear the story from her side. An article that I read claimed that Fowles split his book into two (or three) on purpose: 1) the shock of suddenly seeing the imprisonment from her perspective and 2) the claustrophobia that is felt more directly when reading her diary in one piece (as opposed to varying the M and C chapters).
    Was Room better in your opinion?

    • Leeswammes says:

      The Dutch translation was fine, I thought. It didn’t feel like a translation at all.

      I think it was very clever to show us Miranda’s side too (I just didn’t like all the talk about her artist friend, as I was really only interested in the kidnapping story).

      I think Room is a more accessible story, with a lot of clever elements too. But *The Collector* is more serious, more literary, I think.

  11. Pingback: Taping in the Mind « Alchemy

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