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


A-Z Books Challenge

Book Review: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckGenre: historical fiction, classic
First Published: 1937
I read this in: English, the original language
Number of pages: 107
Rating: 5/5

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Of Mice and Men: What it is about

George and Lennie are laborers who have been promised a job on a farm. George warns Lennie not to say much, so no one will find out he’s rather dumb. He has the mind of a child, but is as strong as an ox. They had to flee their previous job because of something Lennie did.

The young boss at the new farm recently got married. His new wife is considered a slut by the farm workers, and they all try to stay out of trouble by ignoring her, but her husband keeps thinking one of the men is after her. He has his eye on Lennie, and Lennie promises George that he will stay out of trouble.

They dream of getting their own small farm house were Lennie wants to take care of the rabbits. This is his greatest ambition in life: to take care of soft, furry rabbits. George likes to dream but doesn’t expect it will ever happen.

Then Lennie gets into trouble after all and everything turns sour.

Of Mice and Men: What I thought

5 out of 5 stars. This was a book that had been on my TBR for ages! I’ve read several other books by Steinbeck and loved them all.

I loved how George looked after Lennie even though he didn’t have to. He was kind to him although without him, his life would be so much easier. George tried to keep Lennie out of trouble and Lennie tried to keep out of trouble, but because of his limited intellectual capabilities he failed every time. This was so tragic.

The book was written very well. The story slowly revealed more of who Lennie and George were and what problems Lennie had. It was clear that things would never be favorable for him. A tragic story that I enjoyed reading.

2012 Ebook Challenge

Book Review: The Lover by Marguerite Duras

The Lover by Marguerite Duras I only read this book because I “had to”, but actually, it was quite good!

I’ll explain: On Shelfari.com, in the group Play Book Tag, we’re playing a game where we have to read the top-200 tags in alphabetical order, starting at a tag randomly assigned to you. Tags are things like “crime”, “parenting” and in this case “erotica”. When a book covers more than one sequential tag (say, “crime” and “crime fiction”) you can cross them both off. So you don’t need to read a book per tag if you choose your books strategically. At the end of August, the winner is the one that finished the most tags.

“Erotica” isn’t something I read often, but a classic like The Lover seemed a good choice. And it was. Not much erotic going on anyway. I remembered quite soon after starting reading that I’d seen the movie a few years back, which was very enjoyable too.

The Lover: What it is about

This short book tells the story of a fifteen year old French girl in Vietnam who meets an extremely rich Chinese man who becomes her lover. He is ten years her senior and very much in love but his family does not allow him to marry her. Doing so would make them break all ties with him.

The girl is based on Duras herself who lived in Vietnam as a child. She lives with her mother and brothers in very poor conditions and the weekly restaurant trips for the whole family, organised by the Chinese lover, are very welcome.

The Lover: What I thought

This book is beautifully written and a pleasure to read. The story was familiar to me since I’d seen the movie. I didn’t approve of the story itself – a fifteen year old having an affair with a much older man in a relationship that seems to be very close to prostitution.

But the back story about her circumstances, poor, with a mentally unstable mother, was interesting. There wasn’t much that would make even the prudest person recoil – I would not call this an erotic book at all.

The way it was written made this a good reading experience.

Rating: 4.5/5

I got this book: from the library

I read this in: Dutch, the original language is French (L’Amant)

Number of pages: 143

First published: 1984

Genre: literary fiction

Book Review: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark

When I heard about World Book Night, I was so jealous! The British were having a wonderful giveaway of great books while me, in the next country, could only sit and watch the BBC’s World Book Night programme, or read on various blogs how bloggers had been giving away 48 books each.

So when I came across a giveaway by Little Interpretations of a World Book Night book, I was interested straight away. Especially when the book turned out to be The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. I had heard a lot about it, and was keen to read it. And then I won the giveaway!

As this book is meant to be shared, I will give it away during the Literary Giveaway Blog Hop at the end of June. If you want to be part of this blog hop as a giver, check out this post.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: What it is about

Miss Jean Brodie is a teacher at Marcia Blaine girls’ school. She is different from the other teachers in the way she teaches her pupils. In particular, she has formed a small group of girls around her that she takes out to the theatre or invites over for tea, in order to draw them close to her, and to shape them in her own way.

The “Brodie set” are six girls who stay befriended with her from their 11th year until about 17, when they are about to leave school. The head teacher, Miss Mackay, is looking for an excuse to throw Miss Brodie out, but is finding this hard to do, as the girls won’t speak a bad word about her.

Miss Brodie is in her prime and this means that her time is now and not later. She’s unattached although in love with one man and in a relationship with another. At the time the novel takes place, the 1930s, this is frowned upon. Miss Brodie teaches her pupils art and life lessons, mainly, but has instructed the children to keep proper course work at the ready, in case Miss Mackay happens to enter the class room.

Slowly we find out more about Miss Jean Brodie, and although she seems like a prim teacher at first, it turns out she is  a more complex character than that and full of her own intrigues.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie: What I thought

The book was quite funny, in a quiet sort of way. There were no real jokes, but the situations were amusing and the further I got into the book, the more it dawned upon me that the Miss Brodie as we first meet her, is not all she seems.

The book went back and forward in time, often even in the same paragraph. I found that very confusing, but also a brilliant way of putting the story into perspective.

The girls were rather indistinguishable to me. Only Sandy, who played a larger role, stood out. Unfortunately, I never cared much about the girls, nor about Miss Brodie.

The writing was very good, very literary, which made for a slow, but beautiful read. I think this book of 125 pages took me as long to read as the average 350 page novel of lesser literary quality.

I appreciate the cleverness of Muriel Spark in writing this little novel, but I wasn’t enthralled with it. It’s especially suitable for people that like classic literary fiction.

Rating: 3.5/5

I got this book: from a giveaway by Marie from Little Interpretations

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 128

First published: 1961

Genre: literary fiction, classic

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