Paperback (Vintage Classics, 282 pages)
First published 1963; this edition published 1998
Rating on Goodreads: 3 stars
“Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs.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.”
This is a strange novel. I won’t avoid saying that. It’s a very, very strange novel. If you read the above blurb, you might be reminded of books similar to Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – but The Collector is not quite as compelling as the aforementioned book, nor as shocking. Though it is an interesting read, Fowles’ language isn’t as poetic as Nabokov, and nothing much happens in The Collector, despite the promising premise. The ending is sad, and I was left with a slightly empty feeling.
However, I did enjoy the characterisation of Miranda. I could relate to her personality, her love of art. She is feisty, clever, cunning, and I think she is this book’s saving grace. Perhaps most intriguingly, she gives the reader an insight into the relationship between captor and captive when the book turns from the protagonist Frederick’s POV to Miranda’s diary. This aspect definitely helped to flesh the story out, but the ending of The Collector felt a bit flat for me. It was anti-climatic, Frederick was a dull character (just because you are ‘withdrawn, uneducated and unloved’, it doesn’t mean you can’t be interesting), and I was left wondering quite what the point of the story was – if there even was a point.
All in all, if you like psychological games of cat-and-mouse, you might enjoy this. But Frederick isn’t evil, and this book isn’t gripping. It’s a quiet, curious sort of a novel, but I don’t think I will pick this up again. I don’t regret reading it, but I got nothing out of it.