Halloween Book Review: The Collector by John Fowles

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

The Collector is the debut novel by John Fowles, published in 1963. It is about a lonely young man called Frederick Clegg, who works as a clerk and collects butterflies in his spare time. Frederick becomes enamoured with Miranda Grey, a middle-class art student. He admires her and almost loves her, yet knows he can never speak to her because of their class differences and his undeveloped social skills. Subsequently, Frederick decides he will “collect” Miranda, hoping that if he keeps her captive long enough, she will grow to love him.

How dark a plot is that?

I loved The Collector – I’d certainly read again.

Frederick is a sympathetic character, though his mental instabilities also make him serious and dangerous. In Stephen King’s Misery, which shares similarities with The Collector, Paul learns to befriend his captor, Annie Wilkes, and treat her with sensitivity and care to ensure he is as well-treated as possible (though the success of this strategy is arguable).

In The Collector, Miranda is outraged, harsh, and mocking towards Frederick. Whilst this is a completely understandable reaction from the victim of an abduction, it’s difficult, due to Frederick’s narration, not to see this as quite sad; it confirms to Frederick his fear that Miranda would never even give him the time of day if he plucked up the courage to say hello in public. Having said that, I was not hoping for a Miranda / Frederick love story!

Miranda is clearly a victim. She is frightened, lonely, and tries to escape multiple times. However, I found it harder to sympathise with her as her narrative perspective was only introduced halfway through the book. This split narrative perspective is something Misery lacks. We only ever hear Paul’s side of the story so, naturally, Annie is represented as crazy and dangerous and is never presented as anything other than that. By switching between Frederick and Miranda’s perspectives, it  becomes harder to like or dislike either character, and neither characters’ motivations and actions are clearly established as good or bad.

The parallel between Frederick’s butterfly collection and his “collection” of Miranda is fantastic; Frederick wants to collect things for their beauty, so he can love and appreciate them in his own way. Yet, the very act of collecting a butterfly causes them harm, damages their body and beauty, and ultimately causes their death. This is why I found the book so dark, but utterly and enjoyably enthralling.

I thought it was interesting that the novel was tinged with sadness and tragedy throughout, unlike than blatant fear and horror conveyed constantly in Misery.

I’d recommend both books as gripping and thrilling reads!

Star Rating: 5/5 Stars

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Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

This post was last updated in January 2020.

4 thoughts on “Halloween Book Review: The Collector by John Fowles

    • Thanks! I was researching Misery for my university dissertation last year, and came across some academic criticism which suggested Misery could have been inspired by The Collector. I thought this was fascinating, having never read Fowles’ book before, and so I got hold of a copy to read and compare for myself!

      Liked by 1 person

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