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Monday, January 7, 2013

Review: The Collector by John Fowles

Publisher: Little, Brown &Co. (1963)
Genre: Thriller
Hardback 305 pages
Book Source: borrowed form the library
My Rating: 93/100

Hailed as the first modern psychological thriller. The Collector is the internationally bestselling novel that captured John Fowles into the front rank of contemporary novelist. This tale of obsessive love- the story of a lonely clerk who collects butterflies and of the beautiful young art student who is his ultimate quarry- remains unparalleled in it's power to startle and mesmerize.  (from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

I don't normally give away spoilers, but I must with this review due to the way the book is written.
This book is divided into two stories about the same events: the kidnapper's version and the victim.
Frederick Clegg is the kidnapper who gives his version of the events first.

From the start the reader knows that Clegg is "off".  The way he speaks, the things that have happened to him, and the way he adores Miranda.  Clegg is obsessed.  The reader knows within the first few pages that he is going to kidnap Miranda.  Clegg prepares well to bring his love, Miranda, to her new home.  Clegg is a butterfly collector and he approaches Miranda in the same way; something to be protected and cherished, like a rare butterfly.

Clegg has almost no social skills.  How he has survived this long is amazing.  And in his twisted mind, Clegg loves Miranda and I think believes he is doing right by her.  Who wouldn't want to be loved, protected, and taken care of forever, by someone who adores them?    At first, I couldn't believe what I was reading, and didn't think he could pull it off.  But Clegg did it.  And as evil as his act is, half way through his side of the events, I started to see his point of view.  Fowles' writing made me empathize with Clegg.  I started to rationalize to myself Clegg's actions, considering his history, etc.  However, as slowly as I came to see Clegg's perspective, I abruptly changed my mind once I started Miranda's side of the story.

In the beginning of Miranda's story much of what we read at first is expected.  She is scared, frightened, and trying to devise ways to escape.  Checking for cracks around the walls, looking for potential weapons to use, etc., anything to use or do against Clegg.  She is the victim and I felt bad for her, and rightly so. Eventually Miranda quiets down a bit and thinks about her friends and family at home and how they must be so upset. There is an older guy that she was kind of sorta seeing, and she thinks about him and what he would say.  Through these reflections, I came to see Miranda in a much harsher light.

While Miranda reflects, Clegg begins to open up to Miranda and expose himself; placing himself into a very vulnerable position emotionally with Miranda.  Miranda can clearly see Clegg is a bit unhinged, and I understand she is the victim here, however Miranda is a contradiction.  As much as Miranda says she is for the people, and money is not that important, she's anti-establishment (it's the 1960s), she clearly sees herself as better than Clegg, regardless of the kidnapping.  If this kidnapping would have never occurred, Miranda would have never given Clegg the time of day.  He is beneath her in both intellect and class, plain and simple, despite her highbrow thinking.

As you can see reading this book, caused me to sway back and forth in my feelings for both Miranda and Clegg.  However, in the end neither one is quite likable.  Both are flawed in their thinking, and suffering from not being loved enough or properly.  This book details a terrible situation with no good way out.  With this book being written in the 1960s, there are aspects that make it dated.  However, the underlying themes (love, acceptance, class and society) Fowles' explores are universal and transcend time. Fowles' writing was thought provoking, engrossing and this is a book I would certainly read again.  I also plan on reading one or two more of this great author's works.

I do apologize for the unevenness of this review.  I read this book in the summer of 2011 and should have written this review sooner.

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