Friday, 26 August 2011

The Collector

Author: John Fowles
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Published: 2004 (Originally 1963)
RRP: £8.99

Frederick Clegg, a lonely, boring clerk becomes obsessed with the art student Miranda.  He watches her from his office window, he follows her into shops, but seriously lacking in any confidence or indeed social skills he knows she will never be his.  As his hobby he collects butterflies, an interest that he has been scorned for throughout his miserable, boring life and then one day he wins thousands of pounds in the pools.  Suddenly he has a greater sense of power, a feeling that he can do anything and he sets his sights on making Miranda the latest addition to his collection of beauties.  Knowing she will never love him, he buys a remote house, refurbishes the cellar and decides to keep her as his special ‘visitor’.  His motives are as innocent as wanting to spend time with her, disgusted by any physical intimacy and he spends the time showering her with gifts.  It’s not all roses and sunshine though and obviously these things don’t and never will end well. 

The first section of the book is written from his perspective, you feel as though you really get inside the strange mind of this lonely and pathetic man and in some ways it stirs up sympathy towards him.  It later switches to the diary Miranda kept whilst in captivity so you are equally able to understand how the experience effects her and how her feelings towards him change almost hourly from disgust to pity to fury.  Seeing the story from both angles is an excellent tool to really help the reader know the characters and see how they change but I couldn’t help feeling annoyed and bored by the Miranda diary section.  I just didn’t like her enough!  

Fowles apparently wrote the book to show the dangers of power getting into the hands of people incapable of handling it, of course the subject matter clearly establishes this but the fact Miranda is so unlikeable and arrogant takes away from the argument.  I get that she is meant to be a strong-minded idealistic ‘artist’, but in my opinion she seemed just as inhuman as Frederick (and that’s saying something!).  I think the book feels like an over-the-top sermon by one of those TV priests, preaching about God, what it is to be human and art, it’s relentless.  References to butterfly collecting are clumsily added in here and there as though an afterthought during Fowles’ final draft.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate it, I genuinely found the character of Frederick quite interesting but that wasn’t enough for me.
Rating: 4/10