Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs.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.
I picked The Collector up because it sounded psychologically interesting, and it sounded like it might be disturbing–and who doesn’t love feeling disturbed? I was not disappointed on either front. This book made me really uncomfortable in certain areas, if only because the mindset that Frederick has seems so familiar to that particular set of young males who feel personally offended whenever a woman doesn’t return whatever feelings they might have. It’s just a book that hit a bit too close to home. I was both glad that the book didn’t let me down, and also sad that the situation read a bit too relevant still.
It’s fascinating reading Frederick’s point of view throughout the book, because you get to see how he justifies/views his actions. And I love that Fowles then gives us Miranda’s point of view from her diary of the things we’d seen up until that point solely through Frederick’s POV. I will say, I felt her portion dragged a bit and was a tad too repetitive, but it does make you feel for her, and it makes the book even more thrilling because you start to hope she’ll make it out the prison Frederick has placed her in. Fowles also does a great job at showing her deterioration of spirit into a sort of madness as her captivity progresses.
I’ve seen some criticism about her unlikeable voice, but I found her to be a Salinger’s Franny-esque character, which made her more likable. (And, in case you were wondering, Frederick reads very Humbert Humbert mixed with–what I would presume from the character, as I still haven’t read the book–Joe from You. He’s sarcastic and dry and bitter, but also highly eloquent and logical in the same way Humbert Humbert is.)
My favorite part of the novel were the Tempest inspirations strewn throughout it. I love that Frederick tells Miranda his name is Ferdinand, and that she calls him Caliban. It’s perfect for the situation, and it added some complexity and literary depth to the book that I quite enjoyed. And, of course, the imagery of her being a butterfly that Frederick has attempted to collect and pin down is wonderfully tragic.
So, if you’re in the market for a quiet but disturbing read, I recommend The Collector. It’s horrific in how relatable it is, and it’s thrilling the sense that you want to know how Miranda can possibly get out of Frederick’s grasp. If you have any suggestions for other books to read that are Collector-esque, let me know! I’m always in the market for new horror books to check out.
Until next time, happy reading!