“He’s not human; he’s an empty space disguised as a human.” // Review of “The Collector” by John Fowles

Title: The Collector
Author: John Fowles
Genre: Thriller
Audio book narrator: James Wilby
Date Read:
31/08/2016 – 03/04/2016
Rating: ★★★


This book came up in conversation at work, and while I’m not usually good at getting into classics, even modern ones, I thought this one sounded nice and dark and right up my alley. It was  all of those things, though in hindsight, I’m not sure it was the best choice of book to read while my partner was away and I was home alone for a week.

Lonely, uneducated butterfly collector Frederick Clegg fixates on Miranda Grey, a middle-class art student who lives nearby. When he wins a huge fortune in the football pools and his only living relatives go to visit siblings in Australia, he uses the money to buy an isolated house and fit out the cellar, then kidnaps Miranda in the hopes that she will fall in love with him. While he thinks that his plan his working, Miranda is slowly being driven made by her imprisonment, and the diary she writes and keeps tucked under her mattress is the only thing that keeps her from tipping over the edge.

If this book had been entirely from Frederick’s point of view, it probably would have got five stars. His narrative voice is so flat and matter-of-fact that it’s chilling. And yet, at the same time there’s a real earnestness about him. He cannot see what he is doing is wrong, and becomes petulant when Miranda does things he doesn’t like, such as breaking his china or trying to escape. But for all that, somehow you still feel a little bit sorry for the bastard. (Only a very little bit, though).

Part 2 takes the form of Miranda’s diary entries over the course of her imprisonment. In some ways, it was interesting hearing her side of the story of her imprisonment, but so much of this section is taken up with her preoccupation with an artist she calls by his intitials G. P., with whom she had a difficult relationship when she first moved to London to go to art school. While it makes sense that the diary of someone in her predicament would contain repetition (mostly of the “I must escape!”) variety, this made the story lose some of its momentum. I kept wishing I was back in Frederick’s head. Which, you know, is saying something.

The story ends almost abruptly, but in a creepy way that fills you with dread. I was spoiled for the ending during the conversation at work where I first heard of the book, but I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone else. It might not be the ending you expect, but it is an ending that makes a lot of sense. As I said, I listened to this book while my partner was overseas (he comes home tomorrow, yay!) and it did make me wary about venturing outside after dark. Hell, even the empty house made me warier than usual. I kept thinking about how I would act in Miranda’s situation, and have come to the conclusion I would do no better than she does, which is terrifying. This is a book that will get into your head, and is definitely not for the faint of heart.

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