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The Collector - John Fowles

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Author: John Fowles / Genre: Fiction

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      29.11.2011 12:00
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      A tale of obsession

      I purchased this book, in paperback format, last week from my local Waterstones. It cost me £8.99. I had earned some Leisure vouchers from an internet survey site and I decided to treat myself to a book to read.
      Originally published in Britain in 1963 by Jonathan Cape, it was written by John Fowles.

      *John Fowles*
      The international success of ` The Collector` ended Johns career as a teacher and began his life as a writer.He has since become a modern literary figure as an English novelist and essayist.

      *The Story* part 1
      Set in the early sixties , the story begins with Frederick who is a loner and a misfit who spends his spare time collecting butterflies and taking photographs.He has lived with his aunt and disabled cousin in their home since his childhood.He works in an office during the day.While at work he stares out the window and starts to notice a young art student living across the road. This is Miranda who is twenty years old, beautiful, popular and talented.Frederick becomes obsessed with her and imagines himself to be in love with her.
      Frederick has some good fortune when he wins a huge amount of money on the football pools. This enables him to leave his hated job. He shares some of the money with his aunt and cousin who leave him alone when they go to live in Australia.
      Fredrick , still obsessed with Miranda, buys himself an old cottage in the country. He uses his money to refurbish the cottage to make it nice to live in ,all the time imagining what it would be like to live there with the lovely Miranda. The cottage has some outbuildings with a cellar and when the workmen has finished doing up the cottage, Fred sets to work on the outbuilding and cellar turning it into what will become a prison cell.Fred has a plan to kidnap Miranda who he believes will come to love him in time.

      Although the abduction is successful, Fred has not really thought about what could go wrong if things do not turn out as he wanted.

      *Part two*
      In the second part of the book we follow Miranda`s experience while being kept prisoner. She tells her side of the story by keeping a secret diary. We learn from her diary entries a lot about her life before and how she plans her future once she has escaped.She cleverly tries to escape many times but Fred is always ahead of her even when she fakes a serious illness Fred does not believe her.

      * The End*
      I will not write what happens to Miranda in the end as you will have to read the book for yourself. However the story ends with Fred searching out his next victim!

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        30.03.2010 15:01
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        Cult novel

        The Collector is a 1963 novel written by John Fowles. Frederick Clegg is a clerk for the local council and a loner. He collects butterflies and takes photographs in his spare time but is completely detached from society and both socially awkward and shy. When Clegg has a big win on the football pools he purchases a remote cottage in the Sussex countryside and gives up his job. He also becomes obsessed with an art student called Miranda Grey who he first spied at the Boarding School near his old work place. 'I can't say what it was, the very first time I saw her, I knew she was the only one. Of course, I am not mad, I knew it was just a dream and it always would have been if it hadn't been for the money.' After carefully observing Miranda for a time, Clegg kidnaps her with the aid of chloroform and imprisons her in the cellar of his remote cottage - which he has carefully prepared for the latest addition to his 'collection'. Clegg promises not to harm or abuse Miranda and believes that if he can keep her there and shower her with gifts she will come to love him and agree to stay for good. A battle of wills between these two very different people duly unfolds.

        It's not surprising really that Stephen King's famous novel Misery contains a pointed nod to The Collector because John Fowles' book was obviously a major influence on that later work. The Collector - which is a genuinely gripping book once you get into it and a shortish one that can be read relatively quickly - is split into two sections before a final chapter. The first section gives us Clegg's account of what happened and then we read Miranda's thoughts on her ordeal in the form of some diaries that she manages to scribble while a prisoner in the cellar. The novel is both a thriller and a psychological study that touches on class and education. Miranda thinks she can outwit the uneducated Clegg but she soon begins to realise he is incredibly stubborn and doesn't always respond to things in the way she'd expected. Clegg is obviously psychotic but very placid and convinced that he is doing nothing wrong. His detached and calm account of what happened is very different from the more emotional and existential one from Miranda. 'I'm so far from everything. From normality. From light. From what I want to be.'

        The first section of the book that presents us with Clegg's account is definitely the more gripping and always compelling - not to mention disturbing. Clegg is a monster but a calm, delusional one who thinks that if he gives Miranda everything she requests in the form of books and art materials she will somehow come around and be happy to stay. He's always offended by the notion that he is a monster and constantly tries to reassure himself that he isn't doing anything strange or wrong. He even refers to Miranda as a 'guest' in his narration. 'She was my guest and that was all that mattered.' We learn a lot about his troubled backstory and family in addition to his pursuits, which leave us in little doubt that, although he would never admit to it, he's essentially a peeping tom. 'I always wanted to do photography, I got a camera at once of course, a Leica, the best, telephoto lens, the lot; the main idea was to take butterflies living like the famous Mr S Beaufoy; but also often before I used to chance on things out collecting, you'd be surprised the things couples get up to in places you think they would know better than to do it in, so I had that too.'

        Having unexpectedly attained a large sum of money through the football pools, Frederick naively thinks he can use it to create his own personal fantasy world with himself and Miranda together but he soon learns that money alone can't buy you everything you want. Frederick doesn't understand that adding to his 'collection' means taking a life and in this case the life he is taking is the one that used to be enjoyed by Miranda, her place in society now replaced by captivity in his cellar. Miranda compares him to Caliban in Shakespeare's play The Tempest and goes through varying stages of pity for him and intense anger. The Collector is remarkably similar to King's Misery in several key moments and like that book builds a lot of suspense at times when Miranda makes various escape attempts and tries to plot a way out of this awful situation.

        Miranda's version of events is perhaps less gripping than the one supplied by Frederick as we already broadly know much of what happened between them. It's interesting though to get the other perspective and it makes The Collector a relatively inventive book. This was Fowles first novel and probably remained the one he was best known for although I do recall once reading The French Lieutenant's Woman and finding that a decent read too. Fowles uses Miranda to talk about art and literature (Miranda conveys his envy at Alan Sillitoe's working class fiction at one point) and muse on the differences and gulf between the classes with Miranda from a considerably more privileged background than her captor. The fact that these two people have absolutely nothing in common adds to the story I think. We learn about Miranda's mentor and see how she uses her diary and art in general to hold onto her sanity in this dimly lit cellar. Her moods also wildly fluctuate between hope and despair. 'I hate God, I hate whatever made this world. If there's a God he's a great loathsome spider in the dark.'

        I would recommend The Collector, which, to digress for a moment, was later turned into a film starring Terence Stamp that I've never seen. Parts of the book are a little dated and there are one or two pretentious flourishes but the basic story and the battle of will between Frederick and Miranda is always compelling enough to make this a real page-turner that has the reader very eager to see how it all turns out.

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          20.03.2010 21:36
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          Fantastic read, definitely recommended

          The Collector by John Fowles tells the story of a lonely and perhaps desperate man. In a twisted way it is a love story; it follows both a love
          and relationship that were doomed from the start.

          The main character, Fred Clegg, is an isolated and socially awkward
          person, who is in love with a young girl, Miranda. His love gradually becomes more of an obsession, which eventually leads to the kidnapping of her.
          The story follows the development of their relationship and the inevitable
          tragedy that unfolds.

          Fredrick Clegg's character is beautifully written; his innocence and naivety make the reader pain for him despite his wrongdoings.
          We learn more about the character of Miranda during the latter part of the novel, where her diary entries become the main focus of the story. Her lack of understanding of Clegg causes friction between the characters, particularly due to her belief that Clegg's interest is purely sexual.
          Her investment in this belief eventually ends in tears.

          The ending of the novel is fantastic, giving the entire novel the justice it deserves. The novel as a whole is very well written, it is easy to imagine the thoughts, feelings and pain of both characters. Fowles also touches on philosophical issues, which really add to the story and make you think.

          The Collector may seem a little outdated with a publication date of 1963, but I am positive that any reader will become completely immersed in Clegg's world.

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          01.03.2010 17:44
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          Dark, twisted and beautiful. A story of two halfs that is certain to keep you hooked.

          Without question The Collector is my all time number one read. The book is set around two main characters, the solitary Clegg and the beautiful Miranda. It starts as a simple story, a young man noticing a girl, a yarn we've all read before, yet what transgresses in something altogether more twisted and emotional then anything I have ever read. Clegg collects butterflies and in Miranda he spots a butterfly he simply must add to his collection.

          The first half of the book is from the perspective of Clegg. We learn of his history, his reasoning and motivation for his seemingly inhumane actions. The second half is through the eyes of Miranda we feel her fear, her powerlessness and her pity for Clegg.

          The characters are so achingly real that at times I felt it hard to read. They get under your skin and stick with you for a long time. It's a book of action and consequence, of how the smallest of things can go so terribly wrong. This book is a real rare treat. Take the phone off the hook, close the curtains and lock yourself away once you start you will not want to stop!

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            09.01.2006 14:01
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            Unrequited love meets psychological thriller

            Having read and loved another John Fowles novel, "The French Lieutenant's Woman", I saw this in a second hand bookshop and thought I would give it a try. I was aware that the author had written a book called "The Collector" but know nothing more than that so I was surprised when, halfway through the book, I mentioned to a fellow book enthusiast that I was reading it and was captivated.

            "Oh, The Collector" he said. "A tremendous book". He went on to talk about it at great length and with much passion. It seems that this is a "growing-up text" on a par with such works as "Catcher in the Rye". Does it deserve such credit?

            The Collector comprises three sections. The first section is narrated by the book's hero, (or should that be anti-hero), Frederick Clegg who is the Collector of the title - as a child Frederick became interested in butterfly collecting, a theme which is echoed by the events of the book.

            Frederick is something of a loner: this is partly because of his upbringing; abandoned by his mother, Frederick was brought up by his uncle, whom he loved dearly but who died, and his aunt - a bitter woman who later showed her true colours when Frederick won the football pools, making sure that she and her daughter got a decent cut of the winnings.

            Frederick is basically a prude and an inverted snob. He looks at other people and feels disgust at the way they talk, how they spend their lives and how they treat him. Frederick has done nothing to help himself. He is aloof with colleagues and turns his nose up at anything which is not part of his world. Curious then, that he should develop an obsession with Miranda, a young art student from his home town.

            After winning the pools, Frederick moves up to London where he stays in a hotel until everything has calmed down. However, he spots Miranda, now studying at the Slade, and devises a dramatic plan to be with her.

            Frederick is clearly a confused young man. He sees everything in black and white and his upbringing with a rather bitter relative in a small town and the general lack of opportunities in his life have made Frederick narrow minded and with limited ability to empathise with others. He thinks that, in time, Miranda will grow to love him.

            However, Frederick's naivety is cruelly rewarded when he struggles to cope with Miranda's reaction: Frederick is just the kind of person Miranda detests. She and her friends patronisingly believe that people like Frederick can be made to appreciate art and be less bourgeois. She would like those people to participate and try to change the world for the better rather than simply observing.

            The next part of the story is told through entries Miranda writes in her diary. These reinforce her feelings toward Frederick and how much she really despises him and people like him. But what is interesting is how the reader reacts to Miranda.

            Despite her privileges and her education, Miranda is just as naive as Frederick but her attitude is that her knowledge of art and literature makes her better than Frederick and that she would be doing him a favour by showing him what paintings to look at and what books to read.

            It is almost more annoying to read what Miranda says than it is to hear Frederick's views. After all, Frederick is not educated and comes from a relatively sheltered background but Miranda is educated and has had the advantage of parents who have tried to provide wide ranging opportunities. This makes her attitudes somewhat disappointing and I felt more sympathy for Frederick facing Miranda's eloquent humiliation of himself and his attitudes than for the captive.

            The final section of the book returns to Frederick's narrative. In a cold and passionless style he recounts the startling climax. I did not know how to react when I read this section. Without giving away the ending, I can say that I was torn between relief and shock. My heart was racing and although I wanted to know what would ultimately happen, I couldn't bear the fact that there were only a couple of pages left.

            I asked whether "The Collector" deserves it's reputation as a modern classic and to be mentioned in the same breath as "Catcher in the Rye". I have to conclude that it does. The characters are credible - most people will have met an idealistic young woman like Miranda - full of determination to change the world but unaware of the obstacles which she'll meet on the way.

            Frederick, too, is believable - his holier than thou attitude stemming from his feelings of inferiority and lack of confidence. The struggle between the two characters is compelling reading as Miranda attempts to use her ability with words and argument to persuade Frederick to let her go.

            The aspect which connects this work with novels such as "Catcher in the Rye" is the depiction of youth and the certainty of conviction which comes with youth - the feeling that you are right and that adults don't understand, the idea that you can change the world and everyone who doesn't agree simply doesn't understand.

            "The Collector" is a compelling novel; although fairly short, grabbed me instantly and kept me enthralled all the way through. Essentially it is a pyschological thriller but it is so much more than that.

            I would recommend this particularly to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers or who enjoys classic coming of age novels but really I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good read.


            Check out the usual online book retailers and auction sites for up to date prices
            ISBN - 009974371X

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              23.03.2002 16:46
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              The Collector has got to be one of the finest psychological studies I have read to date. Based around the relationship between Frederick Clegg and his prisoner, Miranda Grey, a middle-class college art student with whom Clegg has become obsessed. Far better than any detective or crime thriller, Fowles revels in highlighting the fine line between the captive and the jailer. Having kidnapped Miranda as she walks home from school, Clegg then proceeds to worship and idolise her, placing her on a pedestal and lavishing her with gifts and whatever material objects she desires. The only desire he refuses is that of freedom. Like the butterflies he collects and studies, Miranda cannot be released back into her natural habitat. The most powerful aspect of their relationship is that despite her many escape attempts, brutal attacks and efforts at seduction, Frederick never gives up in his persuading her that she loves him. The novel is set in two parts, firstly is Clegg's recollection then is the personal, first-person narrative from Miranda, both of which are incisive in their observation and painstaking in the manipulation of the audience's emotion. Probably the most hard-hitting aspect of this novel is that whilst it can be treated as fiction, contemporary society does contain people who engage in such acts and self-delusion. Fowles has created a work of genius that could easily apply to many of the documentaries of today, simply wonderful.

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                17.08.2001 04:37
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                This is an extremely difficult book to describe and still do it justice. Although on the surface is seems quite a simple storyline, and is very easy to get into, it is quite complicated. A lot of thought has gone into the characters, their feelings and their personalities and how they alter quite dramatically as the story unfolds. The front cover of the book depicts a collection of butterflies and the book is called the collector, so judging a book by it`s cover I would never have bought this for myself. This was actually bought as a gift for me about nine years ago. The term collector has a much more sinister meaning in this novel and I`m not too sure how best to describe this book. It`s sort of a pschological thriller. The story centres around a man named Frederick Clegg and his obsession with an art student named Miranda. Clegg was brought up by his aunt and uncle, and his hobby of collecting butterflies is what ultimately led him to commit the crime that he did. A very lonely person who wanted to be loved by Miranda the same way he believed he loved her, led him to turn into a stalker. He wasn`t your usual stalker though, he didn`t pester her, or phone her, or send her maliscious post, in fact he had never even spoken to her but he knew almost all there was to know about his dear Miranda. He dreamt of how he would one day marry this girl, and how they would be truly happy, but every so often his thoughts would turn more violent and he would dream of hitting her. He knew that nothing could possibly come of these dreams, but when he won a large sum of money on the pools he started to think more seriously of ways in which to make it happen. His thoughts then turned to kidnap and he went through every eventuality in great detail to make this a success. To start with he bought a house in secluded area of the countyside that had a large old basement. With great determination he then converted the basement into a l
                iving area in which to hold his victim captive. Now when you think of kidnap, you think the motive is either money or sex, but in this instance it was neither, well not directly anyway, which makes the story even more interesting. Using his van and with the aid of some chloroform he then kidnapped Miranda and took her back to the converted basement and locked her in. Here she remained his prisoner for over four months. The book is separated into three different parts which makes the suspense even better. The first part tells of Ferdinand and his life and then follows through into the eventual kidnapping of Miranda. It then goes into great detail of the conversations they had, and her attempts at escape, and the way his feelings changed from one minute to the next. The second part of the story is told from Miranda`s point of view. This is the part that I found the most interesting. She not only talks of how claustrophobic it felt been locked in a small room without daylight and fresh air, but also about her life and the people she knows and what she has written in the diary that she has hidden under the mattress. I was expecting just a tale of how terrified she was of what was to happen to her, but the story delves much deeper than that and you discover that she is a very strong young woman. While she is held captive, Frederick`s actions give her much to think about. She starts to think about her own personality traits and the way she has behaved towards people, and how she will change greatly once she is released. There is also an added twist at the end of this part that I wasn`t expecting, but I`m not going to reveal what that is because it will spoil the read. The third part then turns back to Frederick and his recollection of what happened towards the end. I can`t go into more detail of this part without revealing the ending, but I will say that if you read the book then you won`t be expecting it to end as it
                does. There`s a fair bit of soul searching described by both characters throughout the book and it`s these added bits that make you want to carry on reading. I fully reccommend that you read this if you like a suspense story with a difference, this is a truly excellent read. Published by Pan Books, ISBN: 0-330-30990-0

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              • Product Details

                Written by the author of The French Lieutenant's Woman, Mantissa and The Magus, this is the story of a lonely young man whose sole interest is collecting butterflies - until he wins the pools - and then he begins collecting girls.