“The Collector” is now off the reading table

The Collector Advanced Reading Copy First American Edition
"The Collector" Advanced Reading Copy First American Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve been as disturbed by a story as I was by the one told in The Collector.

This is John Fowles first novel, published in 1963. Fowles is best known for his third novel, The French Lieutenant’s Woman.

The plot of The Collector centers on Frederick Clegg and his obsessive love for an art student, Miranda Grey. A butterfly collector, Clegg kidnaps and then imprisons Miranda in his basement – like one of his specimens – hoping it dawns on her that he’s a kind, caring man worthy of her love.

Considering Jaycee Lee Dugard’s recent discovery and release from Clegg-like captivity, this chilling novel is deeply unsettling. I struggled to relate to The Collector as fiction.

Fowles said the point of The Collector was to “show that our world is sick.” (Reported in his obituary in The New York Times)

Perhaps I’m getting too advanced in age for this kind of  literary suspense. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate Fowles’ beautiful writing, let alone his extraordinary evocation of a psychopath’s inner world  – it’s a brilliant creation – rather that I may have reached a point in  life where I’ve read so many times about sexually motivated abduction or heard about it in the news, the topic is not enjoyable in a novel.

The Collector was an instant success and put Fowles on the literary map as a formidable talent. It was made into a film in 1965. The book is still in print.  The true first edition — the U.K. hardcover in black boards — sells for several thousand dollars.

Fowles died at the age of 79 in 2005. A Life in Two Worlds by Eileen Warburton is a biography of his life, published in 2004.