Monday, March 15, 2010
CBR Book#35: The Collector by John Fowles
Do you ever wonder who writes the inside flap for books? Do you think it might be the same morons that create movie trailers with the entire plot, twists and all, spelled out for you? Do you ever wander the library, cursing softly to yourself (no one likes to get shushed in the library) as you read inner flap after inner flap with a description like this: Stupid Named Protagonist has left behind his/her life in the military/police force/crime. Unfortunately their brother/sister/wife/various other relatives/friend has been kidnapped/killed/gone missing and it is up to Stupid Named Protagonist to go back to their old life to save them." I'm sick of it. Luckily, Yosarrian recommended John Fowles' debut novel, The Collector to me. Thank you so much for rescuing me from a quagmire of mediocrity.
Fowles has crafted a novel that builds suspense but doesn't really make you aware of it until you realize you've been tense while reading. He's written something that stays with you and begins to reveal itself hours after you've completed the journey he's taken you on. The sinister in this book is unlike the sinister in most other books because of the way Fowles crafts his characters, the way he presents the story to you and the way he chooses to communicate with us through the characters.
F. Clegg is a collector of butterflies and a man living an existence among those he finds disagreeable and dirty in some ways. He looks forward to seeing a young woman, who we later find is named Miranda, through the window of his office. He imagines that she understands him and that she would be able to love him as he loves her if she were only to get to know him. But, he is a man without means or looks or charms, so he watches from afar. Until one day, he wins the pools (the lottery of sorts) and becomes a man with wealth.
Clegg moves himself, his aunt, and his cousin into a hotel and they begin to spend the money that he has won. He thinks about Miranda. His aunt and cousin leave to visit family in Australia and Clegg begins to track Miranda. He sees her and has his feelings of love for her return to him. He believes that his new-found monetary excess might allow her to love him as well. But he is a backward sort. One day Clegg happens upon a house for sale in the countryside. He goes through it with a Realtor and finds that it has a cellar that can only be accessed from the back garden. The cellar has two rooms to it. He begins to think about what he can do with his money and what he thinks will make him happy. He thinks of Miranda.
He has a van and he follows Miranda to see what she does and when she does it. He comes up with a plan. He parks along a street that Miranda must travel to get home and he asks for her help. Then he chloroforms her and places her in the back of his van. He takes her to his newly fortified cellar and imprisons her there. Fowles brings us Clegg's point of view of the situation at first, then Miranda's and then Clegg's again. Sometimes, when Miranda is narrating the situation, I wondered why she was talking about the things that she was talking about. It wasn't until later that I realized the connection between Miranda and Clegg. Just a wonderful book.