The Collector

by John Fowles

“What I’m trying to say is that having her as my guest happened suddenly, it wasn’t something I planned the moment the money came.”

They call it a thriller. And it is, heightening suspense and anxiety, but since nearly half the book takes place from the point of view of the disturbed and mentally challenged kidnapper, and the other half from the highly capable but terrorized victim, we could call it a psychological thriller. And it is, but since each page turn brings with it a mounting, disabling dread, we should probably just call it horror.

A young butterfly collector, shunned by his peers and sheltered by his mother and aunt, wins a lottery and sends the two women traveling. Alone and with means, he hatches his plan to kidnap the object of his affection, having only watched her from afar. He’ll shelter her in his home and give her everything she wants until she realizes how much he loves her and returns the affection.

The stubborn logic and justification in the kidnapper’s mind lends a type of pity to his POV. On the other side, the woman’s thoughts reveal a life she’s now realizing she’s wasted because of her inability to see its value until these events. As she spirals into her own madness, fixating on a relationship with a man who’s lived his life for each moment and without compromise, she learns more about herself in these few weeks than in her preceding decades.

Reading this book, one imagines the constant struggles and sometimes electric, sometimes somber manner in which the author must have figured out the next steps of his characters. The clinical assessment and character judgments made by the educated young woman, the perversity and naivety of the unhinged young man, the struggle and hopelessness of the human condition–this goes way beyond fascinating and is truly scary stuff. The Collector is a mesmerizing work of dark genius, and you may have no choice but to read it in one sitting.

“There must be a God and he can’t know anything about us.”

5 stars


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