Book Review – The Collector by John Fowles

This book had been lauded as one of the pioneers of the psychological thriller genre. “Hailed as the first modern psychological thriller” was the exact phrase quoted, I believe. So I naturally got rather excited about it.

It is a little different from the books I’ve read so far. Most of those are in the fashion of a shocking plot twist or slow unraveling of events more than halfway or towards the end of the story. For this novel, the crux of the story lies not in the twist of events, but rather the psychological state of mind of the main narrator, as well as the mind games played by our two protagonists.

Frederick C is an entomologist (a word I’ve googled that means butterfly collector). He capture specimens, kills them, preserves them and puts them away in his collection. His favorites are of course, rare specimens. His social inadequacies limits his interaction with others and as a result he keeps to himself most of the time. He sees Miranda, a young art student at an art gallery one day, and not unlike capturing a rare specimen – he formulates a plan to capture her. The rest of the story is about the events that transpire when Miranda is in his ‘possession’, so to speak. We get to hear the story both from the twisted mind of Frederick and the prisoner- Miranda, in a first person narrative style, which is interesting as you start to understand the turning of the cogs in a deranged person’s mind.

Even though the plot of the story is a terrible and horrific one (young girl gets captured and imprisoned by middle aged man – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what usually happens), there is something uncommon about the situation. It does not develop in the usual predatory way, but rather in a clinical way, almost artfully described. His careful yet distancing treatment of her is perverted yet I couldn’t take my eyes off the pages. Plus, the use of her narrative does lend a fresh perspective on the story too.

Rating 5/5 (I can see why this was likened to a pioneer in modern psychological thrillers. Unputdownable, riveting. See inside the head of a social outcast with mental issues, but all laid out in a almost what one might call tasteful way. I look forward to reading his other works)

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