Frederick Clegg is a loner who finds human interaction difficult and spends most of his free time alone collecting butterflies. One day he spots the beautiful Miranda Grey, an upper-class art student. Clegg starts to admire her from a distance, stalking his prize, but knowing that he is unable to ever strike up a relationship with her due to his shyness and lack of social skills. Then, one day, he wins a substantial amount in the pools. This makes it possible for him to stop working and buy an isolated house in the countryside. Although free from the dull existence of his former life, he feels lonely and becomes ever more obsessed with thoughts of Miranda. He devises a plan to catch and capture the object of his desire, telling himself that if he treats her well and gives her anything she wants (bar her freedom), she will eventually come to love him. And so begins an unnerving yet gripping account of obsession and attachment.

The Collector by John Fowles

The plot perhaps makes the book sound seedy, but it is not. It is a brilliantly written account of the relationship between the two – the first third of the novel being from Clegg’s point of view and then most of the remainder of the book being made up of entries from Miranda’s secret dairy. Fowles is a master at getting inside a character’s mind and it is intriguing to discover more and more about how the two view themselves , each other and the world around them. At one point Miranda experiences genuine pity for her captor, comparing him in her dairy to Caliban from The Tempest; whilst in a later encounter Clegg informs her that his real name is Ferdinand.

As we inhabit the mind first of Clegg, and then read the reflections of the brilliant Miranda, we journey with Fowles as he explores such themes as possession, freedom, love, art, humanity, and God. This is a brilliantly written novel:  intelligent, authentic and complex. There are no predictable stock characters here; no clichés and no neat unrealistic ending.

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