The Collector by John Fowles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’ve mentioned before that I love stories with unreliable narrators. That, combined with the intriguing fearful summary(It’s the seventh night.
Deep down I get more and more frightened. It’s only surface calm.
Waking up is the worse thing. I wake and for a moment I think I’m home or at Caroline’s. Then it hits me.
I don’t care what he does. So long as I live.
It’s all the vile unspeakable things he could do.), made me pick up this book at once and dive into it.
The book begins in the abductor’s point of view. Structurally, grammatically, it reflects his–Frederick’s–personality–run-on sentences, bad English, lies, obsessive, a hatred of the world and people. Neurotic, obsessive, miserly, a skewered perception of reality, methodolical, planning to the last detail–some of these are signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Raised by an aunt obsessed with cleanliness and with the mentality of ‘you’re lucky it’s not worse’, Frederick is paranoid and assumes the worst. It might be a case of psychological thoughts reflecting in actions, as he acts socially withdrawn and speaks with what he, and what he thinks other people think of him, with a “lower class” tone.
Halfway through the book, the POV switches to Miranda’s, the abductee. Instead of picking up at the cliffhanger Frederick left off, she starts from the beginning. This is one of those books that how you feel/think while reading it (ie if certain parts bore you) reflects on either you and your capacity for empathizing and how you perceive the world. I remember my history professor assigning us to watch a 2 hour movie about Hitler and other prominent figures in the 2nd World War–and all they did in the movie, for a whole 2 and a half hours–was just sit at a table and talk. It was in black and white. There was no explosions, no humor, no romance, nothing that would keep a 21st century’s child attention for more than a minute. And yet, if you thought the movie was boring—it said something about you. Because that movie was about the fate of the Jews, that pivotal meeting where they decided what to do, how to entrap them, the concentration camps. Miranda’s part of the story brought that feeling back of watching the movie back.
Miranda’s point of view is written through a diary she manages to keep in her prison–and rather than re-tell the story from her point of view, she escapes into her own world, a world where she was free. She writes about her life, sometimes about her family, mostly about her relationship with someone older and unattractive (this would be labeled the “boring” parts, because nothing really happens in her entries–the plot does not move forward, as it did with Frederick’s). She comes to many realizations while she is trapped, things she would probably would never have realized or acknowledged if she was free. If there’s a moral or a lesson here, it’s that. That a lot of people only ever realize what is truly important when it’s gone.
The book switches back to Frederick’s point of view at the end, and we see how touched in the head he really is. He obviously knew that she was fatally ill, especially with his own descriptions[as Miranda’s entries on her condition did not describe her physical state], yet he choose to ignore it and chose not to do anything.
Though Miranda was not raped, it was extremely sickening to read about him photographing her naked, and again making her pose while naked and ill, when she could not fight back. That’s on top of the kidnapping and the subhuman living conditions, and the constant fear of the unknown.
After he lets Miranda die–and we think, maybe he’ll stop now, live his life in peace, since she was his only obsession for years–he sets his sights on a new girl. And it’s terrifying this time around, because his reasoning before was for “love” (or his version of it), this time he ultimately admits that he does not feel for the girl as he did for Miranda, but would like to get her as well to “compare”. As if humans were not living, breathing beings with free will and emotions.