This Vintage Classic is about Frederick Clegg, an uneducated clerk, who is socially awkward, a little mad and collects butterflies. He is obsessed with Miranda Grey, and stalks her as he would a butterfly, and after winning a significant sum in the lotto, he plots to kidnap her. Disturbingly Clegg decorates the cellar of a house in the country purchased specifically for the purpose, even going so far as buying clothes and underwear for Miranda to wear when she 'moves in'.
Clegg successfully captures Miranda and keeps her prisoner in his cellar, hoping that she will fall in love with him. Obviously she despises him although she does develop some sympathy towards the end. Clegg tries to treat her as well as he can, buying her whatever she asks for and does not beat or abuse her, although it's later revealed he is sexually impotent.
The book is divided by two narrators, Frederick and Miranda. While Frederick is narrating the book is creepy and disturbing, and I couldn't put it down. When we're introduced to the voice of Miranda however, it was quite a jolt and I was looking forward to reading about her experience and the terror of being prisoner in this cellar. Disappointingly, this isn't what unfolded. Miranda is a young art student and very self-obsessed which very quickly got on my nerves. I agreed with the guests on the The First Tuesday Book Club that she was shrill and annoying, and almost an unsympathetic character. I thought she was pretentious, but having said that, her attempts at escape were extremely exciting, and the ending was unexpected and far from cliche.
Written in 1963, I didn't feel this book was terribly dated which was a pleasant surprise for me. It's interesting to note that The Silence of the Lambs was published a mere 25 years later, and also has a butterfly on the cover, but obviously for different reasons. It's interesting to wonder if Thomas Harris included this as a tribute to The Collector or if indeed he was influenced by this classic.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone who enjoys suspense and a good thriller without the blood and guts of present day novels.
My rating = ****