I need an antidote for Caliban.
May 5, 2009 12:13 PM   Subscribe

I just finished John Fowles, The Collector, and I need it's opposite. Spoiler inside.

The Collector made me mad. Really, really mad. He got away with it. And he was creepy .. and I hated him and I loved her.

So .. what's a good read where the Woman is victimized but kicks ass in the end? Like .. serious, fist-pumping hardcore booty? Hopefully, in a non-sexual fashion ..cos that's not really my thing. It doesn't have to be violent .. think Ingrid Bergman at the end of Gaslight, or the dressing down of the lothario in The Group.

I guess I'm looking for the literary equivalent of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. All genres are okay, but I'm picky about sci-fi ..
posted by duckus to Media & Arts (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
How about Nicci French's Land of the Living?
posted by Houstonian at 12:36 PM on May 5, 2009

If the whole suspense-point that the plot hangs on is "Is she going to get beat down or kick ass in the end?", then won't knowing it's the latter sort of spoil the book for you? You sure you want that? And how much ass does she have to kick? Is survival enough, or does she really have to go all balls-to-the-wall on the victimizer?

For a non-spoilery suggestion: have you read "Sea Oak," by George Saunders? It's a short story about an undead grandmother, and she's fantastic!
posted by Greg Nog at 12:40 PM on May 5, 2009

Dirty Weekend by Helen Zahavi is an astonishing (and violent) revenge fantasy. The Life and Loves of a She-Devil by Fay Weldon is a broadly comic revenge fantasy. Over His Dead Body by Leslie Glass is a glitzy airport-novelette revenge fantasy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:43 PM on May 5, 2009

Greg Nog -- that's a good point. I see the rather contradictory nature of my question. I'm okay knowing ahead of time that the antagonist does not get away clean .. Survival is good .. but the level of ass-kickiness should be very high. I'd like to see the female hero come out of the experience stronger and better for the wear.
posted by duckus at 12:49 PM on May 5, 2009

Oh, somehow I forgot Good Girls Gone Bad by Jillian Medoff. And Getting Rid of Matthew by Jane Fallon (which is about a slightly different situation, but still involves women's plotting to undo the harm done by men.) And Revenge of the Middle-Aged Woman and Wives Behaving Badly by Elizabeth Buchan. And The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith.

In the "brilliant, resourceful woman fights against scary criminal stalker types" mode, I cannot recommend Thomas Perry's Jane Whitefield novels enough. The central character, Jane Whitefield, is a Native American woman who specializes in helping crime victims who need to go underground.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:51 PM on May 5, 2009

Kate Shugak kicks ass.
posted by The corpse in the library at 1:01 PM on May 5, 2009

No reading recs, but if part of your aim is to feel better about The Collector, then it's worth reading Fowles' own take on the novel. Interestingly, he seems to have seen it as being primarily about class, not gender, and he doesn't seem to have viewed Miranda as a morally unproblematic figure at all. Kind of takes the frustration out of the "Ooooh, he hurt that nice girl and got away with it!" reading.
posted by Bardolph at 1:22 PM on May 5, 2009

Joe R. Lansdale has a great short story called "Incident On and Off a Mountain Road" that is both more ass-kicking and not what you'd expect.
posted by infinitewindow at 1:24 PM on May 5, 2009

Iain Banks: Canal Dreams. A japanese woman cellist kicks ass against some really nasty people in a supertanker.
posted by Free word order! at 1:27 PM on May 5, 2009

Try some Charlaine Harris. The first Sookie Stackhouse book is similar to what you describe and the others in the series are all very good. Less beaten up during the book (though some) and more beaten down by life. True Blood on HBO is based on the series.

Slightly further afield from what you describe, but closely related, is her Lily Bard series. Lily is a recovering rape victim (based on Harris' personal experience) and she kicks ass hardcore. The rape happened prior to the first book, so there is no in book closure for that. I can't recommend this series highly enough.
posted by thekiltedwonder at 1:31 PM on May 5, 2009

I just read Smilla's Sense of Snow. The protagonist kicks some ass, repeatedly. Also, plot twists. A very engaging read.
posted by mudpuppie at 3:09 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

No reading recs, but if part of your aim is to feel better about The Collector, then it's worth reading Fowles' own take on the novel.

As long as you do not--under any circumstances-- read the rest of that article:

Associations with Serial Killers...

Leonard Lake and Charles Ng

Leonard Lake (with help from Charles Chi-Tat Ng) abducted 18 year-old Kathy Allen and later 19 year-old Brenda O'Connor, in hopes of fulfilling his fantasy of owning his own "Miranda". He is said to have been utterly obsessed with The Collector and plotted the abduction and holding of the women. ...

Christopher Wilder

Christopher Wilder, known as a spree/serial killer of young girls, had The Collector in his possession when he was shot and killed by the FBI. [4]

Robert Berdella

Robert Berdella held his victims captive and photographed their torture before killing them. He claimed that the film version of The Collector had been his inspiration when he was a teenager.[6]

I had no idea of the profoundly malignant influence of Fowles' book, which I found contemptible when I first read it back in the 70s, not least because Fowles lacked the courage to show Clegg raping and torturing Miranda as his real life imitators have done to their Mirandas, and as anyone with a particle of sense would have seen that such a person would do inevitably.

Our whole society needs an antidote to that book.
posted by jamjam at 4:00 PM on May 5, 2009

if part of your aim is to feel better about The Collector, then it's worth reading Fowles' own take on the novel

This may make you feel better about The Collector. Or it may make you feel worse about John Fowles. (I'm one of the latter camp--I rue the day I read The Aristos because it made me hate two of my previously favorite books.)
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:39 PM on May 5, 2009

Not a book (that I know of), not a woman we look up to, but damn, if you haven't seen The Last Seduction this might be the time. Whew.
posted by carterk at 5:53 PM on May 5, 2009

The Magus, also by Fowles, is an amazing read. And withing it away too much, the male/female character interaction is tipped very, very much in the other direction. While it isn't the central theme of the book it may let you see Fowles in a different light as a writer.
posted by bhance at 6:09 PM on May 5, 2009

Duckus, since you did mention science fiction, and since reading The Collector in the first place shows you are not entirely averse to mucking about in the sixties, I recommend the Telzey Amberdon stories by James H. Schmitz.

Telzey is about the most indomitable heroine in science fiction ever, and I think the tales hold up very well.

They are all available (for free) at the Baen Free Library. Start with Telzey Amberdon.
posted by jamjam at 7:55 PM on May 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

I like a lot of John Fowles' work, but do not recommend The Magus, which I feel really crumbles under its own weight. I certainly do not think that it will make you feel good and empowered in your womanhood -- the women are all much less fully realized human beings than Miranda is.
posted by redfoxtail at 8:18 PM on May 5, 2009

Scout's Progress sounds like just the thing...
posted by Arthur Dent at 11:34 AM on May 6, 2009

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