Book review: The Collector is a foray into the Arctic unknown

Mohsin Hamid's cleverly written new novel unwinds the tale of a baby born into poverty who beats the odds to rise to prosperity, writes Malcolm Forbes

The Collector of Lost Things
Powered by automated translation

Collector of Lost Things
Jeremy Page
Little, Brown

This is a new voyage for the author from Norfolk, England, whose previous works also have a distinct maritime feel. However, while the factual Salt and The Wake take place where he grew up, this is a fictional foray into the great unknown of the Arctic.

Eliot Saxby, the protagonist, finds himself on the Amethyst as a result of a wager on whether a flightless Arctic bird is extinct. He soon realises things and people are not what they seem as he witnesses first-hand man's butchery and deceit, and also has to face the ghosts of his past as an unexpected fellow passenger joins the expedition. What comes out is an intriguing balance among characters, what course this quest will take next, what man will do for profit, an unlikely romance and ultimate tragedy intertwined.

Page describes his tale with a sometimes Melvillean attention to maritime detail, and a Swiftian misanthropy as the cruel, undeniable truth of why these sailors venture into such inhospitable places becomes clear.

While sometimes brutal and bleak, Page's illustration of this world succeeds in engaging the reader while taking them into the unknown, but also keeps them wondering where this journey will take them.

* Matt Smith