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"Mike Engleby says things that others dare not even think." "When the novel opens in the 1970s, he is a university student, having survived a 'traditional' school. A man devoid of scruple or self-pity, Engleby provides a disarmingly frank account of English education." "Yet beneath the disturbing surface of his observations lies an unfolding mystery of gripping power. One "Mike Engleby says things that others dare not even think." "When the novel opens in the 1970s, he is a university student, having survived a 'traditional' school. A man devoid of scruple or self-pity, Engleby provides a disarmingly frank account of English education." "Yet beneath the disturbing surface of his observations lies an unfolding mystery of gripping power. One of his contemporaries unaccountably disappears, and as we follow Engleby's career, which brings us up to the present day, the reader has to ask: is Engleby capable of telling the whole truth?" Engleby can be read as a lament for a generation and the country it failed. It is also a poignant account of the frailty of human consciousness.


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"Mike Engleby says things that others dare not even think." "When the novel opens in the 1970s, he is a university student, having survived a 'traditional' school. A man devoid of scruple or self-pity, Engleby provides a disarmingly frank account of English education." "Yet beneath the disturbing surface of his observations lies an unfolding mystery of gripping power. One "Mike Engleby says things that others dare not even think." "When the novel opens in the 1970s, he is a university student, having survived a 'traditional' school. A man devoid of scruple or self-pity, Engleby provides a disarmingly frank account of English education." "Yet beneath the disturbing surface of his observations lies an unfolding mystery of gripping power. One of his contemporaries unaccountably disappears, and as we follow Engleby's career, which brings us up to the present day, the reader has to ask: is Engleby capable of telling the whole truth?" Engleby can be read as a lament for a generation and the country it failed. It is also a poignant account of the frailty of human consciousness.

30 review for Engleby Signed/Numbered/Slipcased Limited Edition

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    “In panic, time stops: past, present and future exist as a single overwhelming force. You then, perversely, want time to appear to run forwards because the ‘future’ is the only place you can see an escape from the intolerable overload of feeling. But at such moments time doesn’t move. And if time isn’t running, then all events that we think of as past or future are actually happening simultaneously. That is the really terrifying thing. And you are subsumed. You’re buried, as beneath an avalanche “In panic, time stops: past, present and future exist as a single overwhelming force. You then, perversely, want time to appear to run forwards because the ‘future’ is the only place you can see an escape from the intolerable overload of feeling. But at such moments time doesn’t move. And if time isn’t running, then all events that we think of as past or future are actually happening simultaneously. That is the really terrifying thing. And you are subsumed. You’re buried, as beneath an avalanche, by the weight of simultaneous events.” These are the words of Mike Engleby, Sebastian Faulks’ socially awkward, darkly comic, overly intellectual, morally ambiguous and immensely unreliable narrator for whom consciousness is nothing short of a disease. Borrowing from Patricia Highsmith, Samuel Beckett and Norman Bates, Faulks’ compelling, psychological character-study begins slowly but builds to an almost unbearable level of suspense. It’s one of the most exciting books I’ve read this year. Initially, the novel is quite restricted in its perspective, centering on the protagonist’s first-person narrative. The product of a poverty-stricken, working-class background—beaten by his father and cruelly tormented by schoolmates—Engleby earns a place for himself at Cambridge during the early 1970s where he lurks on the edges of social intercourse, spending most of his time obsessing over a young woman he first notices in a tea room of the University Library. When this young woman disappears, I found myself both questioning Engleby’s motives and his voice, yet, empathically, I couldn’t help but root for him; Faulks has a way of making the reader feel both complicit and compassionate. As the story moves forward to 2006, and the puzzling truths flower into multiple layers of self-deception, self-loathing, and self-analysis; Faulks delivers an Atonement worthy shift in narrative perspective that elicits a kind of self-reflexive interrogation of readerly desires. Indeed, the novel offers multiple pleasures as it negotiates the fluidity of identity, the mystery of identification, the need for closure and the inconsolable want for happiness. It’s a smart yet sad novel and very much worth the effort.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Asghar Abbas

    This was a weird experience. The book was very good and very very well written, but I don't know. I loved it but didn't enjoy it. Maybe because it spoke so well of human nature. Too close for comfort. Parts of it were undeniably hilarious. Then I realized it wasn't funny at all and yet being human is a funny business. This was a weird experience. The book was very good and very very well written, but I don't know. I loved it but didn't enjoy it. Maybe because it spoke so well of human nature. Too close for comfort. Parts of it were undeniably hilarious. Then I realized it wasn't funny at all and yet being human is a funny business.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kurt Keefner

    This is a great book, despite the narrative awkwardness that shows up in the end. It's true that Mike Engleby has a mental illness, but that's not why he's an important character. He's important because there's something of him, sick as he is, in every smart outsider. (And every truly smart person should be at least a bit of an outsider, don't you agree?) He is fascinated with the popular music of the time, finding significance in it. He politely goes along with people around him, while privatel This is a great book, despite the narrative awkwardness that shows up in the end. It's true that Mike Engleby has a mental illness, but that's not why he's an important character. He's important because there's something of him, sick as he is, in every smart outsider. (And every truly smart person should be at least a bit of an outsider, don't you agree?) He is fascinated with the popular music of the time, finding significance in it. He politely goes along with people around him, while privately holding them in contempt. He things they're just doing meaningless or pretentious things. Arrogant yet painfully shy (a lot of shy people are really hostile if you get right down to it), he maneuvers to spend time near (not with) his fantasy girl. When she disappears he's not sure he had anything to do with it, because he tries to blot things out with alcohol and pills, even though he has a phenomenal memory. Almost the whole story is told from Mike's point of view. One of the most amazing scenes, however, is when a couple of pages toward the end are told from the point of view of Mike's "best friend," and we see Mike from the outside. The change in perspective in wrenching and enlightening. What Faulks does, and I think most of the reviewers simply missed this (I won't say that it's because they're not smart enough!) is to put us under a magnifying glass so that we see our own anti-social yet painfully aware selves blown up to giant-insect proportions. Of course, if you're a "nice person" and a real "team player," you're not going to get it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jason Pettus

    (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) Too awful to finish: #5 in an ongoing series. The Accused: Engleby, by Sebastian Faulks How far I got: 220 pages (two-thirds of the way through) Crimes: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, unlike most of the other books at CCLaP that were too awful to finish, Engleby stands accused of only one crime -- of s (Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography [cclapcenter.com]. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted here illegally.) Too awful to finish: #5 in an ongoing series. The Accused: Engleby, by Sebastian Faulks How far I got: 220 pages (two-thirds of the way through) Crimes: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, unlike most of the other books at CCLaP that were too awful to finish, Engleby stands accused of only one crime -- of simply never telling an interesting-enough story for me to want to stick it through to the very end. Oh, I tried, ladies and gentlemen, oh how I tried, especially with the book itself being founded on a serviceable-enough premise: it's the bildigsroman (life story) of a young British wisp of a nobody named Mike Engleby, an anti-social everyman who never really engages with his fellow humans nor ever really lives a full human life; who has some sort of dark story in his past regarding a female classmate and a violent death, but that we don't know in detail because of Engleby's habit of binge-drinking combined with the constant popping of mysterious blue pills, leading to giant holes in his memory that he can only recall with dreamlike haziness as he tells us his story. But ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that turns out to be it; after setting up this intriguing premise in the first 25 pages, Faulks then spends another 300 basically saying, "Yep, he's still anti-social and a little creepy. Yep, he still binge-drinks and takes little blue pills. Yep, we still don't quite know what if anything he had to do with the mysterious disappearance of some girl in college he barely knew, and that he can barely recall anymore why he liked in the first place." Engleby isn't badly written, not by a long shot; it's just that it's pointless, it's so f--king pointless, with a storyline that would barely fuel a short story under other circumstances and characters that you never grow to love or hate or understand or experience any other emotion at all. By the end, the entire thing feels more like a literary exercise than a piece of entertainment, something forced on you against your will in a classroom environment to analyze for a grade, instead of something you voluntarily choose as a hard-working adult to read and enjoy. I felt bad about ultimately abandoning this book, because like I said there's nothing wrong per-se about what's actually there; but after three days of being stymied around page 220, not feeling any enthusiasm about picking the book up again (and having my entire reading queue suffer for it), I finally just had to admit that this book was simply not worth trying to finish. Verdict: Reluctantly guilty. Sentence: A quiet retirement to an undisclosed health facility in the country. God have Mercy on Sebastian Faulks' Earnest Yet Plot-Challenged Soul, Amen.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Annalee

    'Engleby' gripped me from the start. I love books set in Oxford or Cambridge, the whole student scene fascinates me, especially when set in the seventies, it has that retro vibe of a scene I missed out on by a few years. If that wasn't compelling enough for me, the story moves on to London in the eighties, not only the same era I lived in London but also the same part of London I lived in. I ate in the same restaurants as Engleby, we used the same library! I've been so immersed in Engleby's worl 'Engleby' gripped me from the start. I love books set in Oxford or Cambridge, the whole student scene fascinates me, especially when set in the seventies, it has that retro vibe of a scene I missed out on by a few years. If that wasn't compelling enough for me, the story moves on to London in the eighties, not only the same era I lived in London but also the same part of London I lived in. I ate in the same restaurants as Engleby, we used the same library! I've been so immersed in Engleby's world (he narrates the story through the journal he keeps) he is lingering in my mind a day after I finished the book (which I read in a day and a bit by the way). I am absolutely sure I will reread the book, I'm tempted to read it again right now.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Philippe

    My taste in contemporary fiction tends towards authors - Coetzee, Saramago, Barrico, DeLillo, Gustafsson, Murakami, Oshiguro - that master the art of meshing the darkly epic, the philosophically profound and the mildly surrealist into a compelling literary edifice. A few weeks ago I hurriedly picked up a copy of Faulks' Engleby in an airport bookshop. To be honest, I had never heard of Sebastian Faulks but there was something in the introductory paragraph - a mixture of matter-of-factness and gr My taste in contemporary fiction tends towards authors - Coetzee, Saramago, Barrico, DeLillo, Gustafsson, Murakami, Oshiguro - that master the art of meshing the darkly epic, the philosophically profound and the mildly surrealist into a compelling literary edifice. A few weeks ago I hurriedly picked up a copy of Faulks' Engleby in an airport bookshop. To be honest, I had never heard of Sebastian Faulks but there was something in the introductory paragraph - a mixture of matter-of-factness and grating irony - that made me want to read on ("My name is Mike Engleby, and I'm in my second year at an ancient university. My college was founded in 1662, which means it's viewed here as modern. Its chapel was designed by Hawksmoor, or possibly Wren; its gardens were laid out by someone else whose name is familiar ..."). I was hooked before even the plane had left the tarmac. The fascination endured, and deepened into exhilaration, as the narrative unfolded over its 340 pages and culminated in a spellbinding finale. This book can be convincingly read as a murder mystery, a complex psychological portrait and a dark metaphysical fable. Each of these layers raises the stakes associated to developments at underlying levels. As a portrait it digs deeply into the mental furrows of a character that is desperate to understand the workings of its own convoluted mind. As a fable it subtly sets in scene the archetypal confrontation between the life-confirming forces of light and the nihilistic powers of darkness. The "light vs darkness" metaphor is, perhaps, less appropriate as Engleby is a diabolical, luciferan character. Emotionally detached, superbly gifted as an observer and intellectually ruthless he is able to shed a cold, piercing light on the machinations of evil. The exhilaration from reading this book is due to Sebastian Faulks' ability to match the tonality and rhythm of his prose exactly to the complexity of his lead character and the carefully unfolding, layered plot. Engleby's reflections are cast in a wonderfully precise and luminous prose. It is hard etched, grammatically and lexically precise, but it also convincingly recaptures the informality of working class and student slang. And there are occasional flourishes of great, moving empathy when Engleby ruminates on the object of his veneration ("Jennifer sat back against the wooden settle in a slightly defensive posture; she wore a floral print skirt. I could see her bare legs. She had a sharp patella that gave a fetching inverted-triangle shape to the knee. She was smoking a cigarette and trying not to laugh, but her eyes looked concerned and vulnerable as Robin's low voice went urgently on. She is alive, God damn it, she is alive. She looks so poised, with that womanly concern beginning to override the girlish humour. I will always remember that balanced woman/girl expression in her face. She was twenty-one.") More than anything else it is the quality of this prose that exposes the reader to the complexities and contradictions endemic in diabolical violence. "Engleby" is a marvelous, masterly study and a great contemporary novel.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Maya

    This was a really compelling read. I read Birdsong many years ago, and I think that's the only Faulks novel I've ever read--and I frankly don't remember too much about, including whether or not I liked it, so it's unlikely I would have picked this up on my own. An NPR interview steered me in the direction of this book. A fascinating character study of a sociopath, more telling(particularly early on) in what isn't implicitly stated than in what is. I couldn't put it down. I find myself unable to s This was a really compelling read. I read Birdsong many years ago, and I think that's the only Faulks novel I've ever read--and I frankly don't remember too much about, including whether or not I liked it, so it's unlikely I would have picked this up on my own. An NPR interview steered me in the direction of this book. A fascinating character study of a sociopath, more telling(particularly early on) in what isn't implicitly stated than in what is. I couldn't put it down. I find myself unable to say a lot about it, because I've now recommended it to several people, and the things I find that I'd like to discuss would spoil the plot too much.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bandit

    This was a very strange reading experience. The premise was intriguing, but I didn't really like the book from the first chapter. Being a completist with OCD, alas there was no choice but to finish it, so I trudged on. For the first half of the book I positively hated it, then it either improved or made it seem so through a case of literary Stockholm Syndrome. Now, having finished it, from the rear view perspective, I can't say I liked it, but there was a grudging sort of appreciation. At least This was a very strange reading experience. The premise was intriguing, but I didn't really like the book from the first chapter. Being a completist with OCD, alas there was no choice but to finish it, so I trudged on. For the first half of the book I positively hated it, then it either improved or made it seem so through a case of literary Stockholm Syndrome. Now, having finished it, from the rear view perspective, I can't say I liked it, but there was a grudging sort of appreciation. At least I didn't hate it all the way. Engleby is a dense (almost stream of consciousness style) tale of an unreliable, unlikable and unsympathetic narrator. He has some sort of a psychological disorder, possibly of an autistic variety. He doesn't emote, love or experience joy, yet he manages to make a pretty decent life for himself...for a time. It is only when a glitch in the precisely tuned machinery of his life, that it becomes a relatively compelling or at least interesting read. There is a murder, but it's barely a thriller. There is a mystery of sorts, but even an averagely perceptive reader will see it coming from a mile away. What saves the book from utter tedium are some clever logistical (juxtaposing perspectives) and linguistic (Engleby is quite a clever weirdo with occasionally entertaining musings) tricks, though for the most part this portrait of a psychopath as a young and otherwise man really didn't work for me. Yet I can see how it would for some. A definite acquired taste of a reading material. Fairly well written, but, much like its eponymous protagonist, lacked soul or charm or something along those lines.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tori Clare

    My time is stretched, but I want to try to review at least one book a week. Time for Engleby. This book was breath-takingly brilliant. It was one of those rare books where incredible writing and an intriguing storyline combine to create, for me, the perfect novel. I was completely bewitched by Sebastian Faulks in this novel. A lesser writer may have lost me. Who would have thought that an ex-Cambridge graduate looking back over his complex life and recounting ragged and random encounters of it, c My time is stretched, but I want to try to review at least one book a week. Time for Engleby. This book was breath-takingly brilliant. It was one of those rare books where incredible writing and an intriguing storyline combine to create, for me, the perfect novel. I was completely bewitched by Sebastian Faulks in this novel. A lesser writer may have lost me. Who would have thought that an ex-Cambridge graduate looking back over his complex life and recounting ragged and random encounters of it, could make such compelling reading? Well, in the hands of a master craftsman in Sebastian Faulks, it was possible. Engleby (surname of said protagonist) is revealed page by page to the reader, who feels a little puzzled about this character. Told in first person, being right inside the head of Engleby is slightly disturbing at times, and moving at other times and very amusing at yet other times! I've never been so close-up to a character and simultaneously felt as though I didn't really know them at all. It's impossible to describe the merits of this novel. It has to be experienced, felt, savoured. Novels, by their nature, are always going to be subjective. For me, this was supreme story-telling - novel writing at its very best. It bored my husband who gave up and didn't finish it. I'm so glad his negativity (he half-read it first) didn't deter me from an investigation of my own. I was filled with compassion and confusion and awe and distress by the end of this book. I don't always need a happy ending. Life is painful sometimes; bad things happen and don't always resolve. Escapism is wonderful. We all need it sometimes. But there is no escapism in this book, just stark reality; life as it is for some. Real and raw. Who would have thought that an ex-Cambridge graduate could have aroused such emotion in me, and cause me to reflect upon them for a long time afterwards? Well, he didn't. It was down to the brilliance of one Sebastian Faulks, whose praises I cannot sing highly enough for Engleby. Loved it. LOVED IT!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ava

    very interesting story - very disturbing. disturbing because the main character is complicated. you know there is something "off" about him yet you can probably relate to him on some level (unless you had a really "wonder-bread life"). by the end of the book it disturbs you that you were able to relate to him at all (and that such a character could exist - but you know he probably could). i like the twists and the complexity. i also like that it is written in 1st person - you feel like you stumb very interesting story - very disturbing. disturbing because the main character is complicated. you know there is something "off" about him yet you can probably relate to him on some level (unless you had a really "wonder-bread life"). by the end of the book it disturbs you that you were able to relate to him at all (and that such a character could exist - but you know he probably could). i like the twists and the complexity. i also like that it is written in 1st person - you feel like you stumbled across this guy's diary (which you sort of did). i wanted the book to be longer (which is a sign i really enjoyed it).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    I was quite captured by this character's voice and perspective. Engleby's relationship to the world around him, the way he views his peers for example, is subtly bizarre in the way he is rational and yet weirdly detached. I found the prose to be frequently stunning and almost always fluid and smart. This reads like a thriller at times. It was a intriguing, moody read that I found enjoyable despite its dark tone. I am glad I found this author and look forward to reading other books by him. I was quite captured by this character's voice and perspective. Engleby's relationship to the world around him, the way he views his peers for example, is subtly bizarre in the way he is rational and yet weirdly detached. I found the prose to be frequently stunning and almost always fluid and smart. This reads like a thriller at times. It was a intriguing, moody read that I found enjoyable despite its dark tone. I am glad I found this author and look forward to reading other books by him.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Katerina

    Liked the first half - about school, college and the start of journalistic career - VERY much, then it got sort of pointless, and the last quarter was just meh. Also, Faulks sucks when he starts talking war, politics, our imperfect world etc.

  13. 5 out of 5

    James Henderson

    I had previously read Sebastian Faulk's Charlotte Gray, an historical novel of the best kind both for its historical accuracy and its dramatic characterization. In reading Engleby I found a psychological novel where characterization is brought to the fore with the presentation in the first person. That person, Mike Engleby, gradually becomes several characters as the novel progresses. Much like Dickens, notably in David Copperfield and Great Expectations, Sebastian Faulks's protagonist adopts di I had previously read Sebastian Faulk's Charlotte Gray, an historical novel of the best kind both for its historical accuracy and its dramatic characterization. In reading Engleby I found a psychological novel where characterization is brought to the fore with the presentation in the first person. That person, Mike Engleby, gradually becomes several characters as the novel progresses. Much like Dickens, notably in David Copperfield and Great Expectations, Sebastian Faulks's protagonist adopts different names for his persona over the course of the novel. The reader gradually begins to doubt the reliability of Engleby as narrator of his life story and with good cause, as he develops psychological characteristics that one may only categorize as pathological. Where these lead him I will leave to those readers interested in finding our for themselves. I found his story suspenseful, even as it began to repulse me. My interest was also piqued by his recurrent meditations like this one on time: "What is this present then? It's an illusion; it's not reality if it can't be held. What therefore is there to fear in it?"(p. 65) This is early in the novel, he has later meditations on the nature of thinking itself, and you gradually wonder if these are not symptoms of his gradual loss of the ability to distinguish reality from imagination. His pathology includes a variant of voyeurism that allow the author to incorporate diaries and other documents into the narrative - perhaps to confirm Engleby's own views. The combinatorial effect of the narrative techniques made this an intriguing psychological novel and raised the author in my estimation. I look forward to reading more of his novels.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jacquie South

    Wow. This is an intense and heavy read, but worth it in the long run. It took me a while to get into it, and it floundered a little in the middle, but the overall feeling of this book was gripping, dusturbing, chilling and sad. As this is written in 1st person, and as the protagonist is a 'loner' with definite social problems, most of the book is dialogue with himself. This can make for heavy reading at times, but it's also quite inthralling looking into the mind of a man whose view of reality an Wow. This is an intense and heavy read, but worth it in the long run. It took me a while to get into it, and it floundered a little in the middle, but the overall feeling of this book was gripping, dusturbing, chilling and sad. As this is written in 1st person, and as the protagonist is a 'loner' with definite social problems, most of the book is dialogue with himself. This can make for heavy reading at times, but it's also quite inthralling looking into the mind of a man whose view of reality and the world is so different from the ordinary. The descriptions of Engleby's life at boarding school was absolutely chilling, and incredibly sad. The sections towards the end of the book, when his friend Stellings is describing him in a police statement is also incredibly sad - one of the few times we actually get to see Mike as others see him. Of course, as a reader you have to be aware that everything he writes is subjective - can we really believe ANYTHING he says in his narrative? Even when he's quoting someone, or quoting from Jennifer's diary, can we really be sure that it's the truth? A book that's interesting on so many levels - its literary devices, its content, its exploration of mental illness/'personality disorders" and as a portrait of an abnornmal person and his realtionship with the world. Faulks is certainly an incredibly intelligent writer, and this book may not be everyone's cup of tea, but if you can hang in there, it's worth reading.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    This is a sharp tale. Sharp all the way through. Sharp in its telling, sharp in it's delivery, sharp in its prose. Sharp enough to cut. And it does. A 4-star all the way through (mainly due to the narrowness of the story), but it claimed it's fifth in the final chapter. And what a final chapter. "Don't look for closure..." This is a sharp tale. Sharp all the way through. Sharp in its telling, sharp in it's delivery, sharp in its prose. Sharp enough to cut. And it does. A 4-star all the way through (mainly due to the narrowness of the story), but it claimed it's fifth in the final chapter. And what a final chapter. "Don't look for closure..."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    Usually when I finish a book I am very clear of my opinion on it but this was a rare exception. I thought that it was a pretty average story which was superbly well told. Hence, confusion. It's quite difficult to describe the whole plot without giving it all away. In essence it is ridiculously simple. Written in the first person, it sees Mike Engleby tell the story of his time at university, the disappearance of the girl he admired from afar and his life from then onwards. Engleby is a great char Usually when I finish a book I am very clear of my opinion on it but this was a rare exception. I thought that it was a pretty average story which was superbly well told. Hence, confusion. It's quite difficult to describe the whole plot without giving it all away. In essence it is ridiculously simple. Written in the first person, it sees Mike Engleby tell the story of his time at university, the disappearance of the girl he admired from afar and his life from then onwards. Engleby is a great character, a supremely intelligent social outcast. The character is captured fantastically in the narration, there's a remarkable intellectual energy about it with constant reference to history and literature and science. But at the same time Engleby is an incredibly cliched character, being the way he is due to being beaten by his father and bullied at grammar school. For a character so grounded in his dislike of society, Faulks gives him exactly the background society expects him to have. Whilst obviously childhood trauma can affect someone mentally, it is entirely plausible for someone to have a similar disorder as Engleby does without having suffered it. The plot here is not good at all. If you are anything like me you will read the blurb and immediately have an expectation about what will happen but are hoping to be surprised. Then you read it and exactly your expectation happens. The trouble is that this story only requires a few hundred words yet somehow Faulks manages to stretch it out for an entire novel. So much of it is pointless fluff which adds nothing to the story whatsoever. I can see what Faulks was trying to do with this book but it just doesn't work. Despite this though there are moments of genius as the odd character rambles that you feel he is real. Faulks shows here he is a good writer but he just couldn't give us a plot which demonstrates he can be a good novel writer.

  17. 5 out of 5

    James Ferrett

    "My own diagnosis of my problem is a simpler one. It's that I share 50% of my genome with a banana and 98% with a chimpanzee. Banana's don't do psychological consistency. And the tiny part of us that's different—the special Homo sapiens bit—is faulty. It doesn't work. Sorry about that." The beginning of Engleby by Sebastian Faulks is deeply irritating. The narrator's condescension and generally disgust with society became boring quickly; this made me mistakenly place the novel into the groan-wort "My own diagnosis of my problem is a simpler one. It's that I share 50% of my genome with a banana and 98% with a chimpanzee. Banana's don't do psychological consistency. And the tiny part of us that's different—the special Homo sapiens bit—is faulty. It doesn't work. Sorry about that." The beginning of Engleby by Sebastian Faulks is deeply irritating. The narrator's condescension and generally disgust with society became boring quickly; this made me mistakenly place the novel into the groan-worthy genre of Embittered Failing Male Tells the World Why It Sucks. I was, thankfully, wrong. This novel is a satire, one which understands its subject  (namely, self-absorbed young men) so well that it took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that the qualities which made me dislike the novel were intentionally over-the-top. Faulks had been constructing an arsehole-pinata, which readers get to enjoy watching him beat down over the final 200 pages of this book. To think you know a character well and then have your perspective flipped is always an exhilarating experience, one of the most fascinating an author can provide. As Engleby went on, I came to realise that I had been attributing mistakes of the protagonist with mistakes of the author—yes, the protagonist was an insufferable, pretentious blowhard, but this was to set up an unusual narrative which is easily worth the novel's rocky start. Aside from the strange story-structure and protagonist, the novel has some fantastic details about life in 70s England. Faulks' portrayal of a "gaslight grey" country still struggling to rise from the ashes of the second World War thirty years on is a convincing one, filled with nice details of dilapidated buildings and soot-smeared skies. This is, ultimately, a fascinating character study, despite a beginning which may turn off readers who aren't prepared to grit their teeth. The final chapter makes it all worth it, though.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Tony Moore

    lead by great reviews and my wife's book club, i read this. started to fall apart around page 170, when the narrator suddenly reveals he has a rage problem. really? where's it been for 169 pages? other things i didn't like: 1. the book is set in the past, and characters make predictions about things that will happen in the future (now) and are of course right. cheap device. 2. There is a short rant about the Iraq war at the end that takes the stance that everyone already knows and embraces. 3. the lead by great reviews and my wife's book club, i read this. started to fall apart around page 170, when the narrator suddenly reveals he has a rage problem. really? where's it been for 169 pages? other things i didn't like: 1. the book is set in the past, and characters make predictions about things that will happen in the future (now) and are of course right. cheap device. 2. There is a short rant about the Iraq war at the end that takes the stance that everyone already knows and embraces. 3. the whole thing (spoiler) is engleby's journal, and i was hoping he'd rigged it to fool people in case he were ever caught in his crimes. not that clever. 4. the ending is like the ending of Psycho: you get a 20-page explanation behind the psychology of engleby that any normal reader would have already inferred. that's it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bowerbird

    Although well written this is not an easy read. If this had been the first Faulks novel I'd read I would not be keen to try more. Towards the end I understood why this book is written in such a way. One is looking into a very dark soul so it cannot be less than bleak. A condemnation of drug culture. Although well written this is not an easy read. If this had been the first Faulks novel I'd read I would not be keen to try more. Towards the end I understood why this book is written in such a way. One is looking into a very dark soul so it cannot be less than bleak. A condemnation of drug culture.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Cassandra

    Absolutely, positively, HATED this book. I could not even get past the first few chapters. If you enjoy reading about the minute and boring details of a character's daily activity you will like this book. Absolutely awful. Absolutely, positively, HATED this book. I could not even get past the first few chapters. If you enjoy reading about the minute and boring details of a character's daily activity you will like this book. Absolutely awful.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    This has to be one of the most boring books I have ever read. So many times I nearly gave up on it and only carried on because of having to discuss it at my book club. My advice, for what it's worth, is to give this one a miss!! This has to be one of the most boring books I have ever read. So many times I nearly gave up on it and only carried on because of having to discuss it at my book club. My advice, for what it's worth, is to give this one a miss!!

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Pool

    I read this in anticipation of hearing Sebastian Faulks in conversation to promote his 2018 novel Paris Echo. It was a double delight for me. I liked Engleby so much that I now regard it as my favourite Faulks novel (of the fourteen he has written in twenty five years). Then, to my surprise, Engleby was referenced and discussed specifically at this September 2018 evening at Daunts Books. Faulks’s comments at the reading (11 years after Engleby’s publication) • The ending. Engleby continues to elicit I read this in anticipation of hearing Sebastian Faulks in conversation to promote his 2018 novel Paris Echo. It was a double delight for me. I liked Engleby so much that I now regard it as my favourite Faulks novel (of the fourteen he has written in twenty five years). Then, to my surprise, Engleby was referenced and discussed specifically at this September 2018 evening at Daunts Books. Faulks’s comments at the reading (11 years after Engleby’s publication) • The ending. Engleby continues to elicit various theories about the ending. Faulks’s is surprised... I even used italics...!! • ‘Outlier’. Asked if he agreed that Engleby was quite unlike the rest of his work- definitely said Faulks • Engleby drew a much younger, and new, reading audience said Faulks • The context of its writing. Coming straight after Faulk’s most intense, draining novel Human Traces , Engleby took only three months to write, and was a necessary kind of purging, a catharsis, after the emptiness he felt following Human Traces The book itself is full of surprises. The writing style is radically different from Faulks's other works. It lacks the smoothness, and even Faulks's brother at first thought he had lost the art of writing (it becomes clearer why, as the book progresses). I don't want to give any detail of the story or characters; I think this is a book where the impact will be diminished by spoilers. If you love Cambridge, you should love Engleby. The great names for the roads and passages "tennis court road"; the pubs. If you recall student life (this is set in the 1970's) when basic parties, and student JCR's were the order of the day; when things were generally uncouth, then Engleby will resonate. There's a bona fide detective fiction built into the narrative. The portrayal of the police investigating team is tremendous, and funny. There a lot of psychiatric analysis, combined with legal perspective (and this is understandable given Faulks's immersion in this subject matter for Human Traces). Mike Engleby, our narrator, fascinates on every page- thats a rarity in first person narratives, in my experience. Sebastian Faulks is best known for Birdsong . Engleby is a relatively hidden gem that I have no hesitation in recommending.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Baba

    Nice work - a look at modern Britain through the eyes of a unreliable narrator 'loner' with a mental condition… from his working class background through boarding school, to Oxford and more. A mystery emerges tied around the disappearance of an undergraduate that he admires from afar. With some nicely paced dark comedy this is a pretty good, am quite accessible story by Faulks. 6 out of 12. Nice work - a look at modern Britain through the eyes of a unreliable narrator 'loner' with a mental condition… from his working class background through boarding school, to Oxford and more. A mystery emerges tied around the disappearance of an undergraduate that he admires from afar. With some nicely paced dark comedy this is a pretty good, am quite accessible story by Faulks. 6 out of 12.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    The cover of this edition says "Compulsively readable yet deeply disturbing..." Well, sometimes the ad copy exaggerates a bit. I found it quite readable, though not as compulsively as other books (including this author's Birdsong), and I didn't find it especially disturbing, certainly not "deeply." But if you don't like first person narratives or unreliable narrators, this might not be for you in any case and the exaggerations won't come into it. This is one long characterization. It is told as a The cover of this edition says "Compulsively readable yet deeply disturbing..." Well, sometimes the ad copy exaggerates a bit. I found it quite readable, though not as compulsively as other books (including this author's Birdsong), and I didn't find it especially disturbing, certainly not "deeply." But if you don't like first person narratives or unreliable narrators, this might not be for you in any case and the exaggerations won't come into it. This is one long characterization. It is told as a sort of diary, though it took me quite a few pages to identify it as such. Mike Engleby, according to his diary, was a victim of child abuse and a misfit. He was also quite brilliant with a photographic memory. I wanted to feel for him, but it was obvious there was something not quite right. With only two or three exceptions, the diary is written without any dates until well into it. I began to think it was taking place in the early 70s, and sure enough my suspicions were eventually confirmed. There are a lot of rock music references. I recognized a few of the bands, but if there was any symbolism contained in the quoted lyrics, it was entirely lost on me. I was never much for rock music, and Faulks - who surely drew on his own music memory for this - is nearly 10 years younger than I am. Ten years in music is pretty nearly an entire generation! I can't say I loved it - note the 4 stars. There is a lot of latitude in my 4- and 5-star ratings. Birdsong is toward to the top of my 5 stars, and this is toward the lower end of my 4-stars. Still, I'm likely to remember this one for awhile.

  25. 4 out of 5

    LindyLouMac

    I found this title rather different to the previous novels I have read by Sebastian Faulks in that this one is a thriller which initially surprised me. I thought the characterisation of Mike Engleby was excellent. A student at Cambridge when the action, that he narrates to us takes place, he came across as an intelligent young man who is terribly unstable. He unsettled me and I thought he seemed creepy, with his strange behaviour and stalking of Jennifer. Mike is definitely a social misfit who w I found this title rather different to the previous novels I have read by Sebastian Faulks in that this one is a thriller which initially surprised me. I thought the characterisation of Mike Engleby was excellent. A student at Cambridge when the action, that he narrates to us takes place, he came across as an intelligent young man who is terribly unstable. He unsettled me and I thought he seemed creepy, with his strange behaviour and stalking of Jennifer. Mike is definitely a social misfit who was not accepted by his contemporaries, although he seems to remain completely unaware of this fact. Jennifer disappears but as Mike is the storyteller you are never really sure about the facts as he presents them. Has he or has he not something to do with her disappearance? Sebastian Faulks certainly created a tormented character with his invention of Mike Engleby. I might not have found this a five star read but it will certainly remain in my thoughts for awhile, a chilling not easily forgotten narrative. I do try not to write reviews with spoilers so without giving away the ending, it left me feeling very uncertain.If you have read this do let me know what you think. Also published with more infomation at http://lindyloumacbookreviews.blogspo...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Natasha Chowdory

    Faulks has a way of writing that leaves the darker side of human nature laid bare on its pages and you are intimately exposed to it. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I don't know. But what it does show that Faulks is an exemplary writer. Before this, I'd only ever read Birdsong (which was disturbing and sad on a whole other level). So I had a vague idea of what to expect with this one (ish). On a basic level, Mike is a thirty-something writing retrospectively but for some reason there are a Faulks has a way of writing that leaves the darker side of human nature laid bare on its pages and you are intimately exposed to it. Whether this is a good or bad thing, I don't know. But what it does show that Faulks is an exemplary writer. Before this, I'd only ever read Birdsong (which was disturbing and sad on a whole other level). So I had a vague idea of what to expect with this one (ish). On a basic level, Mike is a thirty-something writing retrospectively but for some reason there are a few blanks in the story - some of which are explained and some are not. But that's ok because we go on Mike's journey with him, with sympathize with him, in fact we become him (such is the strength of Faulks' writing) to the point where when the inevitable happens you're sat there in shock. Most of all...it's just really really sad. And watching a character fall apart and put himself back together again is very difficult to read but you keep doing it anyway because you get sucked in, through layers of stark prose that are still poetic. Most of all I'm in awe as to how Faulk's manages to have about 3-4 different writing styles in the space on 1 book and manage to write those voices convincingly. Absolutely brilliant!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    This is an outstanding novel on many levels. As a read, it is an excellent story: the bleak tale of a man fundamentally at odds with society in an environment to which, for many reasons, he has been dealt a rough deal by. As a student from a poor background in Cambridge in the 70s; with an obsession over a 'perfect' girl who disappears. As a mystery it represents a classic page-turner. But this is a mystery written by Sebastian Faulkes; one of the best storytellers writing today. Without spoiling This is an outstanding novel on many levels. As a read, it is an excellent story: the bleak tale of a man fundamentally at odds with society in an environment to which, for many reasons, he has been dealt a rough deal by. As a student from a poor background in Cambridge in the 70s; with an obsession over a 'perfect' girl who disappears. As a mystery it represents a classic page-turner. But this is a mystery written by Sebastian Faulkes; one of the best storytellers writing today. Without spoiling the plot too much, the way in which he intricately implicates us in the life of the protagonist, and builds up our sympathy for him, only amplifies the steady stream of blows the novel builds up to. This is story telling at its masterful best. When we, the readers, realise the extent to which we have been conned, it only serves to focus even more sharply on the characterisation this novel so aptly draws. And, as ever, the attention to detail is absolutely convincing. I was extremely impressed with this work. However, Faulkes fans beware - this is nothing at all like any of his other works.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Chris Tinniswood

    Against all expectations, and rather reluctantly, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Unreliable narrators, especially one as pathologically unstable as Mike Engleby, are fun to read. The suspense here isn't about the plot, it's about the reader trying to figure out what to believe and what not to believe. Mike's darkly humorous, sometimes monotonous (in the most literal sense of the word, rather than the emotions it evokes in the reader) voice lays bare the social and political landscape of Thatch Against all expectations, and rather reluctantly, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Unreliable narrators, especially one as pathologically unstable as Mike Engleby, are fun to read. The suspense here isn't about the plot, it's about the reader trying to figure out what to believe and what not to believe. Mike's darkly humorous, sometimes monotonous (in the most literal sense of the word, rather than the emotions it evokes in the reader) voice lays bare the social and political landscape of Thatcher's, then new labour's Britain. Having grown up in these years myself, the detail with which Faulks decorated his narrative were both convincing and evocative of the time. If you're looking for an intricate plot, don't read this. It's not a novel about story, but rather a richly detailed depiction of a character hopelessly devoid of any guilt or empathy for others. His back story goes some way to explain why he is like he is, but one is still left with the feeling that he was always an accident waiting to happen, which of course it does in the pages of this novel! Any feelings of familiarity with his thought processes should immediately be followed up with a visit to a therapist!

  29. 4 out of 5

    Trelawn

    Not entirely sure how I feel about this one. It's the story of a disturbed young man, Mike Engleby, as he goes to college. The book is written as a memoir and skips back and forward in time through Engleby's time in public school where he is physically and mentally abused to college where is considered a loner and weird. The story builds towards the disappearance of Jennifer, a college student who Mike has become obsessed with. It's always in your mind that Mike has something to do with whatever Not entirely sure how I feel about this one. It's the story of a disturbed young man, Mike Engleby, as he goes to college. The book is written as a memoir and skips back and forward in time through Engleby's time in public school where he is physically and mentally abused to college where is considered a loner and weird. The story builds towards the disappearance of Jennifer, a college student who Mike has become obsessed with. It's always in your mind that Mike has something to do with whatever happened to Jennifer. But as time goes on and Mike builds a successful career for himself you begin to think that maybe he was just an awkward guy who has finally become more comfortable in his own skin. Faulks paints the picture of a troubled man but plays it so close to the wire that you never know is he just odd or really capable of doing terrible things. An unsettling story very different to his other books. Probably nearer to 3.5 stars.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Karlan

    Mike Engleby's life story emerges gradually from the 1970s when he was an abused student to the 2000s when he is a successful journalist. The novel becomes darker when a college friend of Engleby's goes missing. His memories contain great blanks, and the reader could assume it was because of the drugs and alcohol he consumes. The unsolved mystery haunts him as memories return and his sanity is unclear. Mike Engleby's life story emerges gradually from the 1970s when he was an abused student to the 2000s when he is a successful journalist. The novel becomes darker when a college friend of Engleby's goes missing. His memories contain great blanks, and the reader could assume it was because of the drugs and alcohol he consumes. The unsolved mystery haunts him as memories return and his sanity is unclear.

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