Engleby

Engleby

Book - 2007
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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 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.

Sebastian Faulks's new novel is a bolt from the blue, unlike anything he has written before: contemporary, demotic, heart-wrenching - and funny, in the deepest shade of black.

Publisher: London : Hutchinson, 2007
ISBN: 9780091794507
0091794501
Branch Call Number: FIC Faulk 3558ad 1
Characteristics: 342 p

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JimLoter
Oct 17, 2018

Engleby, like its namesake protagonist and (unreliable) narrator, is at (most) times an aimless, erudite, pedantic, wearisome novel that nevertheless surprises with unexpected twists and changes in tone (and voice) ending up a rather disturbing portrait of a narcissistic sociopathic alcoholic murderer.

Cambridge student Mike Engleby is an antisocial, egotistical ass who is unhealthily obsessed in a vague and seemingly non-sexual way with his classmate, Jennifer. When she disappears and is presumed murdered, Mike is briefly considered a suspect, but the case goes cold. Mike graduates and initially struggles to find his way in the world, but his education, intelligence, and luck leads him to a steady gig as a journalist and a girlfriend. He never forgets Jennifer - he even memorizes her diary, which he stole years ago. And yet his photographic memory has significant holes, and as those holes are suddenly and shockingly filled in the full picture of Mike's personality is revealed.

As narrator, Mike does not miss an opportunity to sneer at or otherwise deliver withering criticisms of everything from his tutor's grammar, to the later works of Shakespeare, Beethoven, and Matisse, to how his sister orders her steak. Yet, just as the reader is feeling he or she might want to hurl the book into the fire and silence this pompous ass, he reveals an unexpected tenderness, a clever observation, or a surprising insight ... just like a brilliant and manipulative narcissistic sociopath might do. The final third of the book is a radical departure from the previous two-thirds, and works well because now we, the readers, know exactly who we are dealing with.

"Engleby" is a frustrating but compelling read.

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