Engleby

Engleby

by Sebastian Faulks

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307387882
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/09/2008
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Sebastian Faulks worked as a journalist for fourteen years before taking up writing full-time in 1991. In 1995 he was voted Author of the Year by the British Book Awards for Birdsong, his fourth novel and his second, following A Fool's Alphabet, to be published in the United States. He is also the author of Human Traces, On Green Dolphin Street, Charlotte Gray, The Fatal Englishman, and The Girl at the Lion d'Or. He lives in London with his wife and three children.www.sebastianfaulks.com

Read an Excerpt

1


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. The choir stalls were carved by the only woodcarver you’ve ever heard of. The captain of the Boat Club won a gold medal at an international games last year. (I think he’s studying physical education.) The captain of cricket has played for Pakistan, though he talks like the Prince of Wales. The teachers, or “dons,” include three university professors, one of whom was on the radio recently talking about lizards. He’s known as the Iguanodon.

Tonight I won’t study in my room because there’s the weekly meeting of the Folk Club. Almost all the boys in my college go to this, not for the music, though it’s normally quite good, but because lots of girl students come here for the evening. The only boys who don’t go are those with a work compulsion, or the ones who think folk music died when Bob Dylan went electric.


***

There’s someone I’ve seen a few times, called Jennifer Arkland. I discovered her name because she stood for election to the committee of a society. On the posters, the candidates had small pictures of themselves and, under their names and colleges, a few personal details. Hers said: “Second–year History exhibitioner. Previously educated at Lymington High School and Sorbonne. Hobbies: music, dance, film–making, cooking. Would like to make the society more democratic with more women members and have more outings.”

I’d seen her in the tea room of the University Library, where she was usually with two other girls from her college, a fat one called Molly and a severe dark one, whose name I hadn’t caught. There was often Steve from Christ’s or Dave from Jesus sniffing round them.

I think I’ll join this society of hers. It doesn’t matter what it’s for because they’re all the same. They’re all called something Soc, short for Society. Lab Soc, Lit Soc, Geog Soc. There’s probably a knitting group called Sock Soc.

I’ll find out about Jen Soc, then go along so I can get to know her better.


I won a prize to come to my college and it pays my fees; my family’s poor. I took a train from school one day after I’d sat the exams and had been called for interview. I must have stayed in London on the way, but I have no memory of it. My memory’s odd like that. I'm big on detail, but there are holes in the fabric. I do remember that I took a bus from the station, though I didn’t know then what my college looked like. I went round the whole city and ended up back at the station, having made the round trip. Then I took a taxi and had to borrow some money from the porter to pay for it. I still had a pound note in my wallet for emergencies.

They gave me a key to a bedroom; it was in a courtyard that I reached by a tunnel under the road. I imagined what kind of student lived there normally. I pictured someone called Tony with a beard and a duffel coat. I tried really hard to like the room and the college that was going to be mine. I imagined bicycling off to lectures in the early morning with my books balanced on a rack over the back wheel. I'd be shouting out to the other guys, “See you there!” I’d probably smoke a pipe. I’d also probably have a girlfriend—some quite stern grammar school girl with glasses, who wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste.

In fact, I didn’t like the room I was in that night. It was damp, it was small and it felt as though too many people had been through it. It didn’t seem old enough; it didn’t seem 17th century, or modern: it was more like 1955. Also, there was no bathroom. I found one up the stairs. It was very cold and I had to stay dressed until the bath was run. The water itself was very hot. Everything in the room and on the stairs smelled slightly of gas, and lino.

I slept fine, but I didn't want to have breakfast in the dining hall because of having to talk to the other candidates. I went along the street and found a cafe and had weak coffee and a sausage roll, which I paid for from my spare pound. I re-entered the college by the main gate. The porter was sullen in his damp lodge with a paraffin heater. “G12, Dr. Woodrow’s rooms,” he said. I found it all right, and there was another boy waiting outside. He looked clever.

Eventually, the door opened and it was my turn. There were two of them in there: a big schoolmasterly man who showed me to a chair, then sat down at a desk; and a younger, thin man with a beard who didn't get up from his armchair. Teachers at my school didn’t have beards.

“You wrote well on Shakespeare. Do you visit the theatre a good deal?” This was the big one talking. It sounded too much like an ordinary conversation to be an interview. I suspected a trap. I told him there wasn’t a theatre where we lived, in Reading.

I was watching him all the time. How grand, to be a Doctor of whatever and to weigh up and decide people’s future. I’d once seen a set of table mats in a shop which had pictures of men in different academic gowns: Doctor of Divinity, Master of Arts and so on. But this was the first real one I'd seen. He asked me a few more things, none of them interesting.

"…the poetry of Eliot. Would you care to make a comparison between Eliot and Lawrence?"

This was the younger one, and it was his first contribution. I thought he must be joking. An American banker interested in the rhythms of the Anglican liturgy and a pitman's son who wanted to escape from Nottingham, maybe via sex, or by his crude paintings. Compare them? I looked at him carefully, but he showed no sign of humour so I gave an answer about their use of verse forms, trying to make it sound as though it had been a reasonable question. He nodded a few times and looked relieved. He didn't follow it up.

The big one leafed through my papers again. “Your personal report,”he said at last, “from your teacher…Did you have difficulties with him?”

I hadn't been aware of any, I said.

“Is there anything that you'd like to ask us about life in college? We try to make everyone feel welcome."

It seemed wrong not to ask something; it might look as though I didn't care. But I couldn't ask any of the things I really wanted to know. In the silence we heard the college clock chime the half-hour. I felt them both looking at me. Then I felt a trickle of sweat on my spine. I hardly ever sweat normally, and it gave me an idea.

“What's the thing with laundry?”

“What?" said the big one, gruffly.

“Do you have…Well, like, washing machines? Is it done centrally or do I take it somewhere or what?”

"Gerald?”

"I'm not quite sure," said the younger one.

“Each undergraduate is assigned a moral tutor,” said the schoolmasterly one. “A Fellow of the college who can help you with all your personal and health questions."

“So he'd be the one to ask?”

"Yes. Yes, I imagine so.”

I thought that now I'd broken the ice, it might be good to ask another question. "What about money?" I said.

“What?"

“How much money will I need?”

"I imagine your local authority will provide a grant. It's up to you how you spend it. Do you have questions about the work?"

“No. I read the prospectus.”

“Do you find the idea of Chaucer daunting?—

"No, I like Chaucer."

"Yes, yes, I can see that from your paper. Well, Mr. Engle . . . er…”

“Engleby.”

“Englebury. You can go now, unless…Gerald?"

“No, no.”

"Good. So we'll look forward to seeing you next autumn."
I didn't see how they could let me go without telling me how it had gone. "Have I won a prize?" I said.

"We shall be writing to your school in due course. When we've completed the interview process. It's an exceptional year."

I shook his offered hand, waved at the seated one and went out, down the oak stairs. What a pair of frauds.


In the evening I tear a ticket from a book and take it to the college dining hall, which was designed by Robert Adam. You have to buy a book of thirty-five every term; you don’t actually have to use them, but the cash you pay in advance keeps the kitchen going. I’m wearing a long black gown over my jeans and sweater and there are candles in sconces on the painted plaster walls. We stand up when a door behind the top table opens and the Fellows of the college come in to dine. The Master is an oceanographer, who once drew maps of undersea mountain ranges. He knows how Australia was once attached to China or how Ghana sweated in the foothills of the Andes. I think he imagines that New Zealand once broke free from Germany.

The crystal glasses glitter in the candlelight. They drink wine. We drink water, though you are allowed to ask for beer if you like. Stellings is the only man to do this.

“A pint of ale, please, Robinson,” he says to the stooping butler. “Beer for you, Mike?”

I shake my head. Stellings brews his own beer in a plastic barrel. He calls it SG (short for student's gin: drunk for a penny, dead drunk for twopence) and once forced me to drink it, even though it made me sick, with its powerful taste of malt and raw alcohol, which he achieves by doubling the sugar input recommended on the side of the kit. There is no bathroom near his room, so I had to vomit into a plastic watering can on the landing.

I sometimes don’t take dinner in the dining hall. I’ve found some places I like better. One of them is a pub, a walk of ten or fifteen minutes away, over a green (there are a lot of greens or “pieces” as they call them here), down a side street, up a back street. The beer there tastes much better than Stellings's homebrew. It’s made by a brewery called Greene King. One of the King family, they say, is a famous novelist. The lights here are low, the floor is made of wooden boards; the other people are not from the university. They are what are called ordinary people, though each person is really too specific to be ordinary. It’s quite dark, and people talk softly. Although the barman knows me, he doesn't intrude. I often have a baked potato, or a cheese and ham pie, which is messy to eat because the melted cheese is stringy and there's so much of it between the layers of filo pastry.

I also drink gin and vermouth, mixed. I like red vermouth better than white. When I’ve drunk two or three of these, I feel I understand the world better. At least, I don’t mind so much that I don’t understand it; I can be tolerant of my ignorance. After three or four, I feel that my ignorance is not only tolerable, but possibly in some way noble.

Other times, I go into the middle of the town. There’s a bright Greek restaurant there, where it’s embarrassing to be seen alone—but I like the food: they bring moussaka with rice and with chips and with Greek salad and pitta bread with olives and hummus, so if you're hungry it's a good place to go. Sometimes I don't eat for two or three days, so I need to load up. With this Greek food I drink white wine that tastes of toilet cleaner, and they go together well.

I also take drugs. I’ve tried most things. My favourite is opium, though I’ve had it only once. It’s really hard to get hold of and involves a palaver with a flame and a pipe. I bought it from a boy who got it from a Modern History Fellow in Corpus Christi who had recently been to the Far East. The thing about opium is that it makes pain or difficulty unimaginable. If while you were under its influence someone were to tell you about Zyklon B and your parents dying and life in a dementia ward or Passchendaele, you might be able to understand what they meant—but only in a hypothetical sense. You might be interested by this idea of “pain,” but in a donnish way. I mean, I’m “interested” in the special theory of relativity; the idea that there’s a dimension in which space rolls up and time distorts and you come back from a journey younger than you left is certainly intriguing, but it doesn’t have an impact on me, day by day. That’s what opium does to suffering: makes it of hypothetical interest only.

I mostly smoke marijuana, which I buy from a boy called Glynn Powers. I don’t know where Glynn buys it, but he has several kilos of it in the built–in bedside locker in his tiny room in the new Queen Elizabeth block, a short walk beyond Fellows’ Pieces (i.e. grass area reserved to dons). The block was opened by a princess only three years ago and in the entrance hall of the building, next to the commemorative plaque, there’s a picture of her standing in one of the little cells, smiling at the president, with the bedside locker in view behind them. The brickwork of the wall is exposed because they discovered when the building was completed that the size of each room was smaller than the minimum required for single human habitation by the Department of Housing. By removing the plasterboard they were able to add just enough volume to go legal.

In his bedside locker, Glynn keeps polished scales and brass imperial weights. Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin: you have been weighed in the scale, balanced and found wanting. Not that I’d argue with Glynn Powers or tell him he was wanting in any way at all. He wears a leather jacket with a thin fringe of tassels halfway down the back; he has a thick, trimmed beard and a motorbike. I have neither. He is studying Engineering. He doesn’t smoke himself, which I find sinister.

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Engleby 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 31 reviews.
bragan on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is the story of Mike Engleby, who, when we first encounter him, is a student at "an ancient university" (obviously Cambridge, although it's never named), where his main activities seem to be drinking, popping pills, keeping to himself, thinking detached thoughts about the lives around him, and behaving in a rather stalker-ish fashion toward a girl he's interested in... and about whose later disappearance he may or may not know more than he's telling anyone.I have such mixed feelings about this one. For most of the first hundred pages or so, I felt highly disappointed. It was well-written, but everything about it, including the description on the front cover, had led me to expect a fascinatingly twisty main character, and I just wasn't finding him interesting at all. Some of his observations were somewhat insightful, some of his backstory depressing, and some of his behavior vaguely creepy, but none of it was particularly affecting or engaging. Mostly, he struck me as pretentious and prematurely world-weary in that way that's so common among students, and which can be so annoying to those of us who have been there and grown out of it. As I read on, though, both the character and the novel itself grew on me. I won't say too much about its central premise, in the interest of keeping things spoiler-free, but my feelings about that are very mixed, too. I think ultimately it works better than it seems like it ought to, but I do have several issues with it all. And then in the end, the book suddenly starts gazing into its own navel in a rather irritating way. Still, it left me with the feeling that I'd at least just read something interesting, which is a lot more than I expected fifty pages in.
andersonden on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A creepy little book.
lucybrown on LibraryThing 8 months ago
For some reason when I threw this in my bag at The Friends of the Library Book Sale, I thought it was about a rancher or cowboy of something. I think I was thinking of the movie Somersby, which I believe is about a cowboy. Anyhow, Engleby is not about a cowboy, unless cowboy's now herd cattle in Cambridge and London. What Engleby is is a mesmerizing account of a man's hidden life, hidden even from himself at times. God knows you will find out enough about Engleby's life, but still much is a mystery. It isn't even clear if he is always telling the truth, so that even what you know is maybe not so. I have read reviews where reviewers have complained of the annoying arrogance of the protagonist's narration, his perpetual and insistent analysis of everything from cigarettes to his teachers, his seeming lack of humor. All I can say is that it has to be that way, but I can't say why. I would recommend bearing with what might seem to be his endless drone of didactic opinions. It seems for reviewers that the fist part of the novel in which Engleby is a student at Cambridge is the most stolid; however, I was utterly captivated as I tried to see what made this guy tick; obviously he was not your ordinary undergrad. On the other hand, during the time he was establishing his adult life in London, things began to drag. Because a puzzle had been established. I felt like something needed to happen soon to keep the narrative thread from being broken. I admit that I skipped some of his rants since I really felt that I had gotten the gist of Engleby's personality. That said, for the most part I found the story riveting and well-written.
lizchris on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I found this story subtle and moving. The book is almost solely told from the point of view of Mike Engleby, a clever working-class boy who never quite fits in, whether at school, university or work. You acclimatise yourself gradually to his world. I found it easy to identify with him at several points where he is bewildered by other people and truly wants to be on his own. (Not everyone enjoys dinner parties or office banter!) I think I felt more sympathy with him than many other reviewers. But as the story unfolds, you realise how little interaction he has with other people and how much he lives in his own thoughts and depends on alcohol and drugs to cope with the world.Gradually, cracks start to appear with losses of memory and vague allusions to difficult incidents in the past.
PeskyLibrary on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Sebastian Faulks' Engleby is a murder mystery of a different sort. Though you are pretty sure about who the murderer is early on you are still questioning your assumptions some way into the book. I loved this book because it is well-written, in a sophisticated style which is in keeping with the story itself, and is intellectually stimulating, both in vocabulary and context, of course it would have to be since the narrator is a 1970's , Cambridge University grad, and though that may be giving something away early anyone with their druthers about them should be able to figure that much out pretty quick.Our main character, and narrator, Mike "Toilet" Engleby, is a fascinating individual, and one is never sure if one quite likes him as a person, which makes for interesting reading as I always feel more inclined to grab a book when I greatly sympathize with the protagonist. Mike is narrating his life story and refers back to his working class Reading childhood, his ugly private school days replete with sordid bullying, and his fascinating Cambridge days, with wonderful scene settings; then the storyline follows him for quite some time through his life. And, of course, I can't ruin the ending, suffice to say it is fitting.It is a rather longish book at 319 pages, or perhaps I just felt that way because I was so anxious to see how it all turned out in the end. I am an anglophile and really enjoyed the place descriptions, the road trips taken, and the characterizations of individuals¿ accents. There are a few passages that come across as somewhat pedantic, and slow down the narration, you know, the ole author showing off his own fluency on post Cold War England, or Trotsky-ite vs. Marxist thought etc. But, all in all a good read and a refreshing change from your run-of-the-mill mystery!MAT 02/24/2010
Pandaros on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This was one of the most brilliant books I've ever read.Mike Engleby is the most vile and disturbing person imaginable, but the way Faulks portrays his mind and his thought processes is genius - not to mention how he bridges the gap between love and its correlation with sex (or lack of). The most brilliant ending a book could ever have which makes you rethink relationships.
siri51 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Why am I reading books about murderers? Didn't like this at all
bowerbird on LibraryThing 8 months ago
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.
miyurose on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Slight spoiler warning! This is one of those books that is difficult to discuss unless you give *some* indication of what¿s going on.When you meet Engleby, it doesn¿t take long to realize that something is 'off' about him. To me, he appears more 'Asperger¿s Syndrome' (especially because of his memorization skills) than 'sociopath', but since you never get a definitive answer to the question, I suppose it could be either/or/both/somethingelse. And since Engleby is your narrator, you also aren¿t sure what you should or shouldn¿t believe. What isn¿t said is sometimes more important than what is.This was a decent read if you¿re willing to make the investment. Sometimes Engleby¿s train of thought is a little random, and I have to admit I found myself skimming several parts. And while I liked seeing the professionals¿ assessments of Engleby (especially when followed up by his own narcissistic reactions to them), I could have done without 'the journal of Engleby after 18 years of treatment'. I think I would have rather left that to my imagination, though a sardonic wink to the reader at the end would have made it all worth it.
RussBriz on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I liked this book. It covers an era very similar to mine albeit in the antipodes. Public school, university, music . He covers a lot of ground with insights into Law, journalism, Mental Health, education theory ... which were well thought out and expressed. The tangled and disjointed narrative captures the schizoid personality well. Most enjoyable and well crafted. I will search out his other books now.
Bat on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Hope I haven't given the story away with my tag! Not a normal plot - you only realise 3/4 through. My favourite Faulks, and that's saying summat...
PaolaF on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Dark, disturbing and compelling.
aadyer on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A clever premise, no doubt, and very readable, but this didn't really grab me here. It does exhibit Faulk's ability to produce easy to read prose, his interest in psychiatry and a story that is interesting rather that intriguing. This isn't a thriller, don't expect to be on the edge of your seat with it. The final third does get a lot better but I would say that those readers who are not familiar with British University life, those who do not have an interest in the minutiae of modern day psychiatry are going to struggle with this. Good, but no cigar
whirled on LibraryThing 8 months ago
It took me a long time to get on board with Engleby, mostly due to the ickiness of both the early boarding school scenes and Engleby himself. I was eventually won over by Faulks' assured tone and the occasional moments of dry humour, which were a necessary counterpoint to the darker elements of the story. I was never quite sure where fact finished and fiction began with Mike Engleby - I figured when he was chatting with Sir Ralph Richardson about motorbikes it was probably fantasy, but who knows? An entertaining (albeit somewhat frustrating) read.
isabelx on LibraryThing 8 months ago
'If it's not me,' he said eventually, 'it'll be my successor. The files, the paperwork, the notes will all be left meticulous. Marked up, indexed, cross indexed. And you, Mr Engleby, are going into the file marked "Unhappy".''Tu quoque,' I said.'What?''You're going in my unhappy file, too.';Starting during his second year at Cambridge, this is the life story of Mike Engleby. He is a working class boy who gets a scholarship to a minor public school where his life is made hell but he does well academically, and by the time he reaches university he is curiously uninvolved in real life, sitting on the edge looking in, with his only connections seeming to be with his little sister Julie and his university friend Stelling. When a student he has admired from afar goes missing, he is upset, but he graduates, moves to London and goes on to become a successful Fleet Street journalist.The whole book is supposed to be Engleby's journal, but it doesn't read like a journal and I was surprised when the psychiatrist mentioned how Engleby's journal had helped him to understand him. I would have been more convinced by the journal if the book said that he had written it while in the special hospital, looking back on his life.I had a problem believing in Jennifer's diary and letters to her parents. They seems excessively long for a student who had plenty of work, friends and societies to keep her busy. If it wasn't for the lack of mentions of Engleby I would have thought he had made them up himself.
canalrat on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Possibly the best fiction I've read this year.I began being prepared to like Engleby, but certain details began to jar. He's scornful of other's intellect by has very middle-of-the-road musical tastes, he seems to have no friends but an obsession with one classmate. I ended up appalled but still sympathetic thanks to the rather brilliant writing.I don't want to say more - it risks giving away the plot. It is worth reading.
Fluffyblue on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I was a little sceptical about reading this as there have been many mixed reviews. The book started well and drew me in quite easily. I enjoyed learning about Engleby's life in Cambridge, and his early life at public school. When he moved to London, I found myself losing interest, and at one point wondering whether to carry on. I'm so glad I did because the last third of the book was brilliant. I felt swept along by the story, and the character of Engleby. I found him to be quite believable. I'm not sure how I felt about him though - I think I liked him, but you never actually felt that you got to know him. I think that was part of his character.The book was well written - having never read a Faulks before I wasn't sure what to expect. I found it quite easy to take in and well set out. I will certainly be reading more of his work - although I'm led to believe that this particular book is quite different from some of his other books.
jwhenderson on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I read Sebastian Faulk's novel Charlotte Gray almost a decade ago. It is 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.
wendyrey on LibraryThing 8 months ago
One of the best ' get into the head of a madman/disturbed person/ eccentric' books I have ever read, maybe because some (I said some!) of his eccentricities are parallel to mine ( on a scale of one to ten mine are 5's his are 10's). A darkly funny, engaging book about an extreme social isolate , who finds understanding other people a challenge (sometimes I'm not even sure other people are real) whose obsessions end in tragedy and who also manages to hide the tragedy from everyone including himself.Excellent book.
jintster on LibraryThing 8 months ago
My second Faulks and just as impressive (in a different way) to Birdsong. Engleby is a near genius loner bordering on the sociopathic. His story is told in the first person allowing Faulks to use one of my favourite narrative techniques, the unreliable narrator. When done well, this way of telling a story demands an element of interaction from the reader, who is obliged to work out the true story behind the one he is being told rather than absorb it passively. The book is split into three phases. Engleby has a miserable time at boarding school, where he is relentlessly bullied due to his impoverished background. At Cambridge, Jenny, the girl he falls in (unrequited) love with disappears and is assumed dead. Finally, he becomes a decent journalist. The disappearance of Jenny is the book's centrepiece but its really not enough to sustain a plot in which not an awful lot happens. Nevertheless the quality of Faulks' prose shines through and we get what seems to be a realistic insight into the mind of a distinctly odd person.The school part of the novel is expertly done, although it must be said that public scholl bullying is a bit of a literary cliche. The time in Cambridge is brilliantly evocative of the 1970s. Faulks loses his way a bit in the final phase, using Engleby as a mouthpiece to snap at the bits of modern Britain he doesn't like, especially education. Overall, a very good novel.
NeilDalley on LibraryThing 8 months ago
A compelling and disturbing read, this book raises so many questions about truth and fiction and about our assumptions about other people. It is by far the best book by Sebastian Faulks that I have read. Having finished it my head is full of ideas about the issues raised. I should probably read it again. I would have given it five stars but for some of the more turgid passages about half-way through that became a little boring.Turning everything on its head, not least fact and fiction itself, is a very powerful skill for a writer to have.
dsc73277 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I agree with Jinster that this one loses its way somewhat towards the end, though for me this was less because of the bemoaning of modern Britain and more to do with the exploration pyschological science, something which Faulks is clearly far more interested in than I am. Don't misunderstand me though, this is a good piece of literary fiction. It takes a good writer to create a thoroughly dislikeable character and yet make you sympathetic enough to stick with his story.Am I mistaken or does the author make a cameo appearance in this book? When, during his journalistic career, Engleby considers joining the new national newspaper that became The Independent, one of the things that puts him off is an encounter with a bearded bloke when he goes for interview. Is this the bearded Sebastian Faulks who worked for that newspaper for several years?
jeniwren on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This is a brilliant book and a perfect reading experience for me. The appeal is in its subtlety and how the author draws the reader in. The story probes the inner mind of a Cambridge University student , Engleby in the 70's who is a strange loner and very much on the fringe of society. He also has an unhealthy appetite for alcohol , prescription medication and petty theft. He has a fixation on a fellow female student and throughout the novel recites word for word from memory entries from her personal diary which he has stolen. In the meantime she has disappeared under mysterious circumstances. Although Engelby is an unsettling and disturbing character his wry observations of those around him and the world in general are very funny and insightful.
nocto on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Really enjoyable audiobook. I liked the strong voice of the narrator and the totally dead pan way it was written. I knew nothing about the story and had no idea where it was going, which was a good thing. I wonder what I would have thought of it as a paper-book really. I expect I would have enjoyed it too, though I know I've found Faulks tough going to read before. It was nice to have something good to listen too whilst sewing though!
dazzyj on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Persevere with this one. Faulks is a master of tone, capturing the instability of what it is to be a human being, not to mention several ruminations on The Meaning of Life. A nasty narrative voice unfolds in the end with a sweet surprise.