Book - 2007
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Mike Engleby says things that others dare not even think. A man devoid of scruple or self-pity, he rises without trace in Thatcher's England and scorches through the blandscape of New Labour. In the course of his brief, incandescent career, he and the reader encounter many famous people - actors, writers, politicians, household names - but by far the most memorable is Engleby himself. Sebastian Faulks's new novel can be read as a lament for a generation and the country it failed. It is also a meditation on the limits of science, the curse of human consciousness and on the lyrics of 1970s' rock music.
Publisher: London : Hutchinson, c2007
ISBN: 9780091794507
Branch Call Number: FICTION FAU
Characteristics: 342 p. ; 24 cm


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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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