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Engleby [Hardcover]

Sebastian Faulks
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (215 customer reviews)
RRP: 17.99
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Book Description

3 May 2007

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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Hutchinson; 1st edition (3 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0091794501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0091794507
  • Product Dimensions: 23.8 x 16 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (215 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 281,023 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sebastian Faulks was born in April 1953. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1991, he worked as a journalist. His French trilogy - The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray (1989-1997) - established him in the front rank of British novelists. UK sales of Birdsong exceed 2,500,000 copies, and for this novel he was named "Author of the Year" by the British Book Awards in 1995. It is regularly voted one of the nation's favourite books. Charlotte Gray has also sold over a million copies and was filmed with Cate Blanchett in the main part.

Product Description


"Evidence of Faulks's remarkable empathy and mastery of the novelist's art... Compelling, disturbing and significant... A remarkable achievement. It's a novel which holds your attention and, more importantly, one which makes you feel and think, one which invites you to ponder the mystery of character and the autonomous individual - if indeed there is such a being. What more can you ask for?" (Allan Massie, Scotsman)

"Engleby contains much of brilliance; Faulks turns out to be an unnervingly good ventriloquist - where did he learn to imitate the overblown modulations of an 18-year-old girl's diary? - and a born thriller writer" (Mail on Sunday)

"Very funny and, at the same time, deeply disturbing...Engleby the character is a tour-de-force, a person utterly without empathy who nevertheless evokes our own; a man with the intelligence to examine himself and yet still not understand. A great read, a great novel" (Daily Mail)

"Just as Birdsong is praised for its minute evocation of the horror of fighting a war, Engleby deserves praise for its close and believable depiction of a personality disorder. Mike's memory lapses, brain-freezes and moments of wet-skinned panic are drawn with pitiless accuracy... What is perhaps most impressive in this convincing novel is that no matter how much we find out about Mike, he remains as indecipherable as white noise" (Spectator)

"Like Human Traces, Engleby is distinguished by a remarkable intellectual energy: a narrative verve, technical mastery of the possibilities of the novel form and vivid sense of the tragic contingency of human life. Within the grand design of his narrative themes, Engleby's systematising nature allows Faulks the opportunity for bravura flourishes of Seventies period detail - the drugs, the music, the florid excesses of pre-Murdoch newspaper printers, the serpentine convolutions of suburban roundabouts, and so on. The combination of serious purpose and playful execution is intensely exhilarating" (Jane Shilling, Sunday Telegraph)

Book Description

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
231 of 243 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book of 2007 so far..... 20 May 2007
This book is phenomenal; it has shot into my top ten books of all time. It takes a lot to make it into this esteemed list and Faulks has certainly delivered a lot here. He is truly a master and this change from his usual style is brilliant. He has moved away from the historical novel to a relatively contemporary setting. The story touches on the themes of education, class, politics, and psychosis. The narrator is Engleby, an undergraduate at Cambridge in the 70's. He is a strange character, a loner and outsider, very much on the fringes of life. He is not particularly pleasant but he is engaging, intelligent and funny. However, there is always something missing from his accounts of his life and the reader can never be sure if they are missing some details. Most of the book takes place inside his mind and since he has `selective memory' he is always one step ahead of the reader. This isn't a book in which a great deal happens but the beauty is in the subtlety.

Faulks' writing style is very lucid and he uses language sparingly; with his books you get none of the 'misty' effect I've noticed in many new books lately where the actual story seems to be lost underneath a mass of unnecessary verbosity. He is perceptive and insightful with a dry sense of humour. His ruminations on the pointlessness of studying English are very, very funny. Faulks is not afraid to offend and that is a refreshing quality in this day and age.

I read this book very quickly as I found myself literally unable to put it down. If you are a Faulks fan this is a must read for you. If you are new to him, Engleby is a great introduction (although don't expect his other works to be similar - they're not.) Every time I open a book I hope that this will be the one that gets me really inspired and keeps me up all night reading; this was the one.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, powerful novel 28 Mar 2008
A convincing portrayal of a loner, a troubled character, Mike Engleby, this is a gripping read that draws you back until it is finished. I was intrigued how this would progress and how his life would play out after the occurences we hear about from his school and college years. The novel tells Engleby's story as seen through his eyes, and it is up to the reader to believe what they will to an extent. Faulks cleverly evokes some degree of sympathy in the reader for Engleby and the lonely world he inhabits, yet we are fearful and chilled by some of his actions and reactions to people and events as the novel progresses. It was interesting to read a novel in which mental illness is dealt with, and compelling, though at times painful, to be inside Engleby's head. Though it doesn't make for an easy read, I really enjoyed this novel, and am glad I picked it up. The period detail of the times he lives through is a thorough and well written backdrop to the events that Engleby recites. I thought the occasional comments that are slipped in about the changes in education over the time period that the novel spans, 70's through to present day, were quite telling.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EXPERIENCE A WARPED SENSE OF REALITY 13 Feb 2009
By the end of this book, I found myself questioning whether any of Engleby's life story was true, or whether his memoirs were made up entirely of a combination of warped recollections, bendings of the truth and outright lies.

A great story; you'll find yourself playing out alternative explanations for hours!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Toilet humour . . . 30 Nov 2010
Format:Audio CD
This is specifically a review of the audio-book, which is read by Michael Moloney. I'm not normally a fan of MM's portrayals, but here, his performance and his character are brilliant. He completely captures the tone and timing of Mike Engleby, and the orbiting cast - in fact I found his Engleby haunting to the point of him popping up in my dreams. The sense of creeping tension that builds from page one is tangible, compelling and disturbing. Slowly, the jigsaw pieces of Engleby's life are pushed into place - from being bullied at school for saying "Toilet" to ending up in the natural resting place for those of diminished responsibilty (Fleet Street). When Mike's mental state is analysed towards the end, I felt so shaken by the strength of the characterisation that I started to identify some of Engleby's 'symptoms' in myself! When Engleby's physical appearance is revealed (deliberately as late as possible), that is also a shock that shakes your pre-conceptions. The one-star reviewers who all say "I worked out what happens straightaway" have missed the point - Engleby is not a whodunnit, or a thriller; it's a searing sketch of someone who might be sitting next to us in the pub . . . . . or looking at us in the mirror.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A character who sucks you in 13 Jan 2008
It's a real relief when a novelist is brave enough to present readers with a character who isn't begging to be liked and Faulks has done that with Engleby; in fact he's done much more.

As you make your way through this novel Mike Engleby changes not only the name by which he is known but seemingly also his character. As he reveals parts of his life you can't help feeling more and more sympathy for him as he appears to gain more depth. However, all this leaves you stranded at the novel's denouement which, as other reviewers point out, you can see coming from quite a long way off. Finally you get to see him as others in the novel do and you feel foolish for having fallen for his slight charm and resourcefulness.

Although spanning several decades, Engleby's reach is actaully quite short with all personnel and events seemingly drawn irresistably into Mike's troubled mind.

This is a clever, quite disturbing, tidy novel that is devastatingly unsentimental.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
The worst book I have ever attempted to read. Dreadful is a euphemism.
Published 29 days ago by pencil
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Don't read this if you suffer with depression as it is a depressing book.
Published 1 month ago by Steve
4.0 out of 5 stars Not my favourite but am stillimpresseds by it
very different to the other books I have read by Sebastian Faulks. Not my favourite but am stillimpresseds by it.
Published 1 month ago by Mavis
5.0 out of 5 stars Empathy With a Dubious Character
I'm almost an exact contemporary of the eponymous hero/villain, and the accounts of growing up disadvantaged, being given a scholarship boy's chance, and the transition to... Read more
Published 3 months ago by R. Newbold
5.0 out of 5 stars Smitten
Not my first SF, but different from the others I read, and persuaded me to buy more. A great example of an unreliable narrator - but read it for yourself.
Published 3 months ago by LadyA
2.0 out of 5 stars Englby.
I didn't like this book, I read 17% of this book. I found it cruel and unpleasant. Sorry that i bought it.
Published 3 months ago by E.R.
4.0 out of 5 stars It was a long but mostly enjoyable journey
A protracted detective thriller accurately describing an aspect of college and London life in the last quarter of the 20th c , I loved it
Published 5 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Different again
Sebastian Faulks manages to surprise with every book and this is no exception. Unfortunately, non of the characters were pleasant particulary Englby but that does not detract from... Read more
Published 5 months ago by pinkwallpaper
3.0 out of 5 stars A slightly disappointing Faulks
I really can't decide what to say about this book and that's because I can't decide whether I liked it or not. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars How dull
This is one of only 2 books I have started and not finished - the other being Pickwick papers. I have read thousands of books, virtually all the classics, (except Pickwick of... Read more
Published 8 months ago by E Frazer
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