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Under the Skin [Paperback]

Michel Faber
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)

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Book Description

18 Aug 2011
Isserley spends most of her time driving. But why is she so interested in picking up hitchhikers? And why are they always male, well-built and alone? An utterly unpredictable and macabre mystery, Michel Faber's debut novel is an outstanding piece of fiction that will stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Canons (18 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857861778
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857861771
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (195 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 187,385 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Isserley always drove straight past a hitch-hiker when she first saw him, to give herself time to size him up. She was looking for big muscles: a hunk on legs. Puny, scrawny specimens were no use to her.
So begins Michel Faber's first novel: a lone female scouts the Scottish Highlands in search of well-proportioned men and the reader is given to expect the unfolding of some latter-day psychosexual drama. But commonplace expectation is no guide for this strange and deeply unsettling book; small details at first, then more major clues, suggest that something deeply bizarre is afoot. What are the reason's for Isserley's extensive surgical scarring, her thick glasses (which are just glass), her excruciating backache? Who are the solitary few who work on the farm where her cottage is located? And why are they all nervous about the arrival of someone called Amlis Vess?

The ensuing narrative is one of such cumulative, compelling strangeness that it almost defies description--the one thing that can be said with certainty is that Under The Skin is unlike anything else you have ever read. The result is a narrative of enormous imaginative and emotional coherence from a writer whose control of his medium is nearly flawless and who applies the rules of psychological realism to a fictional world that is terrifying and unearthly to the point that the reader's identification with Isserley becomes one of absolute sympathy.

Michel Faber's debut deserves to inherit and expand upon the acclaim bestowed upon his short-story collection Some Rain Must Fall. Under the Skin is a reviewer's nightmare and a reader's dream: a book so distinctive, so elegantly written and so original that all one can say is simply to experience it. An extraordinary first book. -- Burhan Tufail --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'... strange, adept, original ... Would that more first novels were as adventurous or as funky and daring in their conception.' - Independent on Sunday --Independent on Sunday

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
64 of 71 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning, intensely clever book 20 Mar 2002
By A Customer
Under The Skin is a really excellent novel. This book is truly unputdownable. Not only is it a gripping page turner, it is very, very well written. Also it gives the reader an opportunity to examine the issues involved at a higher level if they so wish. I will not explain anything of the plot, as I would not want to spoil anyone else's pleasure in the suspense and intrigue. Enough to say that you are puzzled and surprised right up to the end. Not a word is wasted. Although there are a few red herrings thrown about this is by no means a criticism. Faber draws us in, and then surprises us with another strange dimension. He could have been tempted into politicising or sentimentality, but he keeps his narrative firmly on the rails. The message in the book speaks for itself, and, when I reluctantly finished it, I was very surprised to find myself thinking about a lot more that hitch hikers in Scotland. This book has been placed on my shelf of 'best ever reads', which is still fairly small despite nearly thirty years of reading adult fiction. Thank you Michel Faber, and I look forward to reading more of your work.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars superb for book groups 9 Oct 2011
By tallmanbaby TOP 1000 REVIEWER
This is an odd book. It is hopefully not giving away too much to say that it is literary science fiction. Usually literary science fiction is a thankless, joyless genre. Literary folks turn up their nose at a proper author slumming it, while science fiction folks find it pretentious and unconvincing. Readers are often assaulted with hundreds of pages of unremitting depression, stuff that would make you look forward to root canal work. Brave New World, 1984, The Road.

Thankfully this is actually a very readable book, you are gripped from the get go, the central character has an endearing innocence, that means that you sympathise with the strangeness of her world. The central mystery, is actually resolved fairly early on in the book, and is never actually explained terribly much more by the end. So if you are looking for a layered book, where explanations tumble out like Russian dolls then this is not the book for you. However I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed by the book. It is beautifully written. There is an innocence and crispness of expression, this is poetry in book form. The author casts an alien eye over our familiar world seeing the strangeness in it.

The book is set in the Highlands, and although the author lives in the Highlands I never got the impression that he knew the area or indeed had ever been there. The place is described as some artistic blank canvas upon which he places his characters.

I am marking down to four because I found the ending underwhelming. It is not a dreadful ending, but it is not a great ending either. It seems to end, without ever tying things up particularly. I could imagine this book being a splendid choice for a book group, you read it, and just want to discuss it with someone else.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a mesmerising heart of darkness 29 Aug 2010
By Sentinel TOP 500 REVIEWER
Given the many previous reviews, it's difficult to avoid repetition here. Still, here goes: this is one of the most haunting, mesmerising, beautifully unsettling books I've ever read (and I've read by the skip-load!). What begins as a strange journey with elements of gothic/serial killer/thriller, develops into a beautifully written and heartbreaking road down which we accompany Isserley, the main character, into a richly imagined world.
Faber only gradually reveals the complex forces which underpin Isserley's role, and the moral and ethical dilemmas she encounters, with which we are also encouraged to wrestle, and not rush to judgement. The book's dark heart opens to explore what it means to survive in this world (do ends justify means?), the price paid for loyalty, solitude and loneliness, love and redemption, all set within an unforgettable isolated backdrop in the Black Isle in Scotland.
If you can't be arsed reading something which I've made sound difficult/pretentious, fear not, for the momentum and the pace of Faber's mesmerising grip on the plot flings you headlong through revelation after revelation, as you hurtle through the twists and turns of this astonishing novel. I wager you'll come out at the other end exhausted, wiser, and unable to shake the dark beauty of this story for a long time. An essential read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rollercoaster of a read 12 Aug 2009
Phew! What can I say but it's the first book in a while that I've read that I couldn't put down. This is a really good 1st novel and griped me from page one.

Like other reviewers I don't want to spoil the plot and it is hard to categorise. There is a bit of sci-fi, a bit of horror and some very nice character studies. With a sparsness of words Michel Faber creates really clears pictures both of the people and landscape.

It is an easy read but don't be fooled by that as it does leave you thinking about various things including corporate power, food and what it means to be human.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent 18 Sep 2003
By robulus
I had just read 'the Crimson Petal and the White' and loved Faber's writing style, but like many others was ultimately disappointed. I decided the author was worth another shot and picked up 'Under the Skin', his first novel. What a joy that I did.
As you will no doubt be aware by now the storyline of this novel is amazing, unique, and cannot be described in any way as it will ruin the slow revelation for others. But the storyline is a distant second to the writing, the same story would have been laughable in any other writer's hands. Faber's understated style swings from poetry to street slang with the reader hardly noticing. It is completely immersive and vivid, with an almost drug enhanced hyper-reality to it.
Most amazing of all is the depth of character, and how we come to know and feel about the characters he creates. You will come to understand Isserley intimately, and care about her deeply. In the context of this novel such an achievement cannot be praised highly enough.
It is also gratifying to have the story resolved, something he stole from us in the Crimson Petal.
Get this book and read it as soon as you can.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book and have enjoyed other novels by...
I really wanted to like this book and have enjoyed other novels by Michel Faber.Unfortunately, I found it incredibly dull. Read more
Published 18 hours ago by joanna kidman
3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but predictable
Competent, but predictable and there are too many holes in the plot to make it a satisfying read.

The book is supposed to make us question where our own food comes from... Read more
Published 3 days ago by Fenderbender
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual and intriguing
I have not read anything quite like this in a long time. Do not want to talk about the content as it would spoil it but I was hooked from the beginning. Read more
Published 4 days ago by jackal
5.0 out of 5 stars Bleakly beautiful. Horrifically poignant.
Saw the film and just had to read the book to find out more about Isserley's story. Where she came from, what she was trying to achieve. Read more
Published 10 days ago by sean rafferty
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Read
I read this book during the hype for the film and before I saw the film. It's a great read and comparing it with the film treatment is fascinating. Read more
Published 12 days ago by mortimer.rt
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting idea but a little slow
It's a great concept but found the book to be pretty repetitive in parts and lacked pace. Was a little disappointed.
Published 19 days ago by Daf
5.0 out of 5 stars forget the film - read the book
What a wonderful book. It was our book club book otherwise I would probably never have picked it up. Read more
Published 27 days ago by precious stone
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written, drew me in from page one
Gentle sci-fi, without feeling like sci-fi. I loved the intelligent writing, the unpretentious but beautiful phrasing. The sort of book I wish I'd written myself!
Published 28 days ago by April Shower
5.0 out of 5 stars Will you give up meat after this?
Subtle clues right from the start cause the reader to question the reality of a not unfamiliar crime scenario. Read more
Published 28 days ago by art49man
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic book
I bought this book after watching the movie and was pleasantly surprised to find that the original book shares a few elements but otherwise is fairly different in the details. Read more
Published 28 days ago by ksid
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