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Under the Skin [Paperback]

Michel Faber
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 May 2004
A brilliantly told and beautifully written novel that defies categorisation, Under the Skin introduces Isserley, a woman obsessed with picking up male hitchhikers - so long as they're well-muscled and alone. But why? As the story unfolds and the reason is made explicit, the reader is drawn inexorably into a completely unexpected and increasingly terrifying world.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd; New edition edition (3 May 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841954802
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841954806
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (170 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 268,155 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.


'The fantastic is so nicely played against the day-to-day that one feels the strangeness of both ... A remarkable novel.' New York Times

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
59 of 66 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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24 of 27 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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing read 22 May 2013
By cherry
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
only bought this as it was on offer, so though I would give it a try. I couldn't put it down! strange storyline at times- fantastically written and you really empathise with the main character. I've enjoyed other Faber books such as the crimson petal and the white- this is nothing like that though and definitely worth a read
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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
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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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I wonder if Faber chose the title because he knew what effect it would have on his readers? If so, he was spot on: you can forget any horror / sci-fi/ psychological thriller you may have read before, because this novel will invade your mind and keep you awake at night.
Set against the bleak emptiness of rural Scotland, Isserley cruises up and down the lonely roads searching for fit young male hitchikers. What promises to be a raunchy exploration of female sexuality, turns into something strange sinister and nasty, and it has to be said - completely unexpected.
This book blew me away. I have never read a novel that has "got" to me as much, and not only because in parts it is pretty graphic, but also because it made me sit up and evaluate humanity's relationship with other creatures, and our blind imperialism over species not our own.
There are flaws: Given Isserley's past, she should be an immaculately constructed character in her own right. She is not, and this wekens the considerable impact of the book. Likewise, the reader's disbelief is occasionally asked to suspend a bridge too far, but these are minor quibbles in a generally excellent work.
"Under The Skin" is a refreshing and unconventional tale with a disturbing flavour and unsettling plot. Faber's greatest achievement however, is to make us sympathise with Isserley, a character we cannot begin to understand.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
This is one of the most original and completely gripping novels I have read in a long time.In fact, it is now in my list of best novels of all time. Read more
Published 1 day ago by J. H. Bretts
4.0 out of 5 stars Under The Skin
Weird and wonderful. Compelling and abstract. Deeper levels of meaning or just a simple story? Certainly something different and as far from the beaten track as is possible. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Juddanaut
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought for a friend
I enjoyed this book so much I bought another to pass on to another. At the time of me reading it ( a good while back) I thought it one of the most unusual books I'd ever read.
Published 2 days ago by V. M. Rowlinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Much better than film
Bought this on spec having seen film. Have to say I found book much better and more horrific. But there is pathos and even humour here too. Read more
Published 8 days ago by petrov
4.0 out of 5 stars Loads of atmosphere, not much plot
This book is so hard to categorise. Is it sci-fi, erotica, horror, or just a long tract for the vegetarian society. Whatever it is, I did enjoy reading it. Read more
Published 9 days ago by John Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Road this quickly before you see the film!
A great read, takes a while to work out what is going on ... wonderful to read a story that unfolds without great signposts telling you what's coming. Read more
Published 13 days ago by Karolina Knapton
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!
Thought provoking, and insight on what it is to be human. Sci-fi writing at its best. Intelligent and thrilling. Great!
Published 13 days ago by Webbo78
5.0 out of 5 stars i wonder what the film is like
I read this because someone recommended I go see the film. It is a very interesting story which throws up more questions than answers.
Published 14 days ago by Meena S
4.0 out of 5 stars Promises lots but still not sure it delivered
As far as novels go, in that the writing and the subject draws you in... and once there you wonder at the outcome, so you're hooked. Read more
Published 14 days ago by easyrider
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of black humour
A good story and full of neat twists, with some good jokes and look at humans behind the mask of taboo subjects.
Published 15 days ago by David JT Lang
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