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232 of 244 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book of 2007 so far.....
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,...
Published on 20 May 2007 by Bethany Williams

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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing - mostly
Engelby is a lonely man toughened from his working-class upbringing by a bullying father and residential public school. He'd won a scholarship for the latter, a pyrrhic victory considering the harsh treatment he received there. His life-long dependency on drugs, thieving to afford them, using his high intelligence to blag his way through Cambridge university into a...
Published on 3 Aug 2009 by Amazon Customer


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232 of 244 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book of 2007 so far....., 20 May 2007
This review is from: Engleby (Hardcover)
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
By 
L. H. Healy "Books are life, beauty and truth." (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Faulks' Best Novel Yet!, 14 Mar 2009
By 
BookWorm "BookWorm" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
Without a doubt, this is my favourite Sebastian Faulks novel to date. Faulks is an author who doesn't stick to a formula - his topics and styles differ considerably between books, not always entirely successfully. But here he's definitely hit on a winner.

Engleby is narrated by the title character, a highly intelligent loner who leaves behind working class roots to win a place at Cambridge University, but struggles to fit in with society. The character is complex and fascinating, and I found him compellingly believable. I found I could pity and empathise with him whilst at the same time not particularly liking him and actually finding him quite creepy.

The narrative is sparkling and moves on at a good pace, and is really very funny in a lot of places. I'm not normally a fan of dark humour, but this is written so well I found myself laughing out loud at times. This is combined with really chilling moments that send a shiver down the spine. The skillful mixing of these elements makes it a really special book.

I do have a few minor criticisms. The story loses pace at the very end and becomes a bit tedious (you get the feeling Faulks is trying to get more mileage out of the research he did for 'Human Traces'). Also the refusal to name the university Engleby attends seems ridiculous when it is blatantly Cambridge. But these don't really detract from a great novel.

This is certainly the best book I've read this year (though it is only March) and one I always looked forward to reading the next chapter of.
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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
By 
S.M. Gidley (Sidmouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars EXPERIENCE A WARPED SENSE OF REALITY, 13 Feb 2009
This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
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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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, 23 Oct 2007
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This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
Engleby is a fascinating read, only just occasionally losing pace mid=section. The narrator, Mike Engleby, builds up a strange relationship with the reader, sometimes Iago-like in sinister mode, at other times human and credible, even wryly amusing on occasion - this novel plays with the concept of the unreliable narrator. From Engleby's disturbed childhood, to the harshness of his public school, following his academic path at Cambridge through to his later career as a journalist, the reader is constantly left wondering about the truth, culminating in a chilling finale - the novel never fails to disturb, enhanced by Faulks' clarity of style and control of material. Enjoyable - perhaps not always, but intriguing, certainly.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A life in the mind of Mike "Toilet" Engleby, 6 July 2008
This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
Setting aside the fact that `Engleby` is a gripping psychological thriller of sorts, Sebastian Faulks' new novel is also a brilliant meditation on the unreliability of memory, on the things lost by the fallability of the human mind. It also examines the unattainability or brevity of the present in an ever-evolving world and the protagonist's philosophical, and indeed psychological, inability to cope with that. Coupled with the faultlines in his memory, the fact that the eponymous Mike Engleby cannot account for events in his past has disastrous consequences for his future: "There are some things in the past that may have happened and some that may not have happened. But the reality of their happening or not happening then has no weight now".

Faulks' atmospheric - at times deceptively nostalgic - rendering of the 1970s means that while `Engleby` deals with the past, it does not conform to the author's favoured genre of the historical novel. Rather, in telling a whole life as a memoire - albeit one truncated by a selective or unreliable memory - Faulks is aiming to show life as transitive: always lived and felt, but fleeting and ungraspable. It's an astonishing work that cleverly uses the first person to play with notions of narrational reliability: of the lucidity and accountability of adulthood over youth, and of course the fragility of the human mind. Indeed the subject of psychosis is explored in far more interesting ways here than in the research-heavy but poorly characterised `Human Traces`. However, the groundwork done on Faulks' earlier work has really paid off in `Engleby`, a novel whose simplicity of form belies the depth of his knowledge of psychiatry.

As a loner and misanthrop, Mike Engleby is a rather marginal - if not invisible - character in the world that he inhabits, enabling a honest while cynical detailing of the life and times that surround him. He drifts through 1970s and 80s Britain, pulled along by the social transformations that shaped the period yet mysteriously detached from them, wavering between brutal lucidity and inertia. We notice very early, however, that something is missing from Mike "Toilet" Engleby's perception of himself, his memory, and the clarity of his perception of other people. It is difficult to judge at first whether we are just constricted by his subjective world view or if the narrator is being deliberately selective with the truth. At first his memory of events seems to have the supernatural accuracy of a savant, then seems obsessive, later completely unreliable.

Throughout the book we - and the narrative - are impelled by a desire to understand Engleby, or his place in the world, as much as to discover the truth of his actions. It's a wonderfully compulsive read, eventually driven by the protagonist's need to comprehend himself. Therefore, what we have is a portrait of someone which starts sketchily and gradually gains colour and clarity, much in the way that our minds tell - or trick - us into perceiving the present (a "trick" given that the richness of the present disolves with time). Debateably his finest novel, certainly his best since `Birdsong`, `Engleby` is one of the best new novels I have read in years.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tense and Utterly Readable, 24 Sep 2008
By 
Mrs. K. A. Wheatley "katywheatley" (Leicester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
Having only read Birdsong by Faulks previously and not having enjoyed it much I was reluctant to try this until a friend positively forced it on me. It is very, very different in style and content from Birdsong. It is dark, lucid and modern in tone unlike the Proustian romance of Birdsong.

This is the first person, diary account of the life of Mike Engleby a strange, anti social young man from an impoverished background who through his peculiar intellectual skills manages to rise from obscurity to secure a good place at university and then later as a successful journalist. The story mainly concerns Engleby's obsession with a young woman he meets at university, her disappearance in his final year and what impact this has on him in his future life.

It becomes increasingly dark as the narrative continues and is quite brutal at times, although never in a gratuitous way. Faulks uses these moments of lucid violence as wake up calls and punctuation marks in the narrative, allowing us the reader to see the story in a new and more revealing light.

A fascinating, well written although macabre book. It reminded me very much of John Fowles' novel; The Collector, which I heartily recommend if you like this.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Toilet humour . . ., 30 Nov 2010
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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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enduring sadness, 29 Jan 2008
By 
Robert Machin (Hampshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
It almost pains me to say it, but this really is a great novel. I never really bought into the whole Birdsong mania - to me it seemed to borrow too heavily from genuinely great chroniclers of the Great War (such as Lyn Macdonald), and in common with Faulks' other early novels, there was something cold and mechanical about its construction which was consistent with the feeling I got whenever I came across him on the wireless, so I have to say I pretty much knew what I thought about Mr. Faulks.

So how gutting to have one's hard-won prejudices overturned, because 'Engleby' is a revelation. Part psychological thriller in the Patricia Highsmith mode (Engleby is in some ways a descendant of Ripley) part school and university memoir, it grips from the first page (particularly for any child, then student, of the 60s and 70s, who will find the period detail pretty faultless). Which would be great if that was as far as it went, but Engleby has a real and convincing depth. As the book proceeds, Faulks manages to wring pity for the monster that is Michael Engleby, and from there to pity (and a deep sense of sadness) for the human condition - but without any sense of manipulation (though it comes perilously close in the psychoanalytical episodes towards the end) This is a book with heart and soul, and I really rather loved it.
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Engleby by Sebastian Faulks (Hardcover - 4 Sep 2007)
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