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Thursday, October 13, 2011


Sebastian Faulks
Doubleday, 2007

Mike may be highly intelligent and seem normal to his classmates, but something is not quite right. When he becomes fixated on a classmate named Jennifer Arkland and she goes missing, the reader is left wondering if Michael Engleby may have had something to do with it.

We first meet Engleby when he at university, but as he reveals more about his past abuse at the hands of others, we realize that he is a very unreliable narrator and start to mistrust his version of events. As he grows up, finding a job and even a girlfriend in London, Mike only becomes increasingly detached from those around him; it seems that he would prefer to observe and record his version of events instead of becoming a part of them. His inability to relate to others mixed with his frequent black-out episodes cause the reader to suspect that Engleby is not to be trusted and in fact, could be considered quite dangerous to others. Or, is he?

Reviewers were mixed about this book and I can understand why. I am fascinated with the premise of a narrator that can’t be trusted and admire any author’s ability to successfully portray the subtle nuances required to give this impression. We guess pretty quickly that Engleby is the prime suspect in the murder, but he seems to lack the necessary mental illness required to be a killer. This doubt on the reader’s part is the tension that carries the story through to an unpredictable ending. While the middle part dragged on a bit too long for me, I kept with the story because I wanted to find out whether Mike actually was a murderer or not. And I was not disappointed.

This title would make a good book group choice.


Other novels by this author:
The Girl at the Lion D’or (1989)
Birdsong (1993)
Charlotte Gray (1998)
On Green Dolphin Street (2001)
Human Traces (2005)
Devil May Care (2008)
A Week in December (2009)

Other titles you may enjoy:

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan (1998)
Joe and Clarissa Rose's spring idyll in the park is cut short when Joe helps rescue a child from a balloon accident, one man is killed, and Joe becomes the target of suspicion and ultimately an assassination attempt.

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner (1985)
The members of a Southern family contribute their individual tribulations to this encompassing impression of rural poverty.

Drood by Dan Simmons (2009)
A tale inspired by the mysterious final years of Charles Dickens finds the fifty-three-year-old literary master irrevocably changed when a train journey with his mistress ends in violence.

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