This is the story of Mike Engleby, in the form of his journal, beginning with his time at university in the 1970s, looking back to his school days, and coming up to present day. The novel develops from just a journal into a very clever and unusual piece of work as a fellow student (Jennifer) disappears from the university and during the novel’s progression the reader sees a different side yet again to Mike Engleby; someone very difficult to predict and understand, someone not fully in control of his actions with his memory loss and use of drugs and drink, someone with quite an obsessive personality, and someone who feels he is capable of anything and who doesn’t seem to have the same ‘stop’ signs as most people.

Mike is a complex character who observes life and the people he meets, and comments on these to himself (and the reader) in often quite a cutting and judgmental way. He doesn’t seem to fit in well with other people or to be accepted and is bullied cruelly while at school. He does seem to be a victim, although I don’t think he feels this way about himself; I rather think he feels that he is far superior to others and does not need their friendship and acceptance. He is very studious and obviously very intelligent, and he can be quite witty in a sarcastic way about situations and people, but he can also be chilling and cruel himself. I found him a difficult person to like as I felt he was often showing off his knowledge to the reader and to himself, although I did feel great pity for him particularly during his school days and early life.

As the book progressed I began to feel slightly apprehensive that Engleby may be more involved in the student’s disappearance than he has admitted in his journal, and I found myself almost compulsively turning the pages to find out the result. He is an extraordinary and very complicated character, who is therefore fascinating to read about and to look into his mind and motives and thoughts courtesy of his journal.

I am full of admiration for this novel; it is like nothing I have read before. It is a bit like a whodunit, but the reader is left suspecting the story teller (Engleby) yet also full of doubts and questions as all we have is Engleby’s point of view; even when the book ended I still felt uncertain as to whether Engleby had told the truth to the reader about Jennifer’s disappearance and also about his mental faculties.

The book is written in the first person, and I realise I prefer this style to one in the third person; it feels more intimate and like you’re hearing their private thoughts, whereas the third person feels more like you’re receiving someone else’s interpretation of that person’s thoughts.

This is the first Sebastian Faulks book that I have read and I was extremely impressed by it and thought it an incredible piece of work; I will definitely look out for others.

Engleby (Paperback)

By (author): Sebastian Faulks

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