View Poll Results: Englby: Final Verdict

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  • * A bookworm's nightmare!

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  • ** Take a nap instead!

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  • *** Finished but no reason to skip meals.

    1 33.33%
  • **** Don't forget to unplug the phone for this one!

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Thread: Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

  1. #1
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    Engleby by Sebastian Faulks

    Mike Engleby is working class boy who wins a place at a public school and an esteemed university. He is isolated and picked on at school, managing to gather the nickname "Toilet", because the posh kids would never use such a working class name for the thunder box. His alienation only gets worse at the posh university, where the cool rich kids just ignore him rather than bully him.

    First few chapters were reasonably interesting, but then it started to drag. The origins of Engleby's meaningless life (childhood bullying , generally drab existence...) are quite well drawn. But the mystery (the disappearing love interest) remains a mystery for far too long. Also Engleby's meaningless progress through meaningless London jobs is just a repetition of his meaningless student life at Cambridge. A plot should develop, unless there are compensating factors. There are no compensating factors. Faulks doesn't explore the subject's interior any further. So, all in all, some good parts, but it's another disappointing work by a current writer. It isn't anywhere near as good as "the classics". Crime & Punishment is the nearest comparison, but Faulks never gets anywhere near the cosmological depths of nihilism and despair that Dostoevsky explores. (And he - unforgivably - imposes yet another Notting Hill dinner party on us - come on Faulks try harder!)

    Faulks recovers somewhat in the last few chapters, as the mystery is resolved and other facets of Engleby's life are explored, in an interesting new environment. These chapters were quite funny, and there is some interesting "text within a text" byplay going on.

    If you like Faulks or other modern Brit. lit-lite writers like Nick Hornby, then you might like this. But for a light read on the train, that doesn't make any concessions to quality, try "The Cossacks" by Tolstoy, or any Dickens novel instead. Feel the difference!

  2. #2
    Registered User prendrelemick's Avatar
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    Engleby by Sebastian Faulks.

    Engleby by Sebastian Faulks.



    This is the Third Faulks novel I have read, and my favourite so far.

    Mike Engleby is our narrator and you are not very far into the book before you realise he is not quite “normal”. He is a Cambridge Fresher of 1973, he spends his time on pointless drives into the Fenland countryside and stalking Jennifer, a fellow student. His back story is revealed – poor dull family, no friends, beaten by his father, then a scholarship to a Public School where things got seriously bad. He emerges with no self pity and no empathy or pity for others, other people are there to be used - and judged wanting by his superior self. He is a loner and content to be . He is clever but socially inept, has photographic recall but also complete lapses of memory. Drugs and alcohol enable him to function day to day.

    During the first half of the book nothing much happens, he follows Jen about, hovers round the edge of her set. She is ultra normal, bright, happy and well adjusted - everything Mike isn't. She disappears one night and is never seen again.

    In most books that would be the plot twist that drives the story forwards. Not here though. That's not the story at all. Mike heads to London, gets a job as a journalist and forms a relationship. He gets a whiff of the existence of happiness, something just out of reach.

    When Mike is finally carted away to the “loony bin” Faulks really hits his straps. Here at last we arrive at the nub and purpose of the book Psycho-analysts are employed to study and treat Mike. Mike studies and analyses the analysts - and himself – and Homo sapiens in his innate detached way. There are no explanations or revelations, nothing as simple as cause and effect, but a range of hints and theories and possibilities that may explain Mike.

    At the end Mike prefers to simply admit that he is “bonkers”, his own diagnosis and one that frees him, no need to understand “The Self “as it pertains to him and those who interact with him. He can live inside his own criteria of normal and manipulate his picture of the world however he wishes.

    I should just add that this is a comedy, a black farce, the joke turning on Mike's blundering, his honesty and his strangeness as tries to function in a society he never understands.

    Faulks is a fine writer, he tells his story with skill and confidence in his reader -confident to show with the merest glimpse rather than tell.

    8/10
    Last edited by prendrelemick; 03-30-2013 at 10:03 AM.
    ay up

  3. #3
    TobeFrank Paulclem's Avatar
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    Sounds good Mick. I may give him a whirl as I've not read any of his stuff. Good review.

  4. #4
    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paulclem View Post
    Sounds good Mick. I may give him a whirl as I've not read any of his stuff. Good review.
    Whatever you chose it's best to avoid 'A Week in December' at all costs. It would be difficult to find a more contrived set of characters and situations. I'm ashamed at having bought a hardback copy out of curiosity only to relegate it to the nearest charity shop on completion. It was a signed copy but I doubt that his reputation, even in an age when good writing is in steep decline, will inspire any serious prospective reader to purchase it.
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

  5. #5
    Pièce de Résistance Scheherazade's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by prendrelemick View Post
    I should just add that this is a comedy, a black farce, the joke turning on Mike's blundering, his honesty and his strangeness as tries to function in a society he never understands.

    Faulks is a fine writer, he tells his story with skill and confidence in his reader -confident to show with the merest glimpse rather than tell.
    I very much agree with Mick's commentary on Engleby. And I like this book much more than Birdsong, the other Faulks novel I have read.

    Initially, the storyline reminded me of The Collector by Fowles but it takes an utterly different direction, with a main character that is much more likeable and accessible than Fowles'.
    ~
    "It is not that I am mad; it is only that my head is different from yours.”
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