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Under the Skin

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  14,733 Ratings  ·  1,837 Reviews
In this haunting, entrancing novel, Michel Faber introduces us to Isserley, a female driver who cruises the Scottish Highlands picking up hitchhikers. Scarred and awkward, yet strangely erotic and threatening, she listens to her hitchhikers as they open up to her, revealing clues about who might miss them if they should disappear. A grotesque and comical allegory, Under th ...more
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 3rd 2004 by Canongate Books Ltd (first published 2000)
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Brian I first watched the movie, then read the book. Both disturbing, unsettling and compelling. And both I would recommend, yet both are quite different.…moreI first watched the movie, then read the book. Both disturbing, unsettling and compelling. And both I would recommend, yet both are quite different. The book is indeed a slow reveal, but it achieves this through challenging the readers assumptions about language and ideas. I enjoyed being tricked by the author - he made me pay attention to the words the characters were using. A film director attempting to recreate the scenes and plot lines from the book would pretty much be giving the game away early.
There is quite a lot of dialogue in the book, particularly dealing with ethical questions and ideas of class and exploitation. In the film, however, the film maker relies primarily on images to tell the story - it is a very quiet film, and the ideas hit you via emotional reactions to the scenes. The scene on the beach for me was devastating and powerful, and it was not drawn from the book. I appreciate film makers like this who latch onto some ideas from a text then make the story their own, telling it in a different medium.(less)
Michael Sussman I was initially intrigued by the author's writing style and the many questions raised by the opening of the story. The more I read, however, the more…moreI was initially intrigued by the author's writing style and the many questions raised by the opening of the story. The more I read, however, the more tiresome and incoherent I found the novel. I forced myself to read the whole thing, only to be disappointed at the minimal payoff. I haven't a clue as to why this novel received so many positive newspaper reviews and was even adapted for the screen. From what I've read, the movie is more interesting than the book.(less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 Paul Bryant rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels

This is a very unusul situation for me, but this is a very unusual book. I'm actually looking extremely forward to seeing the movie. The director Jonathan Glazer doesn't do many movies but he did do Sexy Beast which is a must-see, and he did do this amazing advert :

So bring it on!

And now, the original book review.


Things I love about Under the Skin

- the heroine is really creepy
- the whole situation is really mental (that's a literary term coin
Since you asked for my opinion on hitchhiking, don’t do it.

My grandfather was on his way to pick up my uncle for the Christmas holiday when he stopped for two male hitchhikers. They forced him to an abandoned house, beat him with a two-by-four, and drove off. Police found his cold, naked body two weeks later. My mom was eleven years old.

Clearly, picking up hitchhikers is a big no-no in my family. Now this book warns me against the other side of hitchhiking: standing by the road with your thumb
Apr 26, 2014 Carmen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Carmen by: Movie

Isserley, too, often ventured out at hours of such prehistoric stillness that her vehicle might have been the first ever. It was as if she had been set down on a world so newly finished that mountains might still have some shifting to do and the wooded valleys might yet be recast as seas.

Okay. This book is not what you are expecting at all. I am going to put the general (non-ending, non-detailed) description of the plot under a spoiler tag, because
Jul 05, 2014 Maciek rated it it was ok
Under the Skin is a reviewer's nightmare - it's literally impossible to discuss this book without touching the plot, and the whole thing hinges on mystery that surrounds it. This is a novel which is all about the big reveal, and Michel Faber delights in teeeeeeasing the reader with the smallest of hints and nudges.

All I can tell you, spoiler free, is this - an attractive, lone woman, Isserley, drives on the A9 motorway through the Scottish Highlands, searching for hitch-hikers. She drives along
May 18, 2013 Cecily rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopian
Michel Faber evidently likes writing about the seedier side of life, but with a twist. He wrote the wonderful The Crimson Petal and the White, which I've reviewed HERE about an aspirational Victorian prostitute, and in this contemporary novel, a rather strange woman picks up hunky male hitchhikers for nefarious, but initially unspecified purposes. The assumption that this would be an unpleasantly graphic account of sex crimes was unfounded.

This is also about alienation, which was an even strong
Jul 18, 2013 Kinga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sometime in March Craig posted on our book group Facebook page the following message:

“Hello Group,
At the risk of sounding alarmist, I want to alarm you all.
I am currently rereading Under The Skin for about the sixth time, and I noticed today from tube adverts that the film adaptation is out March 14 or 15. Now, I utterly hate it when things are oversold to me, but if you ever want to experience this novel - which is among the most extraordinary I've ever read - in the manner in which it was inte
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 10, 2011 K.D. Absolutely rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
Surprisingly good. The book will keep you turning the pages because of the slow tease. In the end, I was expecting something like The Silence of the Lambs but Faber probably anticipated it and he brought me to a place I've never been before. That's despite that I already have 700+ books in different genres in my read folder. Definitely my first time to have encountered and read something like this.

It is a story of a pickup lady named Isserly. She drives back and forth in a Scottish highway looki
Jen Campbell
Sep 03, 2016 Jen Campbell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Will talk about it in my next wrap up :)
MJ Nicholls
Jan 06, 2012 MJ Nicholls rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Caution, spoilers! A modern fable on any number of potential issues—animal cruelty? corporate greed? human brutality?—set in a version of the Highlands where multiple people hitchhike each day (I go frequently to the Highlands and I’ve never seen no hitchhikers—maybe Faber ate them all?) The story begins with our big-breasted heroine Isserley picking up a series of unemployed assholes and stabbing them in the buttocks with a stun chemical activated via her dashboard. She drives her victims, know ...more
Es Summer
“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.”

*Minor spoilers*

Disturbing, strangely compelling and original: Under the Skin is unlike anything I have ever read before.
The story follows, Isserley, a female driver who picks up hitchhikers for secret purposes. She needs a certain type of guy: big muscled, tall and fit. What her reason is
Paquita Maria Sanchez
Annnnnd now I can see the movie, whose trailer is the reason I read this book in the first place. The whole book-to-screen experience should have some degree of order to it, even if nothing else does in life. Especially if nothing else does in life. Book first 4 eva!

On the film's trailer/synopsis/general promotion, just a couple of things: 1) There's a spoiler innit concerning the who-what of the main character that the book opted to slow-reveal, which creates this weird situation where the tra
Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Now here's a book that went from an intriguing premise, to gripping me at the first page, to totally taking over my mind - it's definitely going to be one of the best books I've read this year, I can tell you that now. I read this back in March and itched to write a review straight away, but made myself wait till it was next in line - I wish I hadn't now, because my thoughts were so buzzing at the time it would have made a more interesting and energetic review!

It's also a tricky one to review, o
Jan 04, 2010 Agnieszka rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, 2010, reviewed

It's an uncanny novel. Although it starts out as a classic thriller , Faber from first pages is playing with readers and misleading them. Repeating for The Times here nothing is what it seems and you become disoriented because this book is nothing like you had ever read before. At the same time engaging and repulsive. Unsettling.

I'm not sure what I expected but was absolutely suprised.Faber consistently builds tension and leads us out of the atmosphere of horror in total fantasy, mixes so man
Jul 14, 2010 David rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2010
This is one of the creepiest books I've read in years. It's also terrific - all kinds of props are due Michel Faber. He not only has the creative imagination to come up with such a bizarre, mesmerizing story; he also has the writing chops to execute it brilliantly. I can't think of any story I've read in the last several years that ratchets up the horror quotient so steadily, and so effectively. He's in total control throughout (hard to believe this was his first novel), writing in a style that' ...more
Dec 18, 2010 Shovelmonkey1 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any sci fi fans and vegetarians
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
A lonely stretch of road. A ribbon of slick tarmac stretching into the distant Scottish Highlands. There are few people around and every hitch hiker has to take their chances. After all what could possibly be dangerous about the young woman with the large eyes?

Beware of dark roads. Beware of the kindness of strangers. Evocative and well written, this is a difficult book to review without spewing forth spoiler after spoiler in a big frothing pool of spoiler vomit. Therefore I will not write too
Palmina Briggs
Jul 31, 2007 Palmina Briggs rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 21, 2017 Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
I used to pick up hitchhikers. Alone and starved of conversation on long-distance trips I'd stop for anyone short of an obvious axe murderer. Most of the people I picked up were guys in their 20s - fit, healthy men who would have been perfect targets for the protagonist of Under The Skin.

In Michael Faber's novel a lone woman named Isserley cruises the backroads of Scotland, picking up healthy, muscular male hitchers. She chats awkwardly with her new passengers, determining their health, their le
Joe Valdez
Feb 11, 2014 Joe Valdez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Hitchhikers, carnivores, lonely hearts
Shelves: sci-fi-general
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 20, 2015 Marian rated it it was amazing
We did see the movie version of this book on Netflix a few weeks ago,althou,hubby didn't care for the movie,but me,that was a different story.I liked it!The main protagonist in the movie was Scarlett Johanssan,so I just HAD to read the book and Im soooo glad I did!The book seem to fill the gaps of the movie version,but at the same time,there are hardly,that many similar things going on between both,the book/movie.The book is one of the most bizarre and unique and unusual sci-fi storys I have rea ...more
3.0 to 3.5 stars. Very original and well written. The writer does an excellent job of unfolding the story slowly but still keeping the reader interested the entire time.
Feb 07, 2016 BrokenTune rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
This is one book you want to read without knowing much about it.

However, that makes writing a review for this book a hell of a task because I can't tell you about the salient points of this book that are both scary and funny at the same time.

And there were so many aspects modern life that Faber picked up and turned on their head in this - his first - book.

So, the only thing I will say is that it follows the story of Isserly, who picks up hitchhikers in northern Scotland and that I would be wary
Jun 26, 2015 Vanessa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle-reads
3.5 stars.

Under the Skin was definitely not what I was expecting it to be. As someone who saw the film adaptation first, I should warn you that this is almost nothing like the film, on pretty much every level you could think of.

What Faber has crafted with his debut novel is a melancholic commentary on existence, rights, and what it means to be human. The novel follows Isserley whose job is to drive around the Scottish highlands and pick up well-built male hitchhikers. The purpose of which is not
Michelle M
Jan 19, 2016 Michelle M rated it liked it
Shelves: i-own, x-read-2016
I've had this book sitting on my to-read shelf for years. I saw it at a thrift store once and, intrigued, I picked it up. But as with all our best intentions, real life and a replenishing stack of library books kept getting in the way.

It wasn't until I saw the eerie and powerful movie version that it moved into the forefront of my mind again. And with most stories that I see the film first, it was painted over my imagination as I read the story. Imagine my surprise when I realized they are basi
Natalie Richards
Mar 16, 2017 Natalie Richards rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned-book
What a weirdly great read this was. Took me a little while to understand what was going on, I think because my brain did not want to understand. Morally challenging and completely absorbing.
The Book Whisperer (aka Boof)
I really did not enjoy this book! It is not often I am this blatant about a book when I have actually finished it but I honestly couldn’t find any redeeming qualities at all. What I am even more annoyed about is that I kept on reading thinking that at least there would be some big revelation and reward for my time invested in reading it.

It’s really difficult to say anything about Under the Skin without giving anything away but to summarise as much as I can without ruining it for anyone else bra
Apr 22, 2016 Nathan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no problem accepting all of the weirdness in the story, but some aspects of plot and motivation were a little hard to believe. Still, this was a great read!
I am thisclose to giving this book 4.5 stars -- I found it verynearly amazing, but it fell just slightly short of that for me.

Here's my advice for anyone interested in reading this book -- do not read ANYTHING about it before reading. Don't read reviews, don't read the back cover, don't even read the blurbs on the front. Just go into it completely cold.

So, having said that, what in the world can I say about this book without ruining it?

I can tell you that it opens with a woman named Isserley dr
Mar 18, 2016 David rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-white-square
I've thought about being a vegetarian ... one of my arguments has been how shameful it'll be when aliens land and see what we've done. "Yeah, for several centuries we've been breeding and breeding this living thing and now it looks like this. We've kept this one in a cage for its entire life. Now we're going to kill it and eat it. Sausage roll?" Yuck. Can you imagine how embarrassing it's going to be?

Fabulously, however, "Under the Skin" has aliens doing to us what we do to animals.

And it's ab
Apr 13, 2009 Tressa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror, crime-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 04, 2014 Hanneke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001-read
A very interesting and nauseating book. For a long time, you have no clue whatsoever what is going on, but you have strong suspicions it is not going to be pleasant at all to find out. You are disoriented but intrigued about the strange hitchhiking adventures of the main character Isserley. Still, you are unprepared when it hits you on the head. The discovery is so fantastic that it stops you in your tracks. I really liked how Michael Faber shows us a view of our world from a very different pers ...more
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Worthwhile to read after watching? 27 139 Feb 26, 2017 06:02PM  
Book Lair: Under the Skin 6 31 Oct 13, 2014 01:37PM  
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Michel Faber (born 13 April 1960) is a Dutch writer of English-language fiction.

Faber was born in The Hague, The Netherlands. He and his parents emigrated to Australia in 1967. He attended primary and secondary school in the Melbourne suburbs of Boronia and Bayswater, then attended the University Of Melbourne, studying Dutch, Philosophy, Rhetoric, English Language (a course involving translation a
More about Michel Faber...

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“Shared suffering, she’d found, was no guarantee of intimacy.” 22 likes
“The word troubled her, though. ‘Indispensable.’ It was a word people tended to resort to when dispensability was in the air.” 12 likes
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