Kurt Keefner's Reviews > Engleby

Engleby by Sebastian Faulks
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Sep 09, 11

bookshelves: 2011

This is a great book, despite the narrative awkwardness that shows up in the end.

It's true that Mike Engleby has a mental illness, but that's not why he's an important character. He's important because there's something of him, sick as he is, in every smart outsider. (And every truly smart person should be at least a bit of an outsider, don't you agree?)

He is fascinated with the popular music of the time, finding significance in it. He politely goes along with people around him, while privately holding them in contempt. He things they're just doing meaningless or pretentious things. Arrogant yet painfully shy (a lot of shy people are really hostile if you get right down to it), he maneuvers to spend time near (not with) his fantasy girl. When she disappears he's not sure he had anything to do with it, because he tries to blot things out with alcohol and pills, even though he has a phenomenal memory.

Almost the whole story is told from Mike's point of view. One of the most amazing scenes, however, is when a couple of pages toward the end are told from the point of view of Mike's "best friend," and we see Mike from the outside. The change in perspective in wrenching and enlightening.

What Faulks does, and I think most of the reviewers simply missed this (I won't say that it's because they're not smart enough!) is to put us under a magnifying glass so that we see our own anti-social yet painfully aware selves blown up to giant-insect proportions. Of course, if you're a "nice person" and a real "team player," you're not going to get it.
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