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Under the Skin

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  17,332 Ratings  ·  2,118 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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Adina
Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
I was supposed to write this review a month ago but life happened and the right moment did not seem to materialize. I wanted to write a detail and spoilery analysis of the themes present but time passed and I don't feel capable to do it anymore. However, I feel obliged to write a few words.

I will begin with the strong recommendation not to read any blurb before starting Under The Skin. The plot it is better to be explored without prior knowledge of the main mystery. Unfortunately, most blurbs an
...more
Paul Bryant
Sep 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
UPDATE!

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 :

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-ut_2...

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
...more
Kevin Kelsey
Posted at Heradas

Literary science fiction that is compulsively creepy and disturbing in all the right ways. Orwellian by way of Ursula Le Guin or Octavia Butler. More Animal Farm than 1984. I think fans of Jeff VanderMeer's style of New Weird fiction would have a lot to enjoy here.

It's a moral story, without particularly taking any one side, mostly just intended to provoke some discussion I imagine. It could easily be interpreted as an animal rights activism novel, but I'm not so sure it actuall
...more
Cassy
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
...more
Carmen
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone
Recommended to Carmen by: Movie
ALL SPOILERS FOR THIS BOOK ARE HIDDEN UNDER TAGS

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
...more
Kinga
Jul 18, 2013 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
...more
Maciek
Jul 05, 2014 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
...more
Cecily
May 18, 2013 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
...more
Jen Campbell
Sep 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. Will talk about it in my next wrap up :)
K.D. Absolutely
Mar 10, 2011 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
...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
...more
MJ Nicholls
Jan 06, 2012 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
Scott
Apr 21, 2017 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
...more
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
...more
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
...more
Rebecca Foster
This was the perfect book for reading on rainy Scottish highways last week. I’m so glad I decided at the last minute to bring it along on our trip to Wigtown.

Isserley drives along Highland roads picking up hitchhikers – but only the hunky males – to take back to her farm near the Moray Firth. It’s likely that you already know the setup of this even if you haven’t read it, perhaps from the buzz around the 2013 film version starring Scarlett Johansson. It must have been so difficult for the first
...more
Agnieszka
Jan 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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 more and more disoriented, for this book is nothing like you had ever read before. At the same time engaging and repulsive. Unsettling. Disturbing.


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
...more
Edward
Aug 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-fiction, 2018
I thought I knew what to expect, having seen (and enjoyed) the movie. But the book is entirely different, taking the story of this lone woman who picks up exclusively male hitchhikers in very creepy, bizarre and surprising directions. Faber does a good job at slowly lowering the curtain into Isserley’s life and motivations... but the less said about these, the better: so much of the fun is in the revelation. Under the Skin certainly has its weak points, but overall I found it so strange, unexpec ...more
Grazia
Mar 05, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bandito il piacere della carne.

Faccio outing. Non sono né vegana né vegetariana. Non sono un'amante dei piatti di carne, vivo ai limiti di una anemia che mi spossa, ma imperterrita evito, se appena posso sottrarmi, di nutrirmi con ciò che, essendo di origine animale, potrebbe rimpinguare le mie scarsissime scorte di ferro.
Ma essendo nata nella terra che dà i natali al crudo, al salame di Felino e al culatello, devo dire che l'astensione totale del consumo di carne, non è cosa mia.
Ehm. Diciamo p
...more
Roberto

Vita da capponi

Ho fatto caso da qualche tempo che non esistono spot che pubblicizzino la carne, che sia bovina, equina o suina. Le uniche che si vedono sono quelle relative a pollame e salumi. Ma curiosamente ho notato che in nessuno dei due casi si vedono mai né polli né suini "vivi"; in effetti siamo così abituati a vedere polli allo spiedo e salami che raramente ci soffermiamo a pensare ai relativi animali come esseri viventi.

Ecco, per farmi capire meglio questa associazione, questo bel libro
...more
David
Jul 14, 2010 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
Palmina Briggs
Jul 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Shovelmonkey1
Dec 18, 2010 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
...more
Hanneke
Jan 04, 2014 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
Joe Valdez
Feb 11, 2014 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.
Bill Khaemba
This will haunt me for awhile, I need to go sit in a dark corner & contemplate 🙂

"Most distracting of all, though, was not the threat of danger but the allure of beauty"


In this speculative tale reminiscent of Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale we follow Isserley, a woman who is obsessed with picking up well-muscled hitchhikers on the backdrop of a Scotland Highway. Why she is picking them up and asking them personal questions, is a mystery that will reveal a dark side to this simple act.


...more
Jessica
Jul 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hands down the weirdest, and possibly most grotesque book I have ever read. It was great.
Marian
May 20, 2015 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
David
Mar 18, 2016 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
...more
Stephen
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.
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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
“Shared suffering, she’d found, was no guarantee of intimacy.” 25 likes
“Most distracting of all, though, was not the threat of danger but the allure of beauty.” 16 likes
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