From Publishers Weekly
British bestseller Faulks's latest (after Human Traces
) comprises the dark confessional of Mike Engleby, an intelligent but strange university student suspected in a woman's disappearance. His journal-like account of his life, which begins in the turbulent 1970s and extends to 2006, includes day-to-day accounts of college life, pontifications on time, politics and the nature of thought, and flashbacks to his childhood—particularly the years he spent as a scholarship student at the exclusive Chatfield, where he was taunted and abused by his classmates (they, among other things, called him Toilet). As the journal progresses, his obsession with university student Jennifer Arkland deepens: he reads her mail, sits in on her classes, joins her political society and becomes involved in her student film. When Jennifer disappears after a party and is presumed dead, Mike finds himself under police investigation. The case remains open for over a decade, and Mike continues on with his life, but Jen is never far from his thoughts, and as he continues to return in his mind to Jen's disappearance, he reveals more about that night and about himself. Though sometimes heavy with the tropes of self-deception and misdirection, this is a compelling psychological portrait of a man who is at once profoundly disturbed and wryly funny. (Sept.)
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"I don't find life unbearably grave. I find it almost intolerably frivolous," says Brit Mike Engleby, the smart social misfit who narrates Faulks' new novel. The story follows Engleby through adolescence in the 1970s, when he's frequent fodder for bullies (the kind that put their victim's head in the toilet, then repeatedly flush). He fares a bit better at university, particularly after he makes the acquaintance of a lovely coed named Jennifer. Alas, romantic interest soon turns to obsession, and when Jennifer goes missing, Engleby becomes a suspect. The case remains unsolved for more than a dozen years, during which time Engleby finds a girlfriend and establishes himself as a journalist. When Jennifer's remains are finally discovered, memories begin to surface that make Engleby question whether he might have been responsible for the poor girl's demise. Faulks, the author of numerous well-received literary novels (including On Green Dolphin Street, 2002), renders luminous prose, but this time it gets lost amid a rambling tale told by a narcissist with little of consequence to say. A disappointment from a talented writer, but still of interest to Faulks' followers. Block, Allison