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Engleby: A Novel Hardcover – September 4, 2007

4.0 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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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From Booklist

"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
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524056
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,268,044 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What is wrong with Mike Engleby? Is he really just a working class kid at Cambridge? Is he a sly drug dealer and petty thief? Is he a stalker, a psychopath and a murderer? Perhaps he is just a misunderstood genius. In ENGLEBY, author Sebastian Faulks introduces an unreliable narrator in the tradition of Nabokov's Humbert Humbert. This subtly sinister novel is smart, creepy and unforgettable, just like Mike himself.

In the early 1970s Mike finds himself at Cambridge on scholarship. He actually never names the "ancient university," referring to it instead by clever nicknames both telling and obscuring the truth (this paradox is a key personality trait of his and an important theme in the novel). Mike has survived a brutal childhood, abused by his father and then by classmates at the exclusive boarding school he attended (also on scholarship). It was recognized early on that Mike was smart, but he seemed to attract bullies and trouble. He shares all of this with readers with an eerie detachment.

Cambridge looks like it will be more of the same loneliness and trauma for Mike until he meets Jennifer Arkland, an earnest and attractive young student who catches his eye. Soon Mike is joining the clubs that Jennifer joins and attending her lectures, even though he is enrolled in a different program. They both travel to Ireland to work on a student film. When Jennifer disappears one night after a party, readers are unsure of Mike's connection to the event. Is he really as heartbroken as he says he is at her disappearance, or was he in some way responsible?

The police are curious about Mike and the real nature of his relationship with Jennifer. But there is nothing to connect him to her disappearance, so Mike goes on his way.
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Format: Hardcover
"One of the hardest things about being alive is being with other people" Michael Engleby.

This book is a masterful re-working of Dr, Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde. Engleby is a loner, a "non-happy" person. He doesn't really seem to know what happiness is. He has an unhappy childhood, filled with abuse heaped on him by his father, his school mates and via the neglect of non-caring adults. His foray into the transitional world of college leaves him faring not much better--he self medicates with drugs; marijuana, hashish, and various pharmaceuticals all washed down with copious amounts of alcohol.

Engleby describes his rages and panic attacks and hints that he has problems with recalling what really happened at such times. He has serious detachment issues with everyone in his world it seems--his family, acquaintances and coworkers--even his girlfriend. When a collge "girlfriend" disappears, the vanishing remains a mystery for many years. Until a body is found and Engleby remembers something.

This book was fascinating, becasue it is told entirely from his point of view--except for the interjected passages from the missing girl's diary, which he has stolen, and a doctor's report and one friend's take on who Engleby may really be--very insightful. I loved the ending and found it to be quite poignant. I highly recommend this book.
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Format: Paperback
This is a difficult review to write without giving too much away. The book begins as a coming-of-age memoir, morphs into a mystery, turns into something else before the mystery is solved, and continues even after that. Very likely, the facts will not come as a surprise to most readers -- but that does not matter, for by then Faulks has moved far beyond the conventional whodunnit. The mystery is merely a peg on which to hang an eerily fascinating portrait of the title character, displayed against a detail-perfect collage of British life in the seventies and eighties.

The novel is the memoirs of Mike Engleby, a clever boy from a poor family who wins scholarships to a boarding school and thence to university, where he falls in love at a distance with Jennifer Arkland, a talented student from another college. Although Mike is coy about identifying it by name, the university is clearly Cambridge, my own alma mater, so perhaps my fascination is biased. Faulks' picture of student life in the early seventies is extraordinarily evocative, down to mentions of the cafes and pubs most favored by students; his excerpts from Jennifer's journal recall with almost painful recognition the heady mixture of intellectual discussion, romantic exploration, and the sheer joy of being young and independent in the company of one's peers.

As the book's cover will tell you, Jennifer suddenly disappears. A more conventional mystery novel might have contained the entire story within the university setting (or even a less conventional one, such as Kate Atkinson's brilliant CASE HISTORIES, also set in Cambridge).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very slow to get moving - building his psychological profile, but sort of fizzled out. I am a great fan of Sebastian Faulks for his depth of characters and story telling. I felt let down by this one.
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