“Have you ever been lonely? No, neither have I. Solitary, yes. Alone, certainly. But lonely means minding about being on your own. I’ve never minded about it.”
I’m just going to come out and say it. Mike Engleby, Sebastian Faulks’ compelling creation, is one of the most mesmerising characters of the modern-day literary world.
So, what makes this book different from a mountain of others that are stacked high in so many book shops across the world?
Yes, empathy is necessary to really immerse yourself in a story but the kind of empathy readers experience for Mike Engleby is somewhat disturbing. I, myself, was one of the millions of readers who found themselves sucked into Engleby’s chilling mind and it has stuck with me ever since.
Mike is an introvert; a loner; and somewhat of an outcast throughout his life. Once he reaches his University years, after experiences of being cruelly abused at boarding school, he describes how isolation was never really his choice but something he’s had to get used to.
He seems to be content, however, and appears to live a normal life. All is good. That is, until the reader learns the true nature of Mike’s wayward mind.
Sebastian Faulks does an excellent job of combining mundane prose with intrigue; keeping you guessing until the very last word. The narrative forces the reader to point a high-powered perception at, not just Mike, but themselves too.
What happens when somebody who is capable of behaving in abhorrent and inexcusable ways elicits the empathy of an audience who wishes somebody, anybody, had intervened in a life wasted before it even had chance to really begin?
If you’re searching for an ode to the failures of psychiatry amongst the most vulnerable, look no further than ‘Engleby’.
Book Worm’s Score: 9/10 with a cherry on top
You can buy ‘Engleby’ by Sebastian Faulks here