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Engleby by Sebastian Faulks (book review)

16 May 2015

EnglebyEngleby by Sebastian Faulks

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Four years ago…

I was a bit reluctant to start reading this book, because the last book I read by Sebastian Faulks, Human traces I hadn’t enjoyed very much. So though my wife had bought this one three years ago (in 2008), and it has sat on the shelf since then, I had not read it. But then looking for something I hadn’t read for bed-time reading I picked it up and started it, and it seemed quite different from Human traces and I was rather enjoying it and finding it interesting, and beginning to think it was the best thing I had read by Sebastian Faulks.

So I had reached page 280 and hoped to finish it tonight. But unfortunately page 280 was followed by page 25, and it seems that the book has been misbound. After three years it is probably far too late to take it back to the bookshop and ask for another copy that has been properly bound — they probably won’t even have one in stock anyway. And though one might be able to order another copy from the publishers, it seems a bit of a waste to pay the full price of a book for the last 60 pages or so, and anyway by the time it arrived I’d probably have forgotten most of the story anyway and would have to start again from the beginning. I just wish printers would be more careful in checking their stuff. I see it was printed and bound in Greeat Britain by Clay Ltd, St Ives plc. If by any remote chance anyone from there happens to read this, perhaps they’ll take pity on me and send an intact copy.

Four years later

I found a copy in the library, and so at last was able to finish it, and, as I thought, I had forgotten most of the plot, and so had to start again from the beginning.

And that in itself was remarkable. There were no spoilers, Even after having read three=-quarters of the book only four years ago, the unexpected twists and turns of the plot were still unexpected. And re-reading one of them did not call to mind the memory of the next one or any of the others. I simply could not foresee what was going to happen. It was like reading the book for the first time.

That in itself is interesting, because a lot of the plot turns on time and memory, and the inability to remember certain things. If I can’t remember what happened in the story, it makes the story itself more plausible.

But if I could not remember the plot itself, and the events in the story, there was still a feeling of having been here before, and perhaps appreciating, even more than the first time around, some of the observations of the protagonist on life in the 1970s and 1980s, and even on life in general.

I give one quote of many, take it how youo will:

And it’s true that you can’t bend with each fashionable wind — you can’t be like the Church of England, constantly updating its eternal verities. Either Christ was God, in which case He knew what He was doing when He chose male apostles only; or, he was a hapless Galilean sexist now ripe for a rethink. Not both.

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