Under the Skin by Michel Faber
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.
The only word for this book is “compelling.” I started reading Under the Skin in my local library, just glancing at the first page to see if I really wanted to take it home. Before I knew it, I was sitting in one of the comfy chairs, it was an hour later, and I was 100 pages into the story. I could barely put the book down to ride home.
Part of the book’s charm is its carefully built suspense, so the plot summary here will be brief. Suffice it to say that the main character, Isserley, spends most of her time trolling the highways in the Scottish Highlands, looking for burly hitchhikers to pick up. She drives the same streets every day, always looking for the same sort of man.
Whatever you think is going on, it’s probably wrong. If you’re not completely wrong, rest assured that you don’t know the whole story. Michel Faber is an absolute master of suspense, giving the reader just enough information to keep them enthralled.
In a way, this is frustrating. Much like my experience with The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, I wanted more answers than Faber gave . Unlike Aimee Bender’s work, though, Under the Skin has enough explanation that I was left pondering Faber’s message instead of making lists of all the things he should have told me but didn’t.
Anyway, wow. No wonder this made Booklist’s list of best debut novels of 2000. I don’t know if I would recommend buying this book; it’s so very strange that I’m not sure I would ever read it again. The story will stay with me for a very long time, however — and I guarantee it will stay with you, if you decide to take my recommendation that this is definitely a book worth borrowing.
Have you read this book or other works by Michel Faber? What did you think?