It’s merely a coincidence that I read this and John Fowles’ The Collector in a very short space of time. However having read them almost back-to-back, the comparison is striking.

Some friends invited me to their engagement party a few weeks ago, which was held in a local second-hand bookshop / cafe (and a great venue it was too!). So, whilst giving the appearance of mingling with other party-goers, I soon starting browsing the shelves, and ended up spotting The Collector, which I bought, along with some other books. (In fact, the proprietor being slightly the worse for wear by the time I came to my purchase my items meant that I only paid £6 for five novels, plus I was then given a free copy of Doctor Zhivago!)  Now, unrelated to this, I have been keeping an eye out for a copy of Engleby for some months and happened to find one in a charity shop last weekend, so I bought it and it was only when I started reading it that I realised how similar the two novels are in terms of their subject matter.

Englby by Sebastian Faulks

However this does not mean that the novels are particularly similar in other respects. In fact, whilst I was very impressed with John Fowles’ book, I was slightly disappointed with Engleby. I mean, it is still an enjoyable enough read, but  it doesn’t feel authentic in the way that The Collector does.  Faulks attempts to give us some insight into the mind of the victim, but the diary excerpts are limited and fairly unremarkable here compared to the brilliant use of the victim’s diary in The Collector. Also, I got the impression that Faulks was trying to create in Mike Engleby a highly intelligent, cultured, intriguing deviant (such as Humbert Humbert, for example) – especially as the book went on, but if this was the case then I think that as a character, Mike Engleby fails to live up to this.

If you liked this, you might also like The Collector by John Fowles, which deals with a similar theme. Another novel by Sebastian Faulks, which I would highly recommend is Birdsong.