Review – ‘Under the Skin’ by Michel Faber

I read this book with a tiny bit of sick hovering at the back of my throat. And it’s kind of hard to reveal why that is, because to do so would be to give away the central twist of this story. But let’s just say, I’m assuming that Michel Faber is a vegetarian.

Seriously, it’s an irresistable story, and Faber succeeds in melding a whole set of genres – sci-fi, thriller and gritty satire – to produce what is a truly satisfying read. It turns the world on its head, it disturbs, unsettles and demands a lot of empathy from the reader for the protagonist, Isserley. It’s a book that interrogates our definitions of humanity, and prompts a whole set of questions about how we structure society, how we determine beauty, and of course how we, as ‘human beings’ impact on our environment.This is all relayed in a muscular prose which perfectly reflects the way Isserley is at once revulsed and enchanted by the world around her.

My only issue with Under the Skin, is that it hinges on one central conceit. Faber leaves sufficient ambiguity in his narrative to allow that twist to operate. Even so, as a reader I found myself querying the extent to which it works. Isserley’s reluctance to examine her own past or values is understandable from a psychological perspective, but as a reader I wanted more ‘fill-in’ here.

Apart from that, loved this book. It fascinates, shocks and enthralls on just about every level, and by the time it reaches its climax, you know there really is only one place left for Isserley to go.