‘Under the Skin’ is a very difficult book to summarise without giving away too much of the plot. Essentially, it tells the story of Isserley, who drives around deserted areas of northern Scotland picking up well-built lone male hitchhikers. I really don’t want to tell you any more than that and if you’ve already read it, then you’ll understand why. If you haven’t, then you’ll have to forgive me for being so cryptic. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that the book is much more intriguing if you read it without any real clues about what will happen beyond the initial set-up.
The blurb of ‘Under the Skin’ by Michel Faber states that it is a “remarkable book that defies categorisation”. I would certainly agree with that. It’s macabre and creepy but not quite horror. The writing is often quite humorous yet the subject matter is not funny at all. It’s a thriller but not particularly fast-paced. This makes it sound like a very messed-up and confused book but it works because the style of the prose and the direction of the plot are both very well controlled.
Although the majority of the story is told from Isserley’s point of view, I liked the parts which occasionally switched to the point of view of the hitchhikers she picks up as these were often very funny. But the themes of the book become much more sinister and it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems. The Scottish landscape was particularly effective as a setting for the increasingly dark and dystopian atmosphere throughout the story.
‘Under the Skin’ could not be more different from another of Faber’s novels ‘The Crimson Petal and the White‘ which I read earlier this year. I don’t think everyone who enjoyed ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ would necessarily enjoy ‘Under the Skin’ but personally, I am intrigued by an author who can write two books which are both so different and yet brilliant in their own way. Overall, ‘Under the Skin’ probably isn’t for everyone but I found it to be simultaneously repulsive yet compulsive reading.