Michel Faber’s “Under the Skin”

Return of the Kanamits…?

It will be very hard to write about this book without giving away too much.  So the “hint” above goes only to those among my readers who are Twilight Zone fans…

I learned of this book through Alex’s blog, The Literary Nomad.  This book blog has a great concept: the blogger roams the world by reading books set in different countries and each post is about the book, but also has background about the country it’s set in.  What a cool idea.  I wish I’d thought of it first…   Alex’s post about this novel may be found here

Under the Skin is a rather disturbing novel.  Set in Scotland, but not one Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly or Mannering would recognize.  The action takes place in the present day, revolving around a woman driver who drives up and down the A9 highway looking for hitchhikers. Specifically, very fit male hitchhikers.  The unique thing about this book is how slowly (and tantalizingly) what is really going on is revealed to the reader.  It seems that the main character, Isserly, is clearly an alien.  But if so, why does she refer to herself and her fellow aliens so often as “human beings?”

We also learn that Isserly has been surgically altered to appear as she does.  We do not learn quickly what her former form looked like.  We do not know why she is picking up these men and what is being done with them.  (We can probably guess, though, can’t we?)

Apparently a film version of the novel is also in the works, starring none other than Scarlett Johansson as the main character (pant, pant).  That will be something to look forward to…

I’m not sure how or for whom to recommend this book.  It’s probably closer to science fiction than anything but rather defies categorization.  I think it is also part social commentary.  It’s short and can be read in a couple days.  Faber’s writing style is haunting and exciting at the same time.  I enjoyed it, but I also don’t have a weak stomach… 😉


  1. Alex said,

    March 21, 2011 at 8:23 am

    uuUUUuu sounds intriguing! I hope it has a great ending. For novel with plots like these, the ending makes or breaks the book.


    • Jay said,

      March 22, 2011 at 5:50 am

      Hmm.. Based upon that criterion,I’m not sure I can recommend it…


  2. April 7, 2011 at 4:26 am

    Thanks for the reference to my blog and your comments on it! I felt much the same way as you about Under the Skin in that I have to say I enjoyed it because I couldn’t stop reading and was quite disappointed when it ended, however, some of the graphic violence was a little unsettling. It will make a killer movie (literally!)


    • Jay said,

      April 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      No problem! One of the reasons I liked the book was that it was so very different from anything else I had read recently. It’s sometimes hard to find a book I can say that about.

      Your post about the book came at the perfect time for me, as I was becoming more and more interested in Scotland. I hope to visit there for my vacation next summer.


  3. September 13, 2011 at 5:28 am

    […] 5. Under the Skin by Michel Faber.  Learned about via The Literary Nomad.  An interesting concept for a book blog, where the blogger “visits” a country by reading a book about it or taking place in it.  This book was creepy but a real page turner.  A beautiful alien (reported to be portrayed by Scarlet Johansson in an upcoming movie adaptation) picking up hitchhikers in Scotland.  How could I resist? My original post is here. […]


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