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UNDER THE SKIN by Michel Faber


by Michel Faber

Pub Date: July 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-15-100626-1
Publisher: Harcourt

An eerie debut novel from Faber, Dutch-born, turns the Scottish Highlands into a landscape from The Twilight Zone as Scotland’s brawny best meet their match in the diminutive Isserly, who takes many of them on a short ride from which there’s no return.

Isserly is like a woman possessed as day after day she cruises back and forth on the Highland highways on the lookout for male hitchhikers with big thighs and broad chests. Once she finds one, she gives him a lift and immediately puts him at ease by placing her own ample chest on display. The whole of her is strange—dwarflike, heavily scarred, Coke-bottle glasses—but the huge breasts are what hold the eye of her passenger, keeping him transfixed while she engages him in conversation. If the talk goes in one direction, Isserly lets her man go, but if she gets the answers she seeks, her breath grows shallow, her heart races, and she flips the switch that will drug the man through his seat, incapacitating him long enough for her to drive him back to her remote farmhouse, where he will undergo an experience outdoing his worst nightmare. Isserly, it turns out, is a procurer from another planet whose job—for which she’s been surgically altered in a way that leaves her in constant pain—is simply, well, to bring home the bacon. But she has fallen in love with this world of sea and snow so unlike her own, and when a handsome visitor from her world arrives to remind her that in spite of her mutilation her feelings are not dead, she realizes she’s no longer able to do her job.

The process of procurement is duly horrific, but the procurer’s transformation from ruthless to compassionate, even with the conventional budding-romance twist, provides a more compelling dimension—and it’s enhanced by the superbly evoked imagery of the Highlands.