The Crimson Petal And The White

The Crimson Petal And The White

Book - 2002
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Sugar, an alluring nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for a better life. Her ascent through the strata of 1870's London society offers us intimacy with a host of loveable, maddening and superbly realized characters. At the heart of thus novel is the compelling struggle of a young woman trying to lift her body and soul out of the gutter.
Publisher: c2002.
ISBN: 9780006392170
0002005271
Branch Call Number: FIC Faber

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a
AlteredStaite
Apr 19, 2017

Wish I'd owned the book so I could rip into pieces. My delicate wrists were aching with it's weight.

Wish I'd owned it so I could highlight the beautiful examples of old world turn of phrase.
Wish it hadn't been so long but I was sorry when it didn't end.

I'm left feeling somewhat cheated and disappointed and wanting more, of course.
This author is a bit of a sadistic bitch.

I can't be the only one raging and determined not to read any more of his work.
Would this teach him a lesson in how one treats one's readers?
Would he care? Probably not. I'm sure he has zillions of silly sycophants.

s
sylviascott
Aug 29, 2016

Loved the story but was disappointed by the loose ends. Was Agnes Rackham really dead? What happened to her? If she was dead, why did Sugar feel no remorse? What was the point of Henry's death? His character was developed so lovingly (much deeper than William's) and then pushed aside under such vague circumstances.
On the one hand such a thorough examination of life and at the same time such whimsical treatment of the main characters - Sugar's abduction of Sophie was basically a disastrous ending. Sigh. I guess I like everything accounted for...

g
gendeg
Jul 27, 2015

From the very beginning, we’re warned by our mysterious tour guide-narrator that we need to leave our preconceptions behind: “You have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and another place altogether.” The warning has important implications for what’s to come...

Sugar, bless her, is what redeems the boilerplate plot. Her rise and fall (and eventual escape/retaliation), and the shifting sands of her fortune as they relate to William, her john/lover/boss/redeemer/exploiter, was a taut drama. But, in the end, she was still too trope-y for me—the shrewd and ambitious sex worker who strives to remake herself in the face of overwhelming social injustice.

The novel is also doused in a sexed-up patina, but one that is void of any eroticism. Sex for pleasure is transactional; sex in a marriage is for procreation. Faber seems most concerned about that conflict between the idea of ‘propriety’ (raised to an art form in Victorian times) and basic desires—and the economics of that clash. But, in doing so, Faber seems to have completely focused on the baser side of sexual relations to a fault. Blunt language abounds describing bodily fluids, the contents of chamber pots, douche plungers as birth control, and dirty bedsheets. Even Sugar herself is described in such alluring yet off-putting terms.

A dark revisionist take on Victorian London.

GVPL290661 Mar 06, 2015

Very close to the movie (2 DVD) version, lifelike and enthralling.

l
lukasevansherman
Feb 17, 2015

There are some sadly ignorant comments about this book. If you don't want to read a nearly 900 page book, then don't, but don't read it and then complain about the length. Faber is writing a Victorian novel from a 21st century perspective and if you've read even a few novels from the period ("Middlemarch," much of Dickens, "Vanity Fair"), you know that they ran long. Henry James called them "large loose baggy monsters." Faber's Victorian world is vulgar, filthy, hypocritical, and violent; everything that people typically think the era was not (it's worth noting that only the very rich had anything like indoor plumbing). His protagonist is a whore who successfully becomes the mistress of a wealthy, venal businessman and her rise parallels the common Victorian novel theme of the aspirational protagonist. It's a bravura piece of work that both vividly evokes the era, while also casting a cynical, critical eye upon it. Yes, it is long (he worked on it for nearly two decades), but it's necessarily for the wealth of detail, the narrative sweep, and the character developments. Nothing less than one of the great novels of this century. Please ignore the negative comments, this is a monumental achievement.

s
SophieMontague
Apr 12, 2014

I did get irritated with the length of it. I came to hate all the main characters. Where was the editor?? i stubbornly refused to relent and eventually reached the end. Of course it took so long to get there that no ending would have been satisfactory. Under the Skin is so much better! And well edited!

b
booksmaht
Jan 23, 2014

Hypnotic.

l
llongpine
Oct 21, 2013

This is a lengthy book but actually a fast read. Victorian setting with interesting characters and intruiging plot. I thought the ending was funny but I can see how it would make some readers upset.

m
mg1regan
Jul 10, 2011

The style used at the beginning of being a voyeur, looking over the shoulder of the character was interesting and involving but then disappeared. Once Sugar has met William this literary device seemed to cease and the story developed in a more conventional manner. I have to agree with the other comments, could have been edited down to half the length and retained the essence. It is a book that you'll begin hungrily and complete some time later if only to see if anything happens in the final 300 pages.

RenGrrl May 30, 2011

Scandal, intrigue and a glimpse into the seamier side of Victorian England.
Enthralling.

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KHaney Mar 19, 2008

Faber's bawdy, brilliant third novel tells an intricate tale of love and ambition and paints a new portrait of Victorian England and its citizens in prose crackling with insight and bravado. Using the wealthy Rackham clan as a focal point for his sprawling, gorgeous epic, Faber, like Dickens or Hardy, explores an era's secrets and social hypocrisy. William Rackham is a restless, rebellious spirit, mistrustful of convention and the demands of his father's perfume business. While spying on his sickly wife's maid, whom he suspects of thievery, he begins a slow slide into depravity: he meets Sugar, a whore whose penetrating mind and love of books intrigues him as much as her beauty and carnal skills do. Faber (Under the Skin) also weaves in the stories of Agnes, William's delicate, mad and manipulative wife, and Henry, his pious, morally conflicted brother, both of whom seek escape from their private prisons through fantasies and small deceptions. Sin and vice both attract and repel the brothers: William, who becomes obsessed with Sugar, rescues her from her old life, while Henry, paralyzed by his love for Emmeline Fox, a comely widow working to rescue the city's prostitutes, slowly unravels. Faber's central characters, especially the troubled William and the ambitious Sugar, shine with life, and the author is no less gifted in capturing the essence of his many minor characters-the evil madam, Mrs. Castaway, and William's pompous father-in-law, Lord Unwin. The superb plot draws on a wealth of research and briskly moves through the lives of each character-whether major or minor, upstairs or downstairs-gathering force until the fates of all are revealed. A marvelous story of erotic love, sin, familial conflicts and class prejudice, this is a deeply entertaining masterwork that will hold readers captive until the final page.

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