The Crimson Petal and the White … a review

I couldn’t remember reading a tome of a book since I read Lord of the Rings six years ago. I had quite forgotten how satisfying it is, and I such a different way, to be lost amongst characters and places and plots for days together! This Michael Faber book  is quite the tome, with 900 pages of narrative about a prostitute Sugar, her life in Victorian London, and her rise in station with the help of her lover and benefactor William Rackham. This book was recommended to me in passing, by M, and I picked it up thinking that I has a few weeks with minimal travel, so it’s good to be reading something heavy (physically).

The book is well-written. The narrative follows a pattern that I’ve never read before, with the author leading the reader on behind characters. The effect is remarkably potent, it gave me a feeling of winding through narrow backalleys of London, into damp and cold quarters of the fallen women. While the author shrugs off this style soon enough, it is still a brilliant way to introduce the prime characters of the novel. The books also contains romantic elements – the faithlessness of a marriage, the intermingling of the upper and lower classes, adultery, the deification of the beloved, and the ironical faithfulness towards the other woman.

Rackham, a perfume company tycoon is surrounded by three women. Agnes, his frail wife, suffers from hallucinations and delusions and is frequently unable to discharge her duties as wife and mistress of the house. Sophie, their infant daughter, who grows up to the age of seven in the novel, without the love of her mother or the affection of her father. Sugar, his mistress, who brings some form of relief to the other two women. The ending of the book is rather controversial, as it does not leave the reader with a clear idea of the events that ensue. It is open to interpretation, but the way I saw it, it seemed clear enough to me what happened. And I rested my tired eyes with a comforting and happy ending for the woman who had my sympathy and support. Worth a read!

Teaser Tuesday (June 17)

My teaser:

“Sugar leans her chin against the knuckles of the hand that holds the pen. Glistening on the page between her silk-shrouded elbows lies an unfinished sentence. The heroine of her novel has just slashed the throat of a man. The problem is how, precisely, the blood will flow. Flow is too gentle a word; spill implies carelessness; spurt is out of the question because she has used the word already, in another context, a few lines earlier. Pour out implies that the man has some control over the matter, which he most emphatically doesn’t; leak is too feeble for the savagery of the injury she has inflicted upon him. Sugar closes her eyes and watches, in the lurid theatre of her mind, the blood issue from the slit neck. When Mrs Castaway’s warning bell sounds, she jerks in surprise.
Hastily, she scrutinises her bedroom. Everything is neat and tidy. All her papers are hidden away, except for this single sheet on her writing-desk.
Spew, she writes, having finally been given, by tardy Providence, the needful word.

From ( Mariner Books 2003) of The Crimson Petal and the White.

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


Notes from a Small Island …a review

This is a special post. I have just come back from my winter break of three weeks. For Christmas, I went down to Spalding, Lincolnshire, to M’s. From there, we visited Cambridge. I took the train back to Edinburgh for Hogmanay (New Year Celebrations). Over the course of less than a week, I went to Tantallon Castle, Cramond beach, LongNiddrie bents, Gullane point, and North Berwick. Then, after a break of one day, I took the train to London. In four days, we covered (and properly, not just for the sake of touching upon) Westminster Abbey, Thames cruise, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, Windsor Castle, St George’s Chapel, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

I have never travelled so much before. The memories I collected will comfortably last me the whole of next sem, which starts on 14th. I was reading Bill Bryson’s travelogue throughout, on trains, on the tube, and in cars. It was delightful! The Times says on the cover of the book ‘Not a book that should be read in public, for fear of emitting loud snorts’. And that, is completely true. I’m not a huge fan of humour. Give me a travelogue by Dickens and I’m pleased as punch. But Bryson’s humour is brilliant! Marvellous, I say. I love his take on things that are British, especially the ones I can relate to so well!

Map of Travels!

Map of Travels!

The only bit that annoyed me a little was the bit about disliking Edinburgh on a wet morning. I’m fiercely defensive of this pretty thing that I have made my home! I love it to bits and don’t see how anyone can find it not pretty in any weather whatsoever. Anyway, if you have lived in the UK, live here, want to visit/study here, or just like travelogues… read this book. In fact, buy it, it is worth the money and is a work that you can come back to later 🙂

Quote: ”

Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain – which is to say, all of it. Every last bit of it, good and bad – Marmite, village fetes, country lanes, people saying ‘mustn’t grumble’ and ‘I’m terribly sorry but’, people apologizing to me when I conk them with a careless elbow, milk in bottles, beans on toast, haymaking in June, stinging nettles, seaside piers, Ordnance Survey maps, crumpets, hot-water bottles as a necessity, drizzly Sundays – every bit of it.

What a wondrous place this was – crazy as fuck, of course, but adorable to the tiniest degree. What other country, after all, could possibly have come up with place names like Tooting Bee and Farleigh Wallop, or a game like cricket that goes on for three days and never seems to start? Who else would think it not the least odd to make their judges wear little mops on their heads, compel the Lord Chancellor to sit on something called the Woolsack, or take pride in a naval hero whose dying wish was to be kissed by a fellow named Hardy? (‘Please, Hardy, full on the lips, with just a bit of tongue.’) What other nation in the world could possibly have given us William Shakespeare, pork pies, Christopher Wren, Windsor Great Park, the Open University, Gardeners’ Question Time and the chocolate digestive biscuit? None, of course.”

“The fact is that this is still the best place in the world for most things – to post a letter, go for a walk, watch television, buy a book, venture out for a drink, go to a museum, use the bank, get lost, seek help, or stand on a hillside and take in a view.

All of this came to me in the space of a lingering moment. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I like it here. I like it more than I can tell you. And then I turned from the gate and got in the car and knew without doubt that I would be back.”