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!