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The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber (Author) (2002)

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English (162)  Dutch (4)  Italian (2)  German (2)  French (1)  All languages (171)
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
Review: The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber. An historic intriguing novel. A great work of art. Faber has written a magnificent lengthy story of an era of lewd, degrading, fraudulent, and corruptive characters.

It stated with an upper-class male aching for pleasures away from his dysfunctional family at home. William took no blame in the way his life was going. Would it surprise you if I say he is evil, mean and egotistically scum. Well, I place him somewhere at the bottom of the barrel. His wife Agnes was a pleasant women who did have some emotional illness brought on by William on their wedding day. Agnes took a turn for the worse emotionally when she had a child. She believed something evil was growing in her belly and when delivered she screamed the thing (baby) was bloody evil. She never seen the baby after that day and there was never any talk of her having a child. She was never educated to what happens when a girl hits puberty. As she got older she had no clue what minstrel cycles were, what sex was, and how a baby was created and born. On her wedding night William took no care in what his wife was going through. This is when her mind began to change one day at a time.

Sophie was the baby created by William and Agnes. Agnes never held her and William had little to do with her. She had a nurse-maid as her only (strict, crude) female involvement. Until the day Sugar came into her life at the age of six as her governess.

Who was Sugar? Perhaps, Williams kept mistress. The story entwines between the upper-class to the lowest of the lowest class. If you don’t mind some impurities in your reading you have found the right novel. The author brought a lot of degrading of women to the story but also brought down the men as scum-bags.

I enjoyed this novel and recommend the book to all book lovers…..
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
This is certainly a novel worthy of being called "an event". In 900 pages, you are transported through mid-to-late 1800's London, following a large cast of characters from different social classes. There are titled aristocrats, wealthy businessmen and their families, men of science, men of leisure, social workers, factory workers, prostitutes, and beggars. The novel bops around so that the reader spends some time with each of these characters, as well as an unnamed omnipresent narrator who "introduces" them to the reader.

Although there is a plot here, the novel is primarily driven by interactions with the characters. They are so well-crafted, diverse, and complicated that it's difficult not to align yourself with each of them in some way. The main three characters are William, his wife Agnes, and his favorite prostitute named Sugar. William wants to be an artist and a writer, but after finding no success he bends to his father's will and runs the family toiletries business. He marries Agnes when she is very young and naive about not only herself as a woman, but about the world. She desperately wants to be liked, but has fluctuating health and tendencies toward impropriety. Sugar was raised by her mother to be a prostitute and nothing more, but she desires to rise above her circumstances.

In these characters, we also get a glimpse at the values, expectations, ideals, privileges, and judgments of their society. We learn how women were expected to behave, and what happens when they don't conform. Men, of the upper classes, are allowed to spend time in frivolous pursuits but are expected to start a family and take control of the family fortune. The social classes were very rigidly defined, and it was only rarely that someone transcended upward through them.

Although there is a tremendous focus on social diversity in this novel, it distinctly lacks mention of racial, ethnic, or sexual orientation diversity. I find it difficult to believe that there was so much similarity between the inhabitants of 1850-1870's London.

Overall, this is a large, sweeping, ambitious novel of character and class. It speaks to the social conventions of its time while still having relevance to modern life. I won't say that the 900 pages fly by, but you may become so engrossed in the story that they pass very pleasantly. ( )
  BooksForYears | Mar 31, 2016 |
This was a really, really weird book. I read about 150 pages before I decided that it really was not worth it. I couldn't bring myself to care about the plot, and the writing was abysmal. Also, his obsession with writing about the main character's (whose name I forget) penis was a little odd. I especially did not like when he referred to it as "swaddled" - it was just totally unnecessary, and kept making me think of it as an infant. I'm not entirely sure that this wasn't the point, which, in fact, makes it creepier. Also, "shame-hair". There. There was just no need for that. I mean, it's not like I didn't expect a lot of sex in a book about prostitution (or partially about that, anyway), but this was just... shudder-inducing. I was kind of curious to see where he was going with it. But not really. ( )
  hoegbottom | Jan 30, 2016 |
This was a really, really weird book. I read about 150 pages before I decided that it really was not worth it. I couldn't bring myself to care about the plot, and the writing was abysmal. Also, his obsession with writing about the main character's (whose name I forget) penis was a little odd. I especially did not like when he referred to it as "swaddled" - it was just totally unnecessary, and kept making me think of it as an infant. I'm not entirely sure that this wasn't the point, which, in fact, makes it creepier. Also, "shame-hair". There. There was just no need for that. I mean, it's not like I didn't expect a lot of sex in a book about prostitution (or partially about that, anyway), but this was just... shudder-inducing. I was kind of curious to see where he was going with it. But not really. ( )
  hoegbottom | Jan 30, 2016 |
Well this is another case where my friends all told me I would love this book, but I put off reading it and now find that, of course, they were all right! What a wonderful book.

The characters are all beautifully drawn and the descriptions evoke the sights, sounds & smells of Victorian London and its squalor v opulence all so vividly. Too vividly when it comes to the smells of squalor!!

I love the juxtaposition of the lowest and (ok not quite) the highest. The filthy streets versus the beautiful home of a 'soap tycoon'. The transition of William's character (full circle). Sugar's fight to escape the boundaries of her birth: both class and gender. The contrasts of Sugar's life and how William treats her against that of his Wife Agnes' life and treatment.

I also liked the way nothing was resolved: we're left wondering of the fate of Agnes, Sugar, Sophie & William - fearing the worst and hoping for the best.

I'm finding this difficult to write without specifics which would spoil the book, so not sure that there's much else to say except: Read this Book and avoid the TV adaptation until you have! (I've not watched it yet, but suspect that the actors chosen are not what I've now imagined)

Oh, there is one more thing - can't wait to read The Apple which is a set of short stories, written after Crimson Petal, about some of the characters we've been introduced to. I believe some flesh out back stories whilst others are about 'what happens next'.... it's on my TBR shelf, I just need to read a couple of other things first! ( )
  Cassandra2020 | Jan 24, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 162 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Faber, MichelAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Świerkocki, MaciejTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dal Pra, ElenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Damsma, HarmTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Larsson, NilsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Möhring, Hans-UlrichTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miedema, NiekTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Omland, StianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pareschi, MonicaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pekkanen, HilkkaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saint-Aubin, Guillemette deTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tanner, JillNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Varrelmann, ClausTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vigild, NielsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
The girls that are wanted are good girls
Good from the heart to the lips
Pure as the lily is white and pure
From its heart to its sweet leaf tips.

The girls that are wanted are girls with hearts
They are wanted for mothers and wives
Wanted to cradle in loving arms
The strongest and frailest lives.

The clever, the witty, the brilliant girl
There are few who can understand
But, oh! For the wise, loving home girls
There's a constant, steady demand.

from 'The Girls that are Wanted' J.H. Gray, c. 1880
Dedication
To Eva, with love and thanks
First words
Watch your step.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
blurb : Meet Sugar, a nineteen year old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns for escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through society. Beginning with William Rackham, a perfume magnate whose lust for Sugar soon begins to smell like love, she meets a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters as her social rise is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.
Haiku summary
Soapmaker's mistress
Wants to be secretary
But does a "Jane Eyre"
(thorold)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156028778, Paperback)

Although it's billed as "the first great 19th-century novel of the 21st century," The Crimson Petal and the White is anything but Victorian. The story of a well-read London prostitute named Sugar, who spends her free hours composing a violent, pornographic screed against men, Michel Faber's dazzling second novel dares to go where George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss and the works of Charles Dickens could not. We learn about the positions and orifices that Sugar and her clients favor, about her lingering skin condition, and about the suspect ingredients of her prophylactic douches. Still, Sugar believes she can make a better life for herself. When she is taken up by a wealthy man, the perfumer William Rackham, her wings are clipped, and she must balance financial security against the obvious servitude of her position. The physical risks and hardships of Sugar's life (and the even harder "honest" life she would have led as a factory worker) contrast--yet not entirely--with the medical mistreatment of her benefactor's wife, Agnes, and beautifully underscore Faber's emphasis on class and sexual politics. In theme and treatment, this is a novel that Virginia Woolf might have written, had she been born 70 years later. The language, however, is Faber's own--brisk and elastic--and, after an awkward opening, the plethora of detail he offers (costume, food, manners, cheap stage performances, the London streets) slides effortlessly into his forward-moving sentences. When Agnes goes mad, for instance, "she sings on and on, while the house is discreetly dusted all around her and, in the concealed and subterranean kitchen, a naked duck, limp and faintly steaming, spreads its pimpled legs on a draining board." Despite its 800-plus pages, The Crimson Petal and the White turns out to be a quick read, since it is truly impossible to put down. --Regina Marler

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:28 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

From the Publisher: At the Heart of this panoramic, multidimensional narrative is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter. Michel Faber leads us back to 1870s London, where Sugar, a nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for escape into a better life. Her ascent through the strata of Victorian society offers us intimacy with a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters. They begin with William Rackham, an egotistical perfume magnate whose ambition is fueled by his lust for Sugar, and whose patronage of her brings her into proximity to his extended family and milieu: his unhinged, child-like wife, Agnes; his mysteriously hidden-away daughter, Sophie; and his pious brother Henry, foiled in his devotional calling by a persistently less-than-chaste love for the Widow Fox, whose efforts on behalf of The Rescue Society lead Henry into ever-more disturbing confrontations with flesh. All this is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all stripes and persuasions. Twenty years in its conception, research, and writing, The Crimson Petal and the White is a singular literary achievement-a gripping, intoxicating, deeply satisfying Victorian novel written with an immediacy, compassion, and insight that give it a timeless and universal appeal.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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