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The Crimson Petal and the White (2002)

by Michel Faber

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Lelieblank (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,2551921,188 (3.88)1 / 419
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 this novel is the compelling struggle of a young woman trying to lift her body and soul out of the gutter.… (more)
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» See also 419 mentions

English (180)  Dutch (5)  Italian (4)  German (2)  French (1)  All languages (192)
Showing 1-5 of 180 (next | show all)
There are many, many reviews of this novel, so I won't try to go over the same territory covered by those who love it or hate it. I will just try to explain why I have mixed feelings -- obviously, I didn't "hate" it, because I kept reading right to the bitter end, and I found it a real page-turner. and a quite impressive piece of work.

But ...

I didn't LOVE it ... I wasn't bothered by the length. As other reviewers have said, the length, the level of everyday detail and the leisurely development of character and situation, makes this novel an immersive experience. Nor was I overly bothered by the graphic sexual content that some readers complain about. (Look, if you pick up a book about Victorian prostitutes, um, what do you expect?) Yes, perhaps, "yuck" -- but isn't that the point? We only have to read about it, Sugar and women like her had to live through it or starve.

I think my mixed feelings arise from a sense that Faber was just showing off: "I'm doing this (900 pages, intrusive narrative voice, very graphic sex scenes) just because I can ..." By the end, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to take away from it -- about Victorian prostitutes, the ambitions of women in a repressive society, about the importance of storytelling -- except that Michel Faber is very, very clever. ( )
  maura853 | Jul 11, 2021 |
Great except for the non-existent ending. It just stopped!
  Teresa1966 | Dec 22, 2020 |
Interesting approach using the concept of walking the streets of 1870s London and meeting various characters that will play a part in the story. Gave a lot of info about living both poor and wealthy in that time period but the book was way too long for me. Enjoyed Sugar as the prostitute and her way of looking at life, trying to make things better for herself yet disappointed me when she did not help those of her former life later on. Thought William was becoming a better person but he really let me down at the end. Never understood his wife. ( )
  kshydog | Dec 13, 2020 |
I remember it as being a very pretentious author writing about a very pretentious prostitute and a 'oh look how terrible Victorian life was which I know due to my extensive research'. Meh. ( )
  stormnyk | Aug 6, 2020 |
Took me months to read, I find it hard to knuckle down on large books, but was always a joy to tuck into. Such a beautifully crafted world, the narrator drifting in and out of characters lives; all fully rounded, the book far better for the fact that it's almost entirely character driven rather than plot-driven.

I'm not sure who wouldn't like this (unless you're some massive prude or something), it's an easy read but it's expertly written with no noticeable dips in quality or pace. Nearing 900 pages it's a bit of a doorstop but well worth the time investment. ( )
  arewenotben | Jul 31, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 180 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Faber, Michelprimary 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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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
To Eva, with love and thanks
First words
Watch your step.
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Original language
Canonical DDC/MDS

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (1)

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 this novel is the compelling struggle of a young woman trying to lift her body and soul out of the gutter.

No library descriptions found.

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"

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Average: (3.88)
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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1841954314, 1847678939

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