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The Crimson Petal and the White [Audio CD]

Michel Faber
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks (5 July 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 1407422103
  • ISBN-13: 978-1407422107
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (248 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,825,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

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 1870s London society offers us intimacy with a host of loveable, maddening and superbly realised characters. At the heart of this panoramic, multi­layered novel is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter...

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 101 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darkly brilliant Victoriana 21 April 2011
By Joanne Sheppard TOP 1000 REVIEWER
The Crimson Petal and the White is currently being serialised by the BBC, and a great adaptation it is too. But if you don't read the book, you'll be seriously missing out.

It's a hefty commitment at well over 800 pages, but apart from the sheer weight of it straining my wrists, it couldn't have been less of a chore to read. From the opening pages, in which a sly, conspiratorial narrator invites the reader to spy, voyeur-like, on the characters, to the ambiguous, startling conclusion, I was gripped by this dark Victorian tale.

The apparently cold-hearted prostitute Sugar, largely unloved, frequently unlovely and often unlovable, is a dream of a character. She is complicated, ambiguous and contradictory, and yet I found it impossible not to cheer her on even at the height of her scheming. William Rackham, the weak-willed perfume manufacturer who 'buys' her from her increasingly terrifying mother and madam, Mrs Castaway, is absurd and dangerous by turns. In fact, William is a living embodiment of the saying 'a little knowledge is a dangerous thing'. His position as a wealthy man in a 19th century patriarchy - a position he only reaches in the first place with Sugar as both his motivation and unofficial assistant - means that his snap decisions and capricious whims can have a horrifying effect, sometimes unwitting and sometimes deliberate, on the women around him. Casually neglecting his disappointingly female offspring and simultaneously idolising and despising his disturbed young wife Agnes, he often professes to be in love with Sugar - but will he tire of her one day and put her to one side, just as he shuts away his inconvenient wife and child?
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105 of 110 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Example of Superior Period Fiction 12 Feb 2004
By Ms. V. Hoyle VINE VOICE
Set in Victorian London, peopled by prositutes, madams, street sellers, batchelors, widows, Perfume manufacturers, hysterics and governnesses, "The Crimson Petal and the White" is everything it promises to be on the first page - an eye-opening journey and a dirty, jolting, wholly satisfying ride at that.
Its very difficult to express the novel's quality and density. Undoubtedly it is Faber's "magnum opus" to date, a startling 800+ page tome rather than his usual slick, moderate volumes. Furthermore, not a single page is superfluous - it surrenders to compelling detail and atmosphere, while still conveying a developing sense of character and an adequate pace of plot - the marriage of which is rarely accomplished with the good grace that "Crimson Petal" displays.
The story is at once convuluted, in that it follows a number of sensational and shocking individuals over one year of their lives, and incredibly simple, in that nothing resembling a contrived plotline is evident. The principals under examination are without exception well rounded protagonists - centred around William Rackham, the up-and-coming heir of a booming perfume manufacturer, they include his disturbed wife Agnes; the enigmatic Sugar, a prostitute who becomes his mistress and his ascetic, pious brother Henry. All of them undergo the painful, and wonderful, events demanded by the movement of time, and the changes of the Victorian social environment.
The Victorian era is deliciously invoked by Faber, who appears to have conducted exhaustive research both into the social and economic realities of the period. Equally, the experiences of his characters are realistically approached and at no time does the novel require a leap of imaginative faith.
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104 of 109 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars 800 pages, but I still wanted more! 19 Sep 2002
Michel Faber's loose, baggy monster of a book captures the great narrative drive of classic Victorian storytellers, and wears its influences fairly openly. Sugar, the heroine, has an instinct for self-preservation as intuitive as Vanity Fair's Becky Sharp. The densely researched details of perfume manufacturing recall George Eliot's quarrying for "Middlemarch". And the frank sexual content will probably have Andrew Davies rubbing his hands with glee if he gets the chance to adapt it for the screen, as he's done with Sarah Waters' "Tipping the Velvet".
Michel Faber gives us a Victorian Christmas with all the trimmings, nights in whorehouses and opera houses, and some truly disgusting sounding Victorian meals... which seem worse, oddly enough, than the contraceptive routines he details the women in the book putting themselves through. He also writes wonderfully about being a six year old in 1875.
This took twenty years to write and research ; I hope a sequel won't take so long to complete!
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An evocation of Victorian London 22 July 2009
A long, leisurely-paced book written in the expansive style of the Victorian novel. The title, drawn from Tennyson, contrasts the shrewd, manipulative Sugar, a knowing 19 year-old prostitute, with the confused innocence of Agnes, mentally-ill wife of her lover, William Rackham. In her new role as a 'kept woman', Sugar moves from a Silver Street brothel run by her mother Mrs Castaway to the gentility of the suburbs. In this more privileged environment Sugar shed most of her hatreds as she develops into a sensitive and compassionate woman. The very ambiguous ending of the novel at least expresses her empathy with Agnes and William's daughter, Sophie, both of whom, like Sugar herself ultimately, have suffered at Rackham's hands.

Faber's novel conjures up the world of mid-Victorian London, its dirt and squalor and the flower-girls, street urchins and prostitutes that frequented its streets. This is contrasted with the bourgeois world of William, an aspiring man of business: it is hinted throughout the book that he is not the ideal employer. Then there is the ascetic elder brother Henry and his disciple Emmeline, zealous searchers for virtue, and the raffish men about town who prey on the fallen women Emmeline is trying to rescue. Faber's historical research seems faultless: Sugar would indeed have heard the premiere of the Verdi Requiem, conducted by the composer in the spring of 1875 as part of his European tour.

A major feature of the novel, emphasising the contrast between glamour and squalor in the narrative, is the way it evokes the various smells of Victorian London, from the ordure of its streets, to the variagated perfumes of Rackham's soaps and lotions, and the natural fragrance of his lavender fields.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting
An interesting story which kept me riveted to the end. I like the way the reader is led along and introduced to the characters
Published 2 days ago by Barbara George
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
an interesting look at the life and a good plot, enjoyed it more than i thought i would
Published 6 days ago by Karenb
5.0 out of 5 stars and in excellent state, thank you
Very prompt delivery, and in excellent state, thank you!
Published 11 days ago by Amelie Petiteville
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
One of my favourite books of all time, I would never have thought to purchase this kind of book and story, but so glad I did. I hope more books will follow.
Published 13 days ago by tiggs2
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, a gripping story and well written
Brilliant, a gripping story and well written x
Published 21 days ago by lorraine montgomery
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very efficient service, delivered quickly
Published 28 days ago by janette thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books
I absolutely loved this book. I did not want it to end. It's one of the best books I have read this year (and I do read quite a lot, and lots of different types of fiction), maybe... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Fozzwick
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
excellent. well written. strong characters. authentic historic context.
Published 1 month ago by L. K. Rowley
5.0 out of 5 stars unputdownable
Well researched, sad, shocking, interesting - a massively enjoyable book. great characters, good story, insightful Victorian aspects cleverly woven into the fiction. Ending... Read more
Published 1 month ago by MJP
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Published 1 month ago by j g hames
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