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The Crimson Petal And The White Paperback – 11 Sep 2003


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Product details

  • Paperback: 984 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; New edition edition (11 Sep 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841954314
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841954318
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 4 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (261 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 389,769 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

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. It's 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 favour, 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, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

Unputdownable. --The Guardian

An intensely imaginative time-travel experience. --Independent.

Down-and-dirty tale of an upwardly mobile Victorian prostitute . . . a scintillating tour de force. --Sunday Telegraph

Extremely sophistiated. --Daily Telegraph

When a book is this big, it had better be good - this one is. Dive in. Enjoy! --Alice Seebold

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

101 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Joanne Sheppard TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 21 April 2011
Format: Paperback
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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107 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Ms. V. Hoyle VINE VOICE on 12 Feb 2004
Format: Paperback
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 110 people found the following review helpful By PAUL DUMONT on 19 Sep 2002
Format: Hardcover
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "pinklilycat" on 16 Sep 2005
Format: Paperback
This is the first novel I have ever read that has made me totally unable to begin another book after fininishing. I simply cannot stop thinking about these characters which appear so utterly real it's unnerving. I KNOW these people, I KNOW this 18th century London, I know these things almost as clearly as I know my own life. The desciption in this book is beautiful and I found myself reading passages over and over again for the sheer pleasure of such superior writing which is practically poetry. The unusual original style in which the book begins drew me in immediatly and I am surprised that many reviewers have claimed they found this awkward as I thought it was one of the most enchanting ideas inside the novel. In my humble opion this truely is one of the most wonderful books I have ever had the good fortune to get my hands upon and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Good luck, Sugar...
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