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The Crimson Petal and the White
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The Crimson Petal and the White

3.82 of 5 stars 3.82  ·  rating details  ·  21,419 ratings  ·  1,919 reviews
Sugar is an alluring 19 year-old prostitute who plies her trade at Mrs Castaway's brothel in late 19th century London. Her aim is to lift her body and soul out of the gutter.
Paperback, 845 pages
Published July 1st 2010 by Canongate Books (first published January 1st 2002)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve
A word of warning, my friends: I’ll be giving this the hard sell. To begin, please create in your mind’s eye (and ear) the most interesting tour guide imaginable. He knows all about Victorian England – its people, its paradoxes – and what’s more, he knows what you don’t know but would find fascinating. Transitions back and forth between our modern perspectives and their older, more circumscribed ones are virtually seamless. He’s wise about people, too, their quirks and motivations, independent o...more
Teresa Jusino
I've been of the mind recently that there is something slightly worse than bad. And that is: almost. Bad, one can deal with. It's easily classifiable, and can be (to paraphrase Susan Orlean in The Orchid Thief) "whittled down to a more manageable size." Almost is harder. Almost teases you with what could have been, only to disappoint you with what is. Almost is wasted potential. Almost lingers inside you like a dust bunny under a bed in a clean room. The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Fab...more
Paul
You know in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind they've invented this brilliant device for erasing specific memories and the whole plot revolves around people who meet each other after they've had their memories of each other already erased, so they re-meet and re-love and it's all poignant and kind of whoah and oops I kind of gave the plot away - well, you should have seen it by now, come on, it's years old. Anyway, I'd love that particular invention to be true true true so that I could hustl...more
Emily
If you don't like reading about sex, don't read this book. And when I say sex, I don't necessarily mean the pleasant kind of reading about sex, or the titillating kind of reading about sex. I mean, there are plenty of gory details in here about the everyday lives of Victorian women and prostitutes. And many of them aren't pretty.
The thing that fascinates and attracts me to this book is that it could only take place in Victorian London, and yet it could only have been written in the modern era. D...more
Kelly
Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you've read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether..."

Thus does Faber begin his beguiling spell of a novel, the Crimson Petal and the White. He sets the bar rat...more
Cecily
"Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them." From that captivating opening (echoed several times later on), you are a voyeur, on an extraordinarily vivid journey. I was enthralled from the start, raced through the 800+ pages at every opportunity, and remain in awe of the way the story is told. Regularly addressing the reader in conspiratorial tones, lends an air of intimacy that suits the subject.

CHARACTERS

The central character is Sugar, a young prostitute who is uncommonly i...more
Priya
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Martine
Jul 03, 2008 Martine rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who believe the journey is more important than the destination
If I had to give a one-word response to the big, sprawling monster of a faux-Victorian novel that is The Crimson Petal and the White, it would be 'WOW'. (With capitals. Yes.) At 895 pages, it's a big book, and it's not without its flaws, but such is the quality of the writing, the characterisation and the staggering amount of research that went into it that I was enthralled from beginning to end and stayed up until 4am on a weekday night to be able to read the last four hundred pages. I don't re...more
Siria
Enjoyable and rather compulsively readable, but not particularly impressive, The Crimson Petal and the White is essentially an 18 rated version of Dickens—a cautionary tale set in Victorian London, but with more mention of prostitutes, erections and human excretions than you could shake a reasonably sized stick at.

The prose is quite solid, though it feels a little padded in places, particularly in regards to the Henry Rackham/Emmeline Fox subplot; similarly, the narrative flows well, though I wo...more
Laurie Neighbors
Aug 16, 2007 Laurie Neighbors rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: shut-ins
Okay, I read this book. I read every page because, you know, Michel Faber, right? I mean, his prior work was not without merit.

What the hell was he thinking, though, when he wrote this book? Was he aiming for mediocre language and predictable plot with lots of crusty, nasty Victorian sex? Cause if so, bravo!

Still, I did read it all the way through. So what does that say about ME? I think what it says about me was that I hang in, even against my better judgment. I read all the way through becaus...more
Trevor
When this book started I thought that it was going to be quite a different kind of novel. I thought it was going to be a bit like Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller – a series of beginnings tripping over one another, but never getting further on than that. I thought that this would be a kind of ‘day in the life’ of Victorian London – one seen through the eyes of prostitutes and their clients. What is it, I wonder, that has us so fascinated by Victorian prostitutes? Is it just that Vict...more
Liz
In an interview, The Crimson Petal and White’s author, Michael Faber says: “I use the metaphor of a novel being like a prostitute, promising the reader a good time, promising intimacy and companionship”.

If this is the case, boy did I feel like I got a good “fuck” for my moneys worth. At 850+ pages, I thought this tome of a novel was magnificent.

Faber led me by the hand, and brought me to Victorian London, where I fell in and out of love with the characters. The robust writing and detailed desc...more
Beth F.
Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you've read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether...

What a beginning! I passed my copy on after I originally read this in 2005. I gave it to my mom who gave it...more
Sally Howes
THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE both is and is not a book about sex. Yes, it follows the life of Sugar, an unusually talented (in more ways than one) whore in Victorian London, but its sex scenes are brief, perfunctory, and relatively infrequent considering the subject matter. If you're looking for a Victorian-era FIFTY SHADES OF GREY, look elsewhere, you won't find it here. What you will find is a uniquely brilliant, unabashedly feminist character study of some memorable examples of women and m...more
Gary the Bookworm
This book has captured the hearts and minds of readers and it has been acclaimed as the book Charles Dickens should have written. As valid a comparison as that may be, it also reminds me of novels written by the Toms-Hardy, Wolfe, and especially that old voyeur, Peeping. Okay Peeping Tom wasn't a writer but according to the legend he gawked at Godiva as she preened in all her naked glory. Faber invites us to indulge our own voyeuristic fantasies as he deconstructs the rigid mores of Victorian so...more
Anastasia
GLI UOOOOOOMINIIII NON CAAAAAMBIANOOOO!
[leggere con la giusta intonazione prego, non facciamo gli altoparlanti]


Faber, oltre ad avere un'esilarante antipatia per il genere maschile, ha anche il sacro fuoco della narrazione che gli circola a go-go in tutto l'organismo. E infatti adotta quel mezzo quasi sleale, affabulante, che è il considerarti come effettivo lettore, non semplicemente la finestra su cui poggiare i gomiti. Assomiglia molto alla rottura della quarta parete.

"Attento. Tieni la testa...more
El
[February 22, 2014] I have just finished watching all four discs of the BBC miniseries, the same one that I referenced in this book review a couple years ago, stating that the miniseries couldn't be as good as the book. I am so full of shit. It could be as good as the book. I still want everyone to read the book, but the miniseries captures the story so well and so faithfully; I found myself falling in love with the story all over again. The actors were fantastic, right down to little Sophie.

Or
...more
minnie
It’s not often a book comes along, that when you close the final pages you already miss the characters. Their ups and downs have become your life as you go into the early hours with them every night. Well, this is one of those books, a book with amazing characters that keep you guessing til the last page. There’s Sugar the well read prostitute, Agnes the beautiful Victorian wife teetering on the brink of madness, and Emmeline.Fox the campaigner whose modern views ostracize her from society.In th...more
Aimee
So I thought this book had a lot of potential but it completely dissappointed me. I thought at the end it would bring all the 800ish pages but it DID NOT. It just ends and I was so shocked and angry with myself that I actually spent all that time reading this lame ending book.

I loved the way they narrator of the story took us with him/her through the story and I was really sad when that character just disappeared from the storyline. I enjoyed having at all-knowing eye lead me to next plot. So I...more
Sarah Edwina Rose
As a former English Literature student, I have been around the literary block. I have delved into the Medieval ramblings of priests, danced with Milton's devil, analysed King Lear's madness, cried with Keats and romanced with Jane Austen.

Becoming somewhat snobby about literature, you do not expect to pick something from a promotion table in Boarders and be inspired. Yet the mindless spending of an ancient book voucher gave me a unfailing companion, and allowed me to dwell in a time alternative t...more
Alice
Jan 07, 2013 Alice rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people very interested in Victorian London
I agree with a lot that has already been said about this book. Faber has almost written a critique of life in the late Victorian period for people of different social classes, different beliefs, and of course he includes a lot of sex...This is all very interesting, especially if you like learning about the Victorians. Faber writes wonderful prose, which has stayed in my mind for some time after reading it and he has vivid characters, looking at the development of not only the main protagonists....more
Arwen56
Questo libro l’ho pescato a caso, perché nulla conoscevo e, a tutt’oggi, nulla conosco del suo autore, tranne le poche notizie riportate in quarta di copertina: è nato in Olanda nel 1960, ma cresciuto in Australia e, dal 1993, vive in Scozia. Queste 985 pagine sono il frutto di 20 anni di ricerche. Accidenti!, direte voi (l’ho detto anch’io, anzi, l’ho solo pensato, perché non è che potessi mettermi a esclamare “accidenti” nel bel mezzo di una libreria … ).

Ma 20 anni di ricerche su cosa? Sul per...more
Kristen
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brian
Over eight hundred pages of very small print, The Crimson Petal and the White is, nevertheless, tremendously readable. Like a mixture of Fielding and Dickens filtered through a twenty-first century sensibility, it positively teems with life, its pages stuffed with characters who leap out of the pages at you.

It's the story of Sugar, an intelligent, resourceful prostitute, making her way in Victorian London. As you might imagine with such a protagonist, there's plenty of sex but it's not the kind...more
Anna Klein
Nineteen year-old Sugar is a whore in 1870s London. William Rackham is the proud, immature inheritor of the Rackham perfumery. William's wife, Agnes, is mentally off. William's brother, Henry, is confounded by his religion. William's young daughter, Sophie, is hidden away in the Rackham mansion and cared for by servants. Is it any wonder William seeks out a prostitute? Of course, we all know he's going to find Sugar. The only question is, what sort of tortured relationship between them can fill...more
pinkgal
Prostitute? Check. Crazy wife? Check. Bumbling young rich man? Check. Detailed descriptions of human and physical plumbing and the state of the sewers? Um... check. =) That was one thing I absolutely adored about this book! It was the detailed look at the underbelly of their world in England; it wasn't pretty and the streets sure smelled with all the toilet water going here and there. Sugar wasn't the world's most likeable protagonist, but you couldn't help but just feel indignity for her, even...more
Victoria
This is heading straight to my list of favourite books. I'm actually distraught that I've finished reading it. I know one huge book hangover is coming my way. As luck would have it, I do have the short follow up, The Apple standing by, but short it is.

I don't think I can possibly write a review that would explain the fabulous and quite extraordinary book I've just read.

I can't add to what anyone else has already said in their reviews really.

To sum it up, this book delves into the real life Lo...more
Suzanne
This novel transported me to the darkest dirtiest corners and sewers of London in the 1860's. The heroine of this novel is the brilliant jewel, Sugar. Not only is she one of the most sought after prostitutes on Church Lane, but she's smart and believe it or not, the only adult character in the book who is sincerely virtuous. Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos

Her john, William, is a ne'er do well, who aided by Sugar, is able to turn his life around and grow the family soap and perfume business. Unfortunately, there's not enough...more
F.R.
This is a novel I fell upon and devoured. Within pages I realised that this was a literary dish, one whose every mouthful I was going to gleefully wolf down. I set about chewing it whole, taking pleasure in every succulent paragraph. It’s a novel so rich in detail and dressed in such delicious and juicy prose that when the copy wasn’t actually in my hands, I thought about it and even dreamt about it. It was a sensation beyond moreish, this was a book which demanded to be consumed whilst at the s...more
Steve
I applaud Faber for holding my attention for 750 pages, but I'd like to slap him with a wet noodle for the crap that fills the final 150-200 pages, not to mention the "well, I don't know how to conclude my 896-page novel, so I won't" denouement.

Still, a good corker, for the most part. Got me through many a miserable commute. The sex bits are a little overcooked; they struck me as Faber trying too hard to be forthright and edgy. That said, he can stage a scene and describe a setting well. The man...more
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16272
Michel Faber (born 13 April 1960) is a Dutch writer of fiction. He writes in English.

Faber was born in The Hague, The Netherlands. He and his parents emigrated to Australia in 1967. He attended primary and secondary school in the Melbourne suburbs of Boronia and Bayswater, then attended the University Of Melbourne, studying Dutch, Philosophy, Rhetoric, English Language (a course involving translat...more
More about Michel Faber...
Under the Skin The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories The Courage Consort The Fahrenheit Twins The Hundred and Ninety-Nine Steps

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“A single day spent doing things which fail to nourish the soul is a day stolen, mutilated, and discarded in the gutter of destiny.” 78 likes
“Participating in Society in not a thing one can do naturally; one has to rehearse for it.” 45 likes
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