Commodore's Reviews > The Crimson Petal and the White

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
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Aug 04, 12

Read in August, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Really, 3.5 stars, but after that ending I'm not feeling generous.
Pros:
Exhaustively researched. All the details fit perfectly into place, and it's probably ruined other, less well researched books set in that time period for me. I felt like I was there and that I learned something, but not in a preachy or look-at-how-clever-I'm-being way.

Reading it on Kindle was great too, because I could just touch a word to define it. I learned a ton of awesome new words and didn't have to pause every five minutes to get out the dictionary.

The supporting cast and their stories are wonderful. Mrs. Fox and Agnes in particular.
Cons:
That obnoxious narration. I'm lucky I didn't throw the book away after reading that opening, where the narrator addresses the reader. Maybe Faber was playing with the "dear reader" type of narration used in novels at the time, but it was just bad.

I don't think Rackham's reasons for abandoning Sugar were well-enough defined. Yes, fancies pass, but I couldn't even tell if it was that, societal pressure, his head injury, or any combination of the three that caused it to happen. Right after Rackham gets attacked, in fact, the novel takes a pretty steep dip as far as making sense is concerned.

Faber's love affair with the word "slime". All the crusty bits most accounts of Victorian times gloss over, Faber goes into great detail. And I basically loved it. Except for the fact that he uses "slime" as a noun seriously every three pages.

The ending: seriously? Are you kidding me? I didn't realize it was an acceptable practice after discovering you've written your characters into a corner after 800 pages, just saying, "uh, yeah, I think I'm just going to stop writing now." I'm not asking for every loose end to be tied in a pretty bow, but just a little more closure would not have been amiss. I'm actually HOPING the mini-series changed that bullshit ending.

Secret theories: Rackham misidentified his wife's body. Agnes made it to a convent in the countyside just fine in fact, and helps them sew for the poor now.
Sugar and Sophie hopped ship for America, and joined up with a school for girls in Philadelphia.
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