The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
Canongate Books: paperback published 2010: 834 pages
Step into Victorian London and meet our heroine, Sugar – a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can – and the host of unforgettable characters that make up her world.
For starters, it’s a peculiar Point of View. This takes a little time to get used to before you can really settle in to the swing of things. The main issue I had with the book is I didn’t really have a character I could connect with – none of them were particularly endearing. Especially William Rackham, Sugar’s “bit of stuff”, who is, frankly, an idiot. Michele Faber is a fantastic writer in all aspects really – she has a beautiful way of pulling you in to the scene, creating palpable characters and situations that involve you in the story (which is why I think she used Second Person Present). Victorian England, in honesty, is not one my greatest interests… give me the Napoleonic Wars any day… but this is the one book that has brought the era alive for me. It made it something that is more than just a weird bit of history, but something that almost directly affects me. Now, I’m not sure if this is because the Victorians were obsessed with it or not, but there seemed to be a bit of a fixation on… uh… shall we say – bodily functions. I don’t know about you, but reading about that sort of stuff makes me a tad uncomfortable. I know it makes the characters more “real” (I suppose), but I really do not need to read about their poo in every chapter.
It took me a long time to read this book – not because it’s a long book or I wasn’t enjoying it – but because it simply seemed to take a long time to read. I knew bits of it, because I’d caught a few glimpses of the TV adaptation, so those I could read with some ease, however I found myself bogged down in all the wordiness and intricacy of the plot. This is no bad thing! There’s no risk of forgetting something that happened earlier in the book, simply because you read it with such care that it’s imprinted on your memory. But overall? I liked the story, but probably wouldn’t read it again, because frankly I’m glad to leave some of those characters behind.
Next book: A quick ghost story before I take up Lunameth‘s recommendation – The Orphan’s Tales – so it’s 200-odd pages of Dark Matter by Michelle Paver (of children’s books Chronicles of Ancient Darkness fame) to scare me witless before I get on with some hardcore fantasy.