Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

77%

11 Critic Reviews

It's also a ripping good yarn that balances its characters against a chasm that threatens to consume them for the tiniest misstep.
-AV Club

Synopsis

At the heart of this panoramic, multidimensional narrative is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter. Faber leads us back to 1870s London, where Sugar, a nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, yearns for escape to a better life. Her ascent through the strata of Victorian society offers us intimacy with a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters. They begin with William Rackham, an egotistical perfume magnate whose ambition is fueled by his lust for Sugar, and whose patronage brings her into proximity to his extended family and milieu: his unhinged, childlike wife, Agnes, who manages to overcome her chronic hysteria to make her appearances during “the Season”; his mysteriously hidden-away daughter, Sophie, left to the care of minions; his pious brother, Henry, foiled in his devotional calling by a persistently less-than-chaste love for the Widow Fox, whose efforts on behalf of The Rescue Society lead Henry into ever-more disturbing confrontations with flesh; all this overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all stripes and persuasions.
Twenty years in its conception, research, and writing, The Crimson Petal and the White is teeming with life, rich in texture and incident, with characters breathtakingly real. In a class by itself, it's a big, juicy, must-read of a novel that will delight, enthrall, provoke, and entertain young and old, male and female.
 

About Michel Faber

See more books from this Author
Michel Faber's work has been published in twenty countries and received several literary awards. He lives in Scotland.
 
Published September 1, 2003 by Mariner Books. 922 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Romance. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Crimson Petal and the White
All: 11 | Positive: 10 | Negative: 1

Kirkus

Excellent
on May 20 2010

It’s hard to imagine that any contemporary novelist could have appropriated with such skill and force the irresistible narrative drive of the Victorian three-decker, or that readers who hunger for story won’t devour this like grateful wolves.

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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Kathryn Hughes on Sep 27 2008

Michel Faber has produced the novel that Dickens might have written had he been allowed to speak freely.

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Publishers Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on Jul 01 2008

A marvelous story of erotic love, sin, familial conflicts and class prejudice, this is a deeply entertaining masterwork that will hold readers captive until the final page.

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Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Jack Goodstein on Sep 14 2012

The plot in some sense is a variation on the theme of the woman of ill repute with the heart of gold, she more sinned against than sinning, except not quite.

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Book Reporter

Above average
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on Jan 21 2011

To behold a volume the size of THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE may appear a daunting challenge . . . But Faber's audience will undoubtedly be so swept up in the tale that . . . they will look to the page after the last and wonder: Where's the rest?

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AV Club

Good
Reviewed by Keith Phipps on Nov 01 2008

It's also a ripping good yarn that balances its characters against a chasm that threatens to consume them for the tiniest misstep.

Read Full Review of Crimson Petal and the White | See more reviews from AV Club

RT Book Reviews

Good
Reviewed by Kathe Robin on Jul 01 2008

The gritty prose and earthy descriptions of the essence of poverty, the rescue society work, the mechanisms of high (and low) society thrust you into Sugar's world.

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Entertainment Weekly

Good
Reviewed by Karen Valby on Sep 20 2008

For all his gorgeous descriptions and adroit social commentary, Faber is really a scamp at heart.

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LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Robert Lloyd on Sep 09 2012

I can tell you that I guessed early how it would end, reckoning its obvious partiality to certain characters against its feminist-humanist critique of attitudes we call Victorian.

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Booklist Online

Good
Reviewed by Ilene Cooper on Jan 01 2008

This massive work is startling and absorbing. Readers will not soon forget the richly drawn world into which they have been enticed.

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Curious Book Fans

Above average
Reviewed by sunmeilan on Sep 02 2010

Although Michel Faber is obviously a man, and a modern day one at that, his aim appears to be to show the horrendous position in which nearly all women found themselves at the time the story is set.

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Reader Rating for Crimson Petal and the White
68%

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