Sobri, February 2, 2013 (view all comments by Sobri)
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 regret the sleep I lost that night; if anything, I regret that there weren't four hundred more pages to stay up for. That's how much I liked the book.
i write that only mildly tongue-in-cheek; only future literary potentates will decide whether this book belongs in The Canon, as jane austen certainly does, but faber's book certainly has equal scope and similar concerns, and fine, fine writing.
we contemporary humans tend to look at austen's work in one sense as rather quaint--entire tomes about niceties of courtship and marriage, social position, and how the wrong hat can ruin a woman. but in fact these issues were economic, life-and-death issues for women who had few (to no) other options for financial security. faber certainly gets this, and he makes painfully, horribly clear what happens to those women who fail to make a good match.
and he gets women. his portraits of Sugar and Agnes are enthralling, Sugar in particular. the warps in her character caused by her debasement are painful (and sometimes, in a black humor way, very funny) and appalling. one can't help but pity her, and not in an i'm-so-superior way, because faber makes us feel the inevitability of it. and yet she's also extraordinary in her fight to retain her own dignity. i'm pretty sure that if i were in her little lace-up boots, i'd drink or drug myself to death at a fast clip, but Sugar fights and keeps on fighting for both her intellect and her heart. you just can't help, in the end, but admire her.
i won't witter on about all the characters. suffice it to say that by the end of the book, the main characters have all been treated to a painstaking examination, and none are perfect, but all are achingly human. warts and all.
austen had the advantage of writing about her own times, to an audience that swam in that sea; faber has the uphill battle of not only having had to do a brain-pounding quantity of research, but also having to convey the particulars to an audience only tenuously connected to the times. the details of this book are staggering, yet slipped in so naturally that readers will find no life preserver is needed. it's an astonishing accomplishment.
it's also so ingeniously plotted that you can't put it down, a cruel thing in a book this long (and weighty). i'm going to toddle off and catch up with my sleep now, having been up til 1am finishing it off. you just go read the book.
Moira , January 6, 2010 (view all comments by Moira )
No easy solutions to the very human relationships. Crosses all sectors of Victorian society in a compelling narrative, full of intriguing characters.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (0 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
Sarah Daniels, January 1, 2010 (view all comments by Sarah Daniels)
This book is massive, but once you start reading it, you won't want to put it down until you're finished. Michael Faber has produced an amazing portrait of Victorian London, filled with exhaustively-researched details and unforgettable characters. I read this book several years ago, yet Sugar (the main character) stays with me still. I highly recommend this excellent book!
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No (1 of 2 readers found this comment helpful)
by The Washington Post Book World,
"Tell[s] a good story grippingly and colorfully... An old-fashioned page-turner with pleasingly new-fangled twists."
by Kirkus Reviews,
"[An] enthralling melodrama....It's hard to imagine...that readers who hunger for story won't devour this like grateful wolves. Riveting, and absolutely unforgettable."
"Gorgeous. Capable of rendering the muck of a London street and the delicate humming-bird flights of thought with equal ease."
by Entertainment Weekly,
"[A] gloves-off kind of novel, one not to be passed along lightly to your grandmother. Cocky and brilliant, amused and angry, the author is rightfully earning comparisons to observer extraordinaire Charles Dickens."
by The New York Times Book Review,
"Ambitious and accomplished ... Nothing could have prepared readers for the sweep and subtlety of The Crimson Petal and the White."
"[D]on't wait for the movie. Read The Crimson Petal and the White now, while it's still a living, laughing, sweating, coruscating mass of gorgeous words....And although it's almost 300 pages longer than The Corrections, miraculously it feels shorter."
"Readers...are in for a lasting love affair; the intimate relationship one develops with the characters after reading for 834 pages is much more staisfying than the mere one-night-stand promised by most novels."
by New York Newsday,
"If you start reading this suspenseful, beautifully written novel, with its compelling characters, subtle psychology, wit and heart, you won't be able to stop."
by Ilene Cooper, Booklist (Starred Review),
"[B]reathtaking....[P]art saga, part morality play, and utterly engrossing....This massive work is startling and absorbing. Readers will not soon forget the richly drawn world into which they have been enticed."
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and eBooks — here at Powells.com.