Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Crimson Petal and the White, Summer Lovin' Day 3

I finally finished this chunky bastard of a book, and Goodreads tells me I've been reading The Crimson Petal and the White, by Michel Faber, for 21 days. I believe it! Weighing in at over 800 pages this contemporary-Victorian monster is a hell of a ride.

Sugar is a prostitute of wide acclaim with literary sensibilities. William Rackham is a failed writer and the disinterested heir to a perfume business. Agnes Rackham is William's mad religion-conflicted visionary wife who constantly puts herself in peril. And his brother Henry is a tortured soul, bound to be good by God's law, but in love and lust with the philanthropic, Emmeline Fox.

This was a really screwed-up bunch, but it sure made for a fun novel. I'm so impressed by Faber's writing. This book was published in 2002, and the language and literary devices are spot-on in their Victorian'ness. If Charles Dickens had a potty mouth and was allowed to speak the uninhibited truth about the filth, squalor and closeted moral depravity of Victorian London, this is what it would've been like!

There is truly scandal around every turn. The title is telling of a larger issue at play here: the nature of innocence vs. experience (if you know what I mean). It's a sensational novel that doesn't pull any punches. I had to laugh and roll my eyes at the characters' motivations and choices, but again, it was so freakin' much fun, I didn't even care that it was unrealistic. Aren't most Victorian offerings over the top and melodramatic? YES!!! It's what made this novel so great. 

The characters, while they were extreme, were oddly endearing for such a bunch of wankers and dirtbags. Sugar was, by far, my favorite. Near the novel's opening it becomes clear that she's writing a novel of an autobiographical nature, in which her clients come to grisly and disturbing ends. William is a simpering fool who really needs to put on his big boy pants and take the reigns of his father's business, but it takes a while for tides to turn and these characters to develop. I absolutely hated some of the choices they made, and it really was unclear--until the very last page--who would come out smelling like a rose, and who would get dragged through the muck. 

It was my first inclination that this novel came to a bit of a screeching halt, but in retrospect, and upon another reading, I think it ended perfectly.

Finally, The Crimson Petal and the White, is steeped in the literary. Book nerds, this bawdy romp is for you. Shades of Jane Eyre, John Fowles, Dickens (of course!), and my favorite literary gal: Estella. They're all here, haunting Faber's pages with their inspiration and echoing through his writing. 

I just can't say enough good things about this book. It's worth all 834 pages. 

Pub. Date: September 2002
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Format: E-book
ISBN: 9780156028776
Source: Purchased by me!

Today's participation post for the Summer Lovin' Read-a-thon is “Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee," and I'll be introducing y'all to a favorite female character. I'm skipping Estella because it's so obvious. OK??? ;)

I originally planned to post this review on Thursday, but since I'm reviewing Crimson Petal, and I wanted you all to "meet" Sugar for today's participation post, I did the ole switcheroo. 

Sugar is a lady of the night, as it were, so she's had something of a hardscrabble life in Victorian London. As the book opens, she's quite famous among sultry circles because she will do just about anything for her clients, and she has a way of making them feel empowered. She's one tough, smart cookie with literary ambitions as she's intent upon writing a novel wherein her male cohorts come to grisly and tragic ends by her hand. It's sad to see Sugar "sell out"  as the novel progresses, but I'm happy to report that I liked her again by the end of the book. She was probably the most dynamic character in the novel. 

This novel was made into a BBC miniseries, and while I haven't seen it, I pulled this image of Sugar from the interwebs. She's not quite as I imagined her, but they did a good job casting overall, from what I can tell. 

Have you met any memorable female characters recently? 

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