Meet Sugar, a nineteen-year-old prostitute in nineteenth-century London who yearns for escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through society, meeting a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters on the way. They begin with William Rackham, an egotistical perfume magnate whose empire is fueled by his lust for Sugar; his unhinged, child-like wife Agnes; his mysteriously hidden-away daughter, Sophie; and his pious brother Henry, foiled in his devotional calling by a persistently less-than-chaste love for the Widow Fox. All this is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all stripes and persuasions.
Teeming with life, this is a big, juicy must-read of a novel that has enthralled hundreds of thousands of readers-and will continue to do so for years to come.
Faber's bawdy, brilliant second novel tells an intricate tale of love and ambition and paints a new portrait of Victorian England and its citizens in prose crackling with insight and bravado. Using the wealthy Rackham clan as a focal point for his sprawling, gorgeous epic, Faber, like Dickens or Hardy, explores an era's secrets and social hypocrisy.William Rackham is a restless, rebellious spirit, mistrustful of convention and the demands of his father's perfume business. While spying on his sickly wife's maid, whom he suspects of thievery, he begins a slow slide into depravity: he meets Sugar, a whore whose penetrating mind and love of books intrigues him as much as her beauty and carnal skills do. Faber (Under the Skin) also weaves in the stories of Agnes, William's delicate, mad and manipulative wife, and Henry, his pious, morally conflicted brother, both of whom seek escape from their private prisons through fantasies and small deceptions. Sin and vice both attract and repel the brothers: William, who becomes obsessed with Sugar, rescues her from her old life, while Henry, paralyzed by his love for Emmeline Fox, a comely widow working to rescue the city's prostitutes, slowly unravels.Faber's central characters, especially the troubled William and the ambitious Sugar, shine with life, and the author is no less gifted in capturing the essence of his many minor characters the evil madam, Mrs. Castaway, and William's pompous father-in-law, Lord Unwin. The superb plot draws on a wealth of research and briskly moves through the lives of each character whether major or minor, upstairs or downstairs gathering force until the fates of all are revealed. 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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This book is amazing, so filled with rich versatile characters that keep you hooked. Plenty of story to keep you busy for weeks!
I consider myself an avid reader and I rarely do not finish a book I have started.
I had to stop after about 657 pages. This was the worst book I have ever read.
It was long, laborious and very boring. I found I could care less about the characters. I was just reading to get it over with. Life is too short to waste on such rubbish. Very disappointed and sorry I wasted even a dime on this book.
I should have listened to the other bad reviews.
The Crimson Petal and the White
Fascinating. A page turner. Characters that you care about. Haunting. Mesmerizing. But ending leaves one completely unsatisfied. No closure. Maybe its an American thing--closure?