Plot Junkie: The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber

So, you know when I said I was only going to read one book a month? And when I specifically named THIS BOOK as one of the reasons that I made that resolution? That whole “I speed through books and then don’t know what I read” thing?

Yeah, never mind. So I finished Les Miserables while waiting on a friend on Friday afternoon (yes, I might be just a tad behind on the reviews.) And being stranded without anything else to do, I skimmed through the books I had downloaded to my iPhone… and out of all the beautiful options (complete Dickens, complete Austen, complete Bronte) I ended up with this one.

And I finished it Sunday morning, having accomplished very little absolutely nothing else in the intervening 48 hours. And you know what? I’m ok with that. New Year’s Resolutions be damned.

This book is freaking fantabulous.

And wow, is it more graphic than I remembered. The main character, Sugar, is a Victorian prostitute—there is quite a bit of information about rudimentary birth control practices, and about, er, the activities in which she engaged that required said birth control practices. If you know what I mean. And of course you do. But it definitely doesn’t romanticize any of those, er, activities. At all.


While the story is completely intriguing, my favorite part is the narrator’s voice. The narrator speaks directly to the reader, telling you to follow as he (she?) introduces you to the lowest of the low, and directs your attention to follow increasingly important individuals as you gain entre to more and more lofty layers of society.

Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them. This city I am bringing you to is vast and intricate, and you have not been here before. You may imagine, from other stories you’ve read, that you know it well, but those stories flattered you, welcoming you as a friend, treating you as if you belonged. The truth is that you are an alien from another time and place altogether.

When I first caught your eye and you decided to come with me, you were probably thinking you would simply arrive and make yourself at home. Now that you are actually here, the air is bitterly cold, and you find yourself being led along in complete darkness, stumbling on uneven ground, recognizing nothing….

And much, much later in the novel…

In Agnes’s head, inside her skull, an inch or two behind her left eye, nestles a tumour the size of a quail’s egg. She has no inkling it’s there. It nestles innocently; her hospitable head makes room for it without demur, as if such a diminutive guest could not possibly cause any trouble. It sleeps, soft and perfectly oval. No one will ever find it. Roentgen photography is twenty years in the future, and Doctor Curlew, whatever parts of Agnes Rackham he may examine, is not about to go digging in her eye-socket with an scalpel. Only you and I know of this tumour’s existence. It is our little secret.

If you haven’t read this, you should. Immediately.

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