Jump to content
  • Announcements

    • Hayley

      Downtime for Updates   01/26/2021

      The forum is going to be offline while our new hosts backup and update the site. We'll be back soon and you can check our twitter (@bookclubforum) or the patreon page ( bookclubforum.co.uk is creating a book community | Patreon ) for updates.   See you all soon!  
willoyd

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

Poll to rate The Crimson Petal and the White  

10 members have voted

  1. 1. How would you rate The Crimson Petal and the White?

    • 6/6 - Amongst my favourites
      0
    • 5/6 - Excellent read: unputdownable
    • 4/6 - Very good read: hard to put down
    • 3/6 - Solid read; enjoyed coming back to it
    • 2/6 - Disappointing: might not have finished it
      0
    • 1/6 - Disliked it a lot: almost certainly unfinished


Recommended Posts

I think that was very intentional. Amongst the prostitutes, it was all very matter-of-fact and nothing could shock them. I suppose it was intended to be written so completely devoid of emotion, for the prostitutes it was something they did day-in-day-out and didn't give any thought to.

I agree with that take on it BB.  But I've read books that took that tone, but were not quite so clinical about it.  It was the meanness of it that I simply did not want to read about.

That, was for me, the straw that broke the camel's back.

 

I didn't like or appreciate the style of narration, found it to be rather flip and sort of "ooohh, look at what terrible things are going to/happening to these stupid people". 

 

So, actually rather mean spirited, is the way I think I can sum up my take on the book. 

 

I know I'm in the minority, but thems mah feelings. :)

Edited by pontalba

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the book, bobblybear :)!

x

I think they are the two women in William's life - Sugar the crimson, Agnes the white - the two sides to his and to Victorian life: the red underbelly versus the whiter than white facade that he maintains. This is coupled with the fact that petals are used in perfumery, and the ambivalent, even hypocritical, attitude of others (Henry and Emmeline both struggle to avoid submergence in the crimson in their endeavours to promote the white, ad there are indications that Emmeline's father indulges in abuse of his female patients, etc etc.).

x

I think pretty much the same as willoyd on this question.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I didn't like or appreciate the style of narration, found it to be rather flip and sort of "ooohh, look at what terrible things are going to/happening to these stupid people". So, actually rather mean spirited, is the way I think I can sum up my take on the book.

Funnily enough, I found it exactly the opposite. I felt that the narrator was, if anything, in total sympathy with the participants, but it was the audience, the reader, that he was having a go at. More along the lines of this is what it's really like, and if you don't like it, well tough, he wasn't going to make it any easier for the 'gentle' reader, who'll just have to accept whatever happens, very much in accord with the crimson vs white theme: no making it any whiter, this is what's like in all it's deep dark redness!! Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Funnily enough, I found it exactly the opposite. I felt that the narrator was, if anything, in total sympathy with the participants, but it was the audience, the reader, that he was having a go at. More along the lines of this is what it's really like, and if you don't like it, well tough, he wasn't going to make it any easier for the 'gentle' reader, who'll just have to accept whatever happens, very much in accord with the crimson vs white theme: no making it any whiter, this is what's like in all it's deep dark redness!!

That's interesting.  You may well be right as far as the narrator's attitude toward the reader, but I'd add that onto his contempt for the characters.  Perhaps, both?

Now it's true I only read 25%, I wonder, did the narration change?  Did the narrator show another side later?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

That's interesting.  You may well be right as far as the narrator's attitude toward the reader, but I'd add that onto his contempt for the characters.  Perhaps, both?

Now it's true I only read 25%, I wonder, did the narration change?  Did the narrator show another side later?

I don't think the narration changes (it didn't appear so to me). The difference in our viewpoint is that I don't see any contempt for the characters. i've just reread the first couple of chapters, and what I see is an honest, largely very matter of fact, description, but no contempt. What the narrator is not doing is putting any gloss on the scene - this is it, warts, dirt and all, which is how it differs from, say, the Victorian classics, where not all the warts could come to light! Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the narration changes (it didn't appear so to me). The difference in our viewpoint is that I don't see any contempt for the characters. i've just reread the first couple of chapters, and what I see is an honest, largely very matter of fact, description, but no contempt. What the narrator is not doing is putting any gloss on the scene - this is it, warts, dirt and all, which is how it differs from, say, the Victorian classics, where not all the warts could come to light!

Ahh well. :) Different strokes and all that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As the month comes to an end, just to say a big thank you to all those who have contributed to date to the first reading circle I've hosted.  The Crimson Petal and the White is a big book and whilst I absolutely loved it (as did most others by the looks of the poll), it was still a pretty big commitment, so I much appreciated the efforts of all who gave it a go and have given of their opinions (as pontalba says, "different strokes and all that"....it would be desperately boring if we all thought the same).  Obviously this thread will stay open for anybody else who wishes to offer their views, and I'll try and keep an eye on it, but I'm now looking forward to tackling a very different book for the June reading circle.  See you there!

Edited by willoyd

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

As ever with a reading circle, I have not read anyone else’s answers before compiling my own as I don’t want to be influenced by other opinions. :)

1. The book is a pretty massive volume. Did you find it difficult or easy to read? Indeed, was the length inherently important to the impact of the book?

I don’t like big books. I know some people frown upon that and wonder why, but I do a lot of reading lying down as I often read for an hour at night before I switch the light off. Therefore, when this book was chosen rather than the one I voted for (Mrs Dalloway) I decided not to join in as I just don’t like holding a tome the size of this one (550 pages is probably my limit!).

However, I acquired a Nook reader and so, later than everyone else and thanks to it being available from the library, I was able to join in. I’m *so* pleased I did! I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which drew me in from the start. In terms of content it was never difficult to read. I think maybe some pages perhaps could have been shaved off it without it detracting from the story, but I didn’t ever find reading it a chore due to the length of it – in fact, quite the reverse! It took me 11 days to read this but I savoured every word and didn’t want it to end!

2. The book is a classic example of a story told by an omniscient narrator, one who makes it perfectly clear that they are directing what the reader 'sees' and 'hears'. What, if any, impact did this deliberately intrusive style have on your reading?

I don’t really know how to answer this one except to say that I certainly didn’t find it intrusive – I loved the way the book was written – it really felt like the story was being told to me and just me – it made it feel more personal, I guess.

3. The depth of historical research is worn very clearly on the author's sleeve, with extensive detail in places. Did you enjoy this, did it enhance your reading, or did you find it intrusive? To what extent did it affect the story?

I really enjoyed the historical aspects of the book – I love books which make me rush to the internet to find out more about various things mentioned in the text so it definitely enhanced my enjoyment of it and it definitely added to the story. 

I made loads of highlights to look up later – but sadly I can’t work out how to find them on the Nook – it’s a doddle on the Kindle, but Googling hasn’t helped, leaving me rather frustrated. Ah well.

4. The theme for this month was 'The Great Wen' - books that included London as a character in its own right. Did Faber achieve this. If so, in what way(s), and if not, what prevented London fulfilling this role? How has your impression of Victorian London been influenced, if at all?

I definitely felt London was a character – Faber writes so well and really evokes the feeling of Victorian London, the sights and the smells. I don’t know London terribly well but was able to build up a wonderful picture of bustling London life quite easily. I could almost smell the foul stench of the streets of Soho!

5. What did you think of the characters?

Oh, I loved the characters – all of them! I mean, maybe I didn’t love the attributes of all the characters – some of them weren’t very likeable – but I loved the way they were all written, from the lowest of the low to the characters in William’s social circle.

6. What are your feelings/views on the (at least to me!) very surprising ending?

The ending was rather a surprise, yes! I don’t mind open ended stories – I don’t need all the loose ends tied up if the story is well done. All through the book I was wondering where it was heading. Would Sugar find happiness with William? Would she go back to her former life? Would she have saved the money William gave to her after she moved into the rented house and use it to make a better life for herself? Would Agnes die from the tumour growing behind her eye? Would Henry and Mrs Fox ever get together (thank goodness they did at least consummate their love – I was really upset for her when Henry died!).

There are any number of ways that Faber could have ended this novel, but I’m glad he didn’t spell the end out for us and instead left us something to dwell on.

This is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year – thanks to all those who voted for it (and as an aside, I found a copy of Mrs Dalloway for 50p at the church fete this weekend, so I get to read it too at some stage!).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Glad to hear you enjoyed it so much, Janet!  I also savoured it and didn't want it to end. :smile2:

 

P.S. Does this help with the highlights on your Nook? www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rHweaJ81AM

Edited by chesilbeach

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Oh, you genius!  Thanks so much!  :hug:

 

ETA:  Just a quick one (I'll Google my other highlights tomorrow) - I Googled St Teresa's, Cricklewood, to see if that was a real church or not (it was Agnes' catholic one)... it doesn't exist, but there is a St Agnes church!  :D

Edited by Janet

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only now (February 2021) got around to reading this book and suppose that the discussion in this forum has come to an end.  Nevertheless, If anyone still reads it, I wish to add one remark which I have not found in any of the other contrilbutions: Has anyone else realized that Lostwithiel is nowhere near the Thames?  Therefore, the drowned woman could not be Agnes (and William really doesn't identify her very convincingly). This means above al that the future of all four main characters in the novel is left open.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

For anyone wanting to read this, it is £1.19 on the Kindle today.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, megustaleer said:

I know this thread is nearly eight years old, but is there any chance that a moderator could correct the author name in the thread title?

 

Done!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you.

A bit pedantic of me, I know, but its only good manners to call people by their right names. Makes it easier for the search engine to find them, too

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×