Crimson Petal and the White question [spoilers!]

This book is easily one of my five favorite books I’ve ever read. It’s one of the few books I’ve read in my life where I didn’t skim or skip a single sentence because the prose is so vibrant and full of character, even the most functionally descriptive sentence has its charm. I even listened to the audiobook – 42 hours! Of bliss! :slight_smile:

Since it seems like a lot of y’all have read or are reading The Crimson Petal, I have a question about Henry.

Now, Henry is my favorite character, and I think it would be fair to say that I have a literary crush on him, so I might be reading into things here, but… it strikes me as curious that he keeps popping up in the others’ thoughts after he died. Well, first of all, I think – in terms of the structure of the novel – his death is unnecessary, so Michel Faber must have had a deliberate reason for killing him off half way through. Then, after his death, he still remains a solid presence in the characters’ lives, and not just Mrs. Fox’s. I think it’s especially interesting that he’s invoked in the last two major scenes with Sugar, first when Sugar is eavesdropping on her replacement through the walls of the storage room and she picks of up an old book of his with his inscription, and then (even more interesting), in the final scene with her when she thinks she sees him on the bus.

And still more interesting, in the book’s “sequel,” The Apple, the final story involves a grown Sophie and is narrated by her son. Sophie and Sugar apparently travelled the world after their escape from London. Sugar has died and has left Sophie her fortune, and Sophie has settled in Australia and lives with her husband, female companion/lover, and her son. Who is named – dun dun DUN – Henry.

So I’m thinking…why? :stuck_out_tongue: What is his role in the novel? Does he symbolize something? My first thought was that maybe Faber keeps invoking his memory to remind us that not everyone in this world is duplicitous…but that’s not true. Henry, along with all of the adult characters, lead something of a double life. William is a clean-living business man and keeps a secret mistress. Sugar is the devoted lover / prim governess and a scarred young woman furious with the world, men, and herself. Agnes is the Victorian ideal and a madwoman. And Henry, though his two sides aren’t so extreme, is a clean-living devoutly spiritual man who is tormented by his lustful weaknesses. Mrs. Fox is the only character who is the same on the inside and out, really.

I don’t really know where I’m going with this, except that I’ll take any excuse to talk about Henry and his importance. :slight_smile: Anyway, what say you?

Any and all discussion welcome, and if you want to ask anything about The Apple, just use spoiler tags.

Did I mention I love this book?

WAIT. There’s a sequel? SHIT. I did not know that. Thank you so much gallows. This book screamed sequel so I’m glad there is one! I’m off to find it somewhere now. Hopefully I can download it from the library.

I will not read your spoiler but I, too, liked Henry and so wished he and Mrs. Fox would have just done it already!!!

I had no idea there was a sequel either.

It’s interesting you liked Henry so much, because he was the one character I felt we could have had less of and the book would have been the same. But IIRC he was just about the only man in the book who was kind to prostitutes, or at least attempted to understand them. And he seemed to make a big impression on Sugar’s friend (I think her name was Caroline). Not really sure what his significance is, however.

I don’t think The Apple has been published in the US, but you can find a copy through Amazon without any trouble. It’s not actually a true sequel – it’s a collection of short stories involving various characters from The Crimson Petal, and only two of them take place after the events of the novel. The last one is the only one that will give you answers about Sophie and Sugar. (Agnes’ fate is not mentioned, except that William asks himself again if he is sure the woman he identified as Agnes was indeed she. Personally, I think his indecision is supposed to suggest that it wasn’t she, but who knows?)

Ah ha, yes! That’s precisely why I’m so intrigued. Sugar didn’t have to imagine seeing him when she fled, she didn’t have to find his books in the store room, Agnes and William and Caroline (and even Sophie, IIRC) didn’t have to reminisce about him, the allusion to him in the sequel didn’t have to occur…and yet Faber made them happen. He didn’t let us forget about Henry for very long before bringing him up again.

Well, since you asked to discuss all things Henry, here’s my theory on what happened before Henry’s death:
The rendezvous between him and Mrs. Fox? Completely made up. A masturbatory daydream by Henry. He died immediately after that, passed out on his couch, while the fire burned through the house. Afterwards you’ll notice that there’s not even a hint from Mrs. Fox or others that anything sexual took place between them.

It’s probably my lack of education showing, but I don’t generally go looking for the author’s meaning in every little thing. I figure he put Henry in because the story was more interesting that way. It’s a shame that he and Mrs. Fox never got it together, but life sucks like that sometimes.

I was sure this was going to be a question about what really happened to Agnes!

As for Sugar and Sophie, I don’t need to read what happened to them because I know it in my heart. :slight_smile:
checks spoiler Well, that’s a lot more detailed than what I had…but yep.