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!
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? 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. 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?