Everyone who's read "The Crimson Petal and the White" please come here!

Warning! Possible spoilers!!

I just finished The Crimson Petal and the White, and I must say that there are a whole bunch of emotions roiling around in me. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

What did you all think of the different characters? I liked Sugar, despite her pitfalls. But her kidnapping Sophie at the end doesn’t add up to me. If she’s going to try to make her way on the money she has saved, a child won’t help her, and the police on her tail certainly won’t. Will she end up turning into Mrs. Castaway, and Sophie another Sugar?

William, by the end of the novel, I have come to dispise. To me, acting like he did towards his own child is simply incomprehensible to me. Yes, I know, a different time, etc. etc., but it still strikes me as cold and cruel.

I pitied Agnes. None of that was her fault. I wish a little bit had been dedicated to her after she finally reached the convent.

The last scene with Henry left me wondering… I keep trying to tell myself that he dreamed the scene with Mrs. Fox, but I kept hoping that Mrs. Fox would later reveal that something had really happened.

I came to like Mrs. Fox. Not at the beginning, but as the reader was slowly revealed her character, her inner tickings.

Poor Sophie breaks my heart. She’s been kept at arms length and ignored her entire life, at least until Sugar came. I can’t immagine growing up like that.

My, this has gotten long! Please, post your thoughts!

I read this last year and really liked it. I think it was discussed here, just briefly, and it’s been talked about in some on-line book groups. I think I did an Amazon review too, can’t remember for sure.

Most of the discussion has been about the ending, the lack of “closure” (hate that word). I liked not being told what would become of Sugar and Sophie. They’re like people we meet in real life and lose touch with. We don’t know how their lives have turned out either, but we still have good memories of our relationship with them.

I’m forgetting the characters’ names. Not Sugar, of course, but the wife, was that Mrs. Fox? I loved how Faber handled her insanity, and especially how he described her dreams, how there was no difference between her dreams and her waking life.

Did you wonder if there have been real women in that time period who were so protected, coddled, pampered and out of touch that their thoughts were all snarled up like that? I sure did.

There were lots of nice touches in the book.

If you liked this one, you’d probably also like Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

I love historicals that are outside the box, and there are tons of good ones out there. There’s a good thread in the General section at SFFWorld on historicals.

I will have to check out Fingersmith.

This will sound pretty naive, but how do I get to SFFWorld, and what is it?

Btw, Agnes was the “insane” wife, and Mrs. Fox was the widow who secretely loved Henry, the brother of William.

I recall hearing somewhere that Faber had plans of writing a novel from the Sophie’s POV, that would reveal what happened to Sugar.

Here’s the link. Look in “General” for the historical fiction thread.


Thanks for clearing that up on the names.

Hadn’t heard about the sequel. I’d read it, for sure. The book ended up on some Best Of 2002 lists. Seems it was one of those rare instances where the public and the critics both liked it.

Enjoyed TCPATW quite a bit. Actually, I rather liked the conclusion of the book, but I was never one for tidy endings.
Would interested in the sequel.

Fingersmith was great.

I understand why some people appreciate the realism of an ambiguous ending… but it drove me crazy! I loved the level of detail in the book, loved it all the way to the end. And then felt frustrated.

But the book was still worth it.

I just wish there had been a little hint left as to what happened… :frowning: I have my fingers crossed for a sequel though that is swift in comming!

I usually don’t enjoy this style of writing (or atleast I didn’t the last time I read it) but I was truly enthralled by Faber…

There were a couple of things I didn’t like about this book.

First of all, I would have enjoyed reading more about Sugar’s life as a whore. To me, her “rescue” by William came too quickly in the story, and was a bit too much like a Harlequin romance.

Secondly, Henry’s story seemed like something tossed in and unfinished-- as if the author had started a plot-line which didn’t work out as he wrote and consequently didn’t know what to do with the character towards the end.

I did like the portrayal of Agnes. The author made the cloying, deperate world of Victorian upper-class wives come alive. I know that living such a structured, repressive life would have quickly driven me mad. I wondered if her madness was because of the tumor, or in spite of it until the hints that Sophie might inherit it.

I guess, in a way, that the ambiguious ending was a mirror of its beginning, in that we don’t see much of Sugar’s life before William told in full detail, but we can clearly see what must happen.

What options are left to Sugar but returning to her former career? Women were limited in their career choices even without the added burden of needing to conceal one’s identity. (No one would hire a governess without references, and Sugar doesn’t have the requisite skills to become a seamstress or domestic.) What lies before Sophie other than eventual prostitution herself? Her social status, given Sugar as her “mother” would be low at best, limiting her marriage possibilities, and Sugar wouldn’t be able to send her to fine schools without the fear that Sophie would be recognized.

I liked Henry and his story. He’s the brother who was hopelessly in love with Mrs. Fox, isn’t he? (Hope I’m getting the names right, too lazy to go up and grab the book.)

Lissa, I can see how it could be viewed as “tossed in”. Do you think Faber needed a hook to hang Mrs. Fox’s story on, maybe? A reason to introduce that character? I haven’t met anyone like her in fiction.

Sugar wasn’t able to take any of her money or possessions with her, was she?

I choose to believe that they found service jobs somewhere, maybe with a family that couldn’t afford to be too choosy. But you’re right, it’s more likely that they’d both end up as prostitutes.

Great book.

I think Henry was mostly needed to introduce Mrs. Fox’s story and involve her in the story. He was killed off so darn early, and he didn’t real do much other than bring Mrs. Fox into the picture.

You know, I got a very similar impression as I read. Perhaps Faber had a character in mind that needed to be written, but he didn’t feel that Mrs. Fox could carry a book alone. It’s a shame, really. There’s a great book in the stories of Victorian “reformers” and the damage they did in the name of helping the poor.

Hi – just finished this today (blasted through it in three and a half days, on vacation :cool:), so thought I’d resurrect this thread.

First: The book did not have to be 800 pages long. I like a nice long, leisurely, Victorian read – but it didn’t have to be 800 pages. Plus. (I was reminded of A Suitable Boy, which I read about 10 years ago on vacation – anything that long starts being a gimmick, long for the sake of being long.)

I liked the unspecified fates of everyone, including Agnes (the wife). The last we saw her, she had ducked the procuress and headed for the train – but we don’t actually know that she made it to Penzance. As Sugar realized later, all kinds of things could have happened to her before she reached safety. I like to think she was taken in and cared for tenderly by whatever nuns she found her way to – but Faber doesn’t really finish that story.

AuntiePam – I’m pretty sure Sugar had plenty of money – when she was packing, she was stashing away all the money from when she’d been in her little house in various pockets, etc. As to her fate – who knows. Again, I like to think she’d escaped her past life (despite her final “transaction” with Cheesman – who at least didn’t give her away). Her revulsion when she went back to visit Caroline – and her battles with herself to not treat Sophie the way Mrs. Castaway had treated her – are signs of that, I hope.

There were other things left unexplained – did William go ahead and marry Lady Whatsherface? What happened with Mrs. Fox’s tuberculosis? Had she really recovered or did she have something else or what? And wasn’t she somewhat crazy at the end there?

Etc. Please – anyone – can we talk about this some more?:frowning:

I’d love to talk about it some more – but it’s already fading, I have a really lousy memory for books unless I read them more than once or unless there’s a movie verison. :wink:

You really thought it was too long? I was fine with the length. The only time a book is too long for me is if the writing is mediocre, and Faber did a fine job, IMHO.

I can’t imagine what could have been cut. Someone already said they thought Sugar became a kept woman much too early on, so we can’t cut there.

Maybe the scenes when Sugar went to visit the business? Agnes’s illness? The whole interlude with Mrs. Fox and Henry? The scenes with Henry’s friends? (Or was it William’s friends?)

I got something out of all those, so I dunno.

In the original ending for the book, Sugar died. The publisher had Faber change it. (Think sequel…) I felt shortchanged by the ending. After 800 pages of reading, I’d like closure. Nonethless, a teriffic book.


Good link, thanks, CBCD!

Yeah, I’m not sure what could be cut out – once you start analyzing it, most of it is part of the whole thing. And of course, since I read it practically in one sitting, obviously I didn’t find it unreadable.

I know what you mean about forgetting stuff that you’ve read and enjoyed, AuntiePam – a week from now this will have all faded. :frowning: But for now, since I just finished it, I’m left with all sorts of questions. Like – William’s relationship with Agnes. You get the whole flashback thing, so it’s clear that she’s been saying the off-the-wall stuff all along, but at first he regarded it as charmingly unconventional. And clearly some of it was physical, as William kind of sensed – with the almost Tourette’s-like outbursts she’d engage in (some of which were pretty damn funny). And it’s clear that he did love her, insofar as he was capable of loving anyone. (Man, my opinion of him went all over the place – there was a period when they were in the “love nest” that I kind of liked him.) But there was also an obsessive, selfish side of that – as in the whole thing about the photograph, the creation of a family that had never existed – and his attempts to impregnate her (I almost said “sire a son on her,” yikes!) at the end – which leaves another loose end, did he succeed?

There’s more I want to say, but I don’t know what it is – back later. :slight_smile:

CBCD, that’s a great interview. The interviewer wasn’t just fawning all over his subject, was he? He asked good questions.

Thanks. I’m going to print it out and keep it with the book, might come in handy if/when I re-read it.

I haven’t read the book, so I won’t read the thread, but I wanted you to know that because I’d seen this thread in Cafe Society, the book caught my eye in Barnes and Noble, so I bought it. When I’ve finished Artemus Fowl, I’ll begin this.

Thankee for the recommendation!!

It’s a book you don’t want to miss out on. Yes, it’s long, but it provides an excellent look into how life was lived back then. Sometimes the nitty gritty-ness of it was a little overdone, but at the same time, it made you realize just how sterile our current existance is.

Y’all come back and chat once you’ve read it, 'k Buckleberry?