The ending of The Crimson Petal and the White (WARNING: SPOILERS)

So, I’ve just now finished The Crimson Petal and the White and escaped the iron grip this novel has had on me for the past 4 days.
Overall, I thought it was a brilliantly written novel but the ending left much to be desired and now I am just dying to know:

[spoiler]Where did Sugar take Sophie? Where did they eventually end up?

What exactly happened to Agnes? Why didn’t anyone think to check the asylums to see if she’d been taken there?
Was that really her body dredged up out of the river or did she travel on to some other location under her delusion of finding the “Convent” and eventually die from her brain tumor?

And what becomes of William Rackham?


I’d like to think that it ends like this:

Sugar takes Sophie far away and they start a life over together as mother and daughter. Sugar certainly had enough money saved up to do so.
Agnes did in fact survive but is most likely locked up in an asylum and unable to remember who she is or where she comes from. Her illness keeps her in a pleasant fog and she is under the constant delusion that she is in the “Convent” and being cared for by the Sisters.
William Rackham eventually gives up the search for Sugar and his daughter and remarries. His business goes under and he lives out his days unhappily and discontent but always struggling to keep up appearances. In his final days, he finds himself reading over Sugar’s manuscript and pining for her and cursing himself for being such a fool.

How would you have ended the book? What questions would you have answered and how?

I have to say that I was pretty satisifed with the end of the book.

(The black boxes that follow contain spoilers. Duh, I guess.)

As to your questions…

[spoiler]I really liked that Agnes’ fate was left undetermined. I’d like to believe she was taken in somewhere, but I also have to acknowledge that she was in no psychological or social condition to fend for herself. I tend to think the body was hers – or that her body was never found. Honestly, I don’t think she was so far crazy that she’d never spill her name or circumstances to a rescuer.

I think William and the Lady he was starting to court eventually get married. I think Rackham Perfumeries do well enough for most of his life, and that he’s ultimately forced to sell the business to one of his competitors. William tries to write novels or criticism in his retirement, but doesn’t do too well at it.

I’d like to think that Sugar and Sophie get away. America, maybe? It’s a cliche, but where else are they really going to be able to hide indefinitely? Or – ooh, thematic tie in! – they’ll end up in Australia, the place they were studying before Sugar’s departure.

I think William would like to believe he’ll hunt them to the ends of the earth, but we’ve seen that he gives up easily. The threat of scandal and need to attend to business will deter him and protect Sugar. Maybe he’ll engage private detectives, but he knew Sugar so poorly that I can’t imagine they’ll have many leads to go on.

I read an interview with Faber where he says that Sophie may appear in future novel set in the 20th century, and may give some clues about Sugar’s fate.

One thing I love about the novel: Faber tweaks conventions and has good intentions curdle and go sour. Sugar means the best for Agnes when she helps her escape, but really, Agnes would’ve been better off in an asylum. (We know, because of her tumor, that she’ll never get better.) Dr. Curlew is first presented as a horrible man, but turns out to be a rational doctor without malice, operating as the best physician he can be at the time. William is more pitiable than horrible, even as he betrays Sugar at the end. And so on. [/spoiler]

A great read.

The implication is clearly that Sugar will use her adopted ‘daughter’ in the same way she was used by her mother - to become a high class prositute. Not the happy ending people want. The husband and wife both die through their suicides.

Read the “sequel” – The Apple. One of the stories involves Sophie as a grown woman. The other stories are not sequels, per se, but take place in different periods on the Crimson Petal’s timeline.

I have not long finished both the book and watched the TV series - re Agnes she must be still alive. In the TV series you saw her cutting her hair really short before Sugar sent her on her way. The body found had long hair leading you to believe it was not really her but no mention was amde of this. I really wonder what happened to her. There is a new book out by Michael Faber called The Apple which is short Crimson Petal stories telling you what happens to a few of the characters - except Agnes - could he be saving this for a whole new book perhaps?? - Time will tell :slight_smile:

Sugar escapes with Sophie and lives in genteel poverty, perhaps teaching. There is no way she prostitutes Sophie, no way in the world.

The body from the Thames? I don’t believe it was Agnes. When last we see Agnes, she’s buying a train ticket. And although she is obviously feeble and confused, she gets on the train. (I wish I had jotted down the destination: I’ve returned the library book and can’t recall the name of the town.)

Agnes is a very ill woman when she escapes; vomiting, passing out and so forth from the tumor, poorly nourished by her anorexia. I’m sure she dies shortly after we last see her. But not in the Thames.