Title: The Crimson Petal and the White
Author: Michel Faber
This expansive novel is the story of Sugar, a young prostitute in Victorian London. It tells of her desire to get away from the brothels and especially that of the horrible Mrs. Castaway. It follows her as she becomes the exclusive mistress of Mr. Rackham who has purchased her out of the brothel. Mr. Rackham is a married man whose wife suffers from what we would now recognize as mental illness but is referred to in the novel as a "tortured mind".
Through her association with Mr. Rackham, Sugar meets a number of characters whom I would decribe as Dickinsian, some entertaining and amusing, others with questionable morals and motives, still others outright evil.
Be warned, the novel is not light reading and, because of the subject matter, is sometimes explicitly sensual. However, it is historically fascinating and we are forced to come to grips with the perilous and degrading life that many young women of that time were forced to lead.
I recommend this book to those with an interest in Victorian times, the social structure, morality and mores of that era.
Review by: Dianne