The Crimson Petal and the White


I want to recommend a beautiful book that I just finished called The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. There is a BBC 2 adaptation of the novel and I offer you a link to a trailer from the original promotion, but I would like to suggest reading the novel.

If you were not lovers of Victorian novels, I would not suggest reading. After all, Faber’s novel is nine-hundred pages long at a small, but still reasonable font in the Harper Perennial Canada edition that I have been reading. However, you are Victorian and Edwardian fans and enjoy the challenge of a big fat novel, right?

Crimson Petal and the White

This novel offers you a sensational plot about a Victorian prostitute who manages to become in indispensible member of her middle-class client’s household. There is a crazy mad-women/wife, a sullen child with strange outlooks on the world, a number of fascinating prostitutes who show more wisdom than the people who come to preach at them, and the dark character of Mrs. Castaway, Sugar’s madam/mother!

On top of a riveting plot, the novel pays homage to many great novels and writers of the Victorian age – I can see Eliot, Trollope, Braddon, and Charlotte Brontë to name a few. However, this is not an exclusively “Victorian” novel. Remember, the “neo” in neo-Victorian because this novel play fascinating narrative tricks, lacks any moral centre, and ends in media res (yes, very Browning, but still…). I would not say that Crimson Petal and the White is a postmodern text; however, it is certainly a product of a twenty-first century reading of the 1870s.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. I am saving my critical analysis for a project I have in mind so in order to get a thorough reading of Faber’s novel, I suggest you pick it up and try it.


As a fan of A.S. Byatt’s Possession (1990), I enjoy the neo-Victorian genre because of the intellectual exercises that intersect with the fun of historical fiction. I have not yet found that love for Steampunk (but I have not given up, I promise), but I will certainly be looking at the list of neo-Victorian texts that take up space in my home library.

I suggest that perhaps you do the same. The Crimson Petal and the White goes lovely with a bottle of red wine, a snowstorm outside the window, and a Saturday night without plans.

Enjoy reading.


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