Sugar, an alluring, nineteen-year-old whore in the brothel of the terrifying Mrs Castaway, yearns for a better life. Her ascent through the strata of 1870's London society offers us intimacy with a host of loveable, maddening and superbly realised characters. At the heart of this panoramic, multi-layered narrative is the compelling struggle of a young woman to lift her body and soul out of the gutter. The Crimson Petal and the White is a big, juicy, must-read of a novel that will delight, enthral, provoke and entertain young and old, male and female.
Faber reinvents the Victorian blockbuster, showing a seamier side of London that would’ve made Charles Dickens blush. If you’re going to write about prostitution, Faber reasons, let’s not Nancy around. Cue: douches, erections and genital infections. At last, Victoriania felt sleazy and real. - Alan Bissett