But if you glance at the novel's form and writing, the daring pen of Michel Faber makes it clear that The Crimson Petal and the White, despite the title's allusion to a famous Victorian poem, does not belong to the 19th century. Faber, the writer, often steps into the story - to great comical effect - to offer the readers advice or to stir the story into another direction. He makes his authorial presence known and, in true postmodern fashion and in the spirit of Lemony Snicket, often addresses the reader directly: "So there you have it: the thoughts (somewhat pruned of repetition) of William Rackam as he sits on his bench in St. James's Park. If you are bored beyond endurance, I can offer only my promise that there will be fucking in the very near future, not to mention madness, abduction, and violent death." It seems that he uses every device and trick known to writers to keep the reader interested in the story, but makes the whole thing seem so effortless - he never lost me for one second. Most importantly, the distance between mr. Faber's era and the era he is describing makes it easier for him to see the past in a clearer light, and allows him to express his observations and his critique openly. "This is the novel that Dickens might have written had he been allowed to speak freely", The Guardian says, and they're definitely onto something here. It was a comfort to see a writer that finally has the courage to address that most mystifying feature of the Victorians - one that jumps out at me whenever I pick up mr. Dickens - the fact that sex is an unmentionable topic with them. Of course, the conflict between the Victorians' behaviour and their "morals" is transparent: while prostitution is soaring and people are certainly no less interested in sex than today, they insist on acting as though sex is simply inexistent, far way from their thoughts and lives. The effects of this sexual repression on society's part are made clear enough in the novel: people battling with their consciences, trying to reconcile the idea of sex as something that is clearly natural and desirable in their hearts of hearts with the idea of sex as filthy, degrading and evil.
I could go on and on but I think I've described the book well enough to stop here. The reason why I didn't award it a full five stars is a certain death that I thought was completely unnecessary - it seemed to me that it was just an easy way to dispose of a character that served a purpose no longer. Other than that, this is a wonderful book. Sugar - our prostitute heroine - along with William Rackam, Henry Rackam, Emmeline Fox, Agnes, Sophie, Caroline, Colonel Leek, Clara, Ms. Castaway will draw you in and never let you go. Great cast, great story, great writing, great book."