Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

The Crimson Petal and the White is a novel filled with many colorful characters living in Victorian England. However, Faber's novel does not employ the traditional Victorian conventions; instead, he utilizes graphic details that breathe life into his plethora of characters from among all rungs on the social ladder.

Although this is a tale about many, many characters, the majority of the book is dedicated to the lives of Miss Sugar, a prostitute, and Mr. William Rackham, a perfumer. Readers witness the horrid conditions endured by the lowly prostitutes as well as the stiff traditions of the upper-class Londoners as they participate in the Season's events.


At first readers may celebrate when William buys Miss Sugar for himself; at least, she does not have to perform for any number of men every night. But as the novel progresses and compassion for Sugar increases,  one realizes that this is not a fairy tale after all. Sugar is visited less and less often although her fondness for William has grown. Her change in conditions also leads to her losing interest in the novel she so diligently worked on when she first met William. 

There are numerous other troubles in paradise. Despite his accumulation of power and riches from his perfume business, William's family life is far from improving. His wife, Agnes, is locked in her room taken for a madwoman - much like the wife of Rochester in Jane Eyre. Perhaps the most traumatic event is that Sugar, now Sophie's (William and Agnes' daughter) governess, becomes pregnant with William's child - quite possibly the male heir he so desires. However, William terminates Sugar's employment upon receiving this news. Still mourning the death (suicide?) of his wife, William is not to be further disgraced. William transforms from an aspiring artist hoping to one day become a successful writer to a greedy businessman who loses all those closest to him. 

Faber's novel has an open-ending; it closes with the "escape" of Sugar and Sophie. Readers never know where they are going or if they even make it there. Given Sugar's character, I think many readers will infer that they will be okay, but we will never know. 

Faber also shows that despite the strict rules of society, tragedy cares not for one's social status. Contrary to what William's profession may suggest, one cannot make his/her life devoid of the stench of society and fate. 

I tried to read this novel several years ago, but I ended up not finishing it. I am really glad I gave this novel a second chance. I rate it a 4/5. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Teaser Tuesday (1)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
 I am currently reading The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. It has great depictions of Victorian England.

"It's also poorly sealed and draughty, and at nights the smell of boiling pig fat is wont to come in through the windows, but this has never troubled Henry. The great mass of mankind must make do with much worse." P. 205, Chapter 9

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Very First READ-A-THON!

Just this morning I wandered upon a fantastic event: A read-a-thon hosted by Cover to Cover Challenge. I think this is a great opportunity to get caught up on some much needed reading. I am currently behind in my read along, so that is my top priority for the first twenty-four hours. I am still scrambling to gather the novels for each of the mini-challenges! With school ending in only two short days, this is the perfect time for me to participate in this event! 

Here are the details from Good Reads:

The 24 hour readathon is on May 21st. You can start anytime on May 21st after the event starts and end it 24 hours later.


1. Not-quite-a-chunkster: Read at least one 400+ page book. (I am reading The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. Pages: 894)

2. Let's talk books: Ping one member from this thread or the sign-up thread and ask them to suggest a read for you. You can choose to accept it (look at your physical shelf or the library, see if you can get your hands on it) or move on to another member. Let us know how many members you had to contact before you got your perfect read and don't forget to credit that person.

3. Yay! A field trip: Make an impromptu visit to your library or bookstore. Walk around the shelves and stacks, breathe in that amazing smell of books, take some pictures if you like (post them if you do), and pick a random book to read. Bonus point if you pick a book from the recommendations or staff-picks section.

4. Moderators Pick: (This is where we will suggest a category - genre/country/author/awards list and you can pick any book from that category.) Read a Newbery Medal winner. For list of Newbery Medal winners, go to this link:

5. Wanna dare me: Read a book that you want to read but will still not read, instead you want to be dared to pick it up and read it.

6. Armchair traveler: So after globe-trotting during last readathon, here's a spin. Read a work of translation.

7. Random Fortune: Since we all have huge Mt. TBRs that we are immensely proud of, randomly select a read from your bookshelf. Go to , enter Min=1 and Max=<the number of books in your TBR>. Click on Generate, and read the book in your TBR corresponding to that number. (If you don't have access to that book, feel free to do this again and again until you come to a book that you have at home or can pick from the library.)

Another great things about today. . .I am taking a much needed trip to a local bookstore - Square Books
Do any of you have suggestions for the mini-challenges?
What a great Saturday! 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WWW Wednesday

What are you currenlty reading? I am currently reading The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. I was hoping to read along with a GoodReads group I joined (TuesBookTalk Read Along - hosted by The True Book Addict), but I am sooo far behind. I am going to try to finish it on my own though.

What did you recently finish reading? I just finished reading Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews. It was a fast and haunting read, but I don't think I am going to continue reading the series.

What do you think you'll read next? I am having trouble deciding which novel from my TBR bookshelf to read next! I will probably read Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness is also high on my list!

As you can see from many of my reading selections, I am really having fun participating in the Gothic Reading Challenge!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews

Horrific and Scandalous.

I just finished reading Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews. This is my first V. C. Andrews. Yes, it is a gothic novel, but it is so much different than any of the 19th century tales I am accustomed to reading.

Here is a very, very brief summary: After the tragic death of their father, the Dollanger family is haunted by family secrets and greed, to say the least. Despite terrifying circumstances, the Dollanger children remain hopeful that their mother will come through with her spoken promises to restore their comfortable lifestyle. But if she doesn't, they will have to do whatever it takes to survive and save themselves.

This summary does not do this novel much justice; however, like my previous posts, you have probably noticed that I prefer to focus on my reactions to the text rather than the plot.

Upon finishing the last page, I could not find the words to express my feelings for this book. At times I was disgusted; I wondered if I felt such feelings because I didn't like the novel itself. At times I felt guilty as if I was spying on the actions, emotions, and changes experienced by these helpless children.

Flowers in the Attic is the first novel in the Dollanger series; however, I think it is ends well enough to be a stand alone. I am still contemplating whether or not I want to read the rest of the series. I honestly don't know if my heart can endure learning about any further struggles for these siblings.

I think this may be the most twisted novel I have ever read. One thing I know for sure: Corrine Dollanger is the most heartless villain I have encountered to date.
Are any of you V. C. Andrews fans?

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Woman in White, Parts 2 & 3

I finally finished this lengthy, but intriguing, novel. Like other reviewers, I think I would have been satisfied if the novel would have ended at the culmination of Part 1; however, Collins' meticulous details which were reported in the last two parts, answered any questions many readers may have had. The last two parts were like the wrapping paper and bow on a present; it tied everything together for readers. I would have been happy with just the "present;" the "wrapping" was just extra! And of course I don't want to spoil it for any of you who have this on your TBR list, but the ending definitely satisfied the romantic in me!

This novel also satisfied requirements for two reading challenges: gothic & color-coded!

What did you think of this novel?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Woman in White, Part 1

While shopping at the local "Friends of the Library" book sale, I came across the The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I had never heard of this novel, but I bought it anyway since I was able to fill up my bag for only $1! Needless to say I bought just about every classic they had left and then some; in hindsight that was not the best idea I ever had since I will have to get rid of a lot of the books before I move this summer.

The Woman in White made for slow reading at first. However, after about the first 250 pages, I found myself really enjoying the novel. The problem now was that I did not have as much time to read as I would like! This novel is written in the form of diary entries and testimonies recorded by various characters; therefore, it is considered an epistolary novel. Collin's novel is also considered detective fiction; all of the information is recorded in such a manner as to be presented to a judge in a trial.

In the beginning of the novel, Mr. Hartright obtains employment as painting instructor to half-sisters Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe. On his way from London to Cumberland, Hartright encounters a mysterious woman:

"There, in the middle of the broad, bright high-road -- there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven -- stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments" (14).

Hartright later finds out that this is a lady named Anne Catherick, and she has escaped from an asylum. Another interesting fact about Anne is that she looks very much like the Laura Fairlie with whom Hartright falls in love. This affection ultimately requires him to leave his employment at Cumberland since Laura is already betrothed to Sir Percival Glyde.

Sir Percival is quite possibly one of the most heartless villians I have encountered! He only married Laura for her money and is an abusive spouse. Anne has been hanging around Percival's estate, Blackwater Park, in hopes of warning Laura about Percival's secret. It is implied that Sir Percival paid for Anne's stay at the asylum in hopes of keeping his secret safe. I can't wait to figure out this big secret!

(I am often intrigued by the names writers give to their characters. I am still pondering if there is any significance of Collins' character who is named after one of King Arthur's knights.)

While much abuse and betrayal has been occurring at Blackwater Park, Hartright has been abroad in hopes of getting Laura off his mind. As he returns, he finds that his love has died. At the conclusion of Part 1, Laura's ghost, or maybe Anne Catherick?, appears to Hartright as he mourns at Laura's gravesite.

Collin's cleverly employs unexpected plot twists; right when I think I have the story figured out, he throws in a surprise. This is what has kept me interested in the novel. 

I have left A LOT out, but I don't want to spoil it for those of you have been thinking about reading this novel. DO IT! It has really gotten interesting, and I highly recommend it. I hope that Part 2 does not disappoint.