Monday, 6 January 2014

Clean slate with The Crimson Petal and the White


So, ehm, welcome, I guess?

(Boy, you'd think I would have gotten the hang of introductions by now.)

So, last year I bought this little book called 'Reading Journal for Book Lovers'. Every page has a place for the title, author, category, rating et cetera. So I decided to fill it up with all the books I read in 2013, and holy cow I didn't realize how much I had read. My grand total was forty-one. Well, forty-two if you counted the book I was reading at the moment.

I was mighty pleased with myself. Forty-two books in one year? Not bad for a librarian, hmm?
But then of course my daddy dearest told me (in honest admiration) that forty-two was almost a book a week.

So yeah. then it was the time of New Year's resolutions, and guess what?
No? You don't know?
Let me tell you then.
I am going to read and finish a book every week in 2014, Reading fifty-two books in fifty-two weeks.
I am so totally not going to give up.

Hang on, what date is it? Fuck.

So yeah... that book that I was reading that was my number forty-two? I'm still reading it. but in my defense, it's a damn big book. 830 pages, in a tiny font and bible-thin pages. And I reached the halfway milestone before New Year's eve (okay... during New Year's eve), So I can still count it amongst the books I read Last year, not this year.

Nonetheless, this book deserves a review.

The Crimson Petal and the White is written by Michel Faber, and I bought it because the font looked pretty. The Night Circus has a similar font, and I loved that book.
In this book, you are led by a mysterious storyteller, who drags you from character to character in late 19th century London. You start of meeting the lowest of the lowest, a whore who barely has anything left in her life after much misery. But don't worry - the narrator promises more interesting characters are yet to come.
And even though we do eventually get to see some of the splendor of 19th century London, most of this book stays filled with all kinds of bodily fluids. and I do mean all kinds. The main character is still a whore - although not Caroline, who we meet in the beginning, but she's abandoned soon enough - and she knows her trade. we see her climb up the social ladder and cheer her on as she tries to sidestep one problem after the other.

Some memorable passages for me were (keeping in mind I still have about sixty pages left):
a passage where the narrator explains the horribleness of corsets:
Pitilessly tapering bodices, on any woman not naturally thin, present challenges above and beyond the call of beauty... they exchanged their roomy nightgowns for a gruelling session with the lady's maid... choking their wearer's breath, irreparably deforming her rib-cage, and giving her a red nose which must be frequently powdered.

(why am I quoting this? oh, I happen to know a fierce corset-wearing redhead who'd love to give the writer a long explanation why corsets are not a source of evil...)

A passage where the main character reveals a secret talent:
...'but tell me something I didn't know about you - anything. A thing no one else in the world knows.' ... he is nuzzling his face against her belly, murmuring encouragement to her, waiting to be given his secret.
'I...I...' she agonises. 'I can shoot water from my sex.'
He stares up at her, startled. 'What?'

What infuriated me though, was that the cat in this story is given milk. So what, you may ask? Well, diary products are to a cat what chocolate is to a dog. they love it, but they can't digest it and they die because of it. So yeah, that bothered me, because the writer might just as well be forcefeeding a character sand, foie gras-style.

But enough about this book. If you like scandals and the late nineteenth century, I'd say to you that you should not let the pink reviews on the back of the book discourage you. This isn't a fan fiction in disguise. The writer uses love and glamour very sparingly, rather focusing on how tough it was in those days to climb up those slippery rungs of the social ladder.

Until next time,


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