Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Crimson Petal and the White

I thought Romola Garai and, in fact, all the cast were terrific in the TV version of The Crimson Petal and the White, a story of Victorian hypocricy and how an intelligent prostitute, Sugar, climbed a few steps up the social ladder. Her gentleman lover, William Rackham, turned out to have a mad wife and feet of clay. It was billed as a dark story about low life that Dickens could only hint of.  Indeed Michael Faber, the author of the original novel, said some of his research uncovered events too sordid to write about, but this is a full-on book and he does include some graphic scenes that made me blink.
It took me a while to read the 850 page book (good price on the Kindle). What I'd missed in the TV version is that William Rackham genuninely loved his wife - and there was more room for insights into Agnes's character and the upstairs downstairs contrasts of the rich and poor, privileged and deprived/depraved.  What seemed much too long were Henry Rackham's religious ravings and, sometimes, Mrs Fox's good deeds.  Sugar on the other hand was a fascinating girl - Michael Faber manages write convincingly from the female point of view, not a skill shared by all male writers.  I admired his writing style, original and fluent, sometimes speaking to the reader directly.
If you have a broad mind and patience, do read this book but don't give it to your maiden aunt or staid uncle for Christmas.
Here's a review of the TV version and here's another one that expresses some of what I felt.


Karen said...

I read it a couple of years ago, and thought it was one of the best books I'd read in ages!

I agree there was more depth than was shown in the series, but they did a pretty good job overall :o)

Debs Carr said...

I think Romola Garai is such a good actress in whatever she's in, but I didn't get into this series when it was on tv, which was rather disappointing.

Lorna F said...

I've also bought it on Kindle. I thought Romola Garai was wonderful, as was the actress who played William's daughter, but did feel the series suffered from over-compression of certain aspects. Mrs Fox, for instance, just faded out, having said to Sugar she would help her.