In part because I don’t want Savidge Reads to become a series of posts about my health (though I have done an update below) and also because of the timeliness of today’s book post in question I thought I would pop up a second of two posts this Thursday. One of my favourite periods in history is the Victorian period, and one of my favourite genres, which I think it can be called, is ‘the sensation novel’ by the likes of Wilkie Collins etc. Every now and then a modern writer will come up with a book that seems to encapsulate that period and its atmosphere and one book which did just that with me several years ago was Michel Faber’s ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’. Here in the UK we will have seen the first episode of the BBC’s adaptation air last night (though as this is scheduled I can’t tell you my thoughts yet) but before I watched it I wanted to get reacquainted with its heroine, of sorts, Sugar and ‘The Apple’ is a collection of short tales set before and after ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ and I knew now was the perfect time to read it.
I wasn’t sure that ‘The Apple’ would be a collection that would work if you hadn’t already read ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ and happily, as I hadn’t read the latter for so long I had forgotten a lot of it, I was proven wrong. Here in a series of seven tales you are introduced to/reacquainted with Sugar and the other characters working in or visiting Mrs Castaway’s whorehouse in darkest Victorian London. From the opening lines of the first story ‘Christmas in Silver Street’ I was escorted by Sugar once more into her world, though a rather snowy and slightly more delightful version than I remember previously, as she goes through the streets and completes her Christmas shopping. You may think ‘well that doesn’t sound like much happens’ and in a way it doesn’t but the descriptions, and indeed Sugars actions while out and about, keep you reading on.
One of my favourites of the tales was ‘Clara and the Rat Man’ which saw a smaller character from CPATW featured in a story all of her own. It is a rather crude little tale, well she is a Victorian whore and Michel Faber often doesn’t mince his words, in many ways especially once you learn why the rat man is paying her lots of money to simply grow one finger nail, but the narrative and then the twist had me in hysterics.
As you may guess from the above story Sugar doesn’t feature in every tale. In fact during ‘Medicine’ as we meet William Rackham once more (or for the first time), it is the haunting thoughts, memories and the feelings he has of Sugar that see her mentioned. I should also point out that in ‘A Mighty Horde of Women in Very Big Hats, Advancing’ all about the suffragette movement we only her of a ‘Miss Sugar’ once or twice.
‘The Apple’ is a great way to be introduced to Michel Faber’s incredibly atmospheric, though often very blunt and explicit, version of Victorian London and the characters that in habit it, its also a great way to get back into the world of Sugar if you have loved it before. Humour, darkness and rather a lot of sex await those who read this book, I would recommend be you a former client or a Sugar virgin that you give these tales a try, though occasionally you might get slightly mixed up where in her history you are. 7.5/10
That may seem a rather harsh mark after such a rave review but I did want a bit more Sugar throughout and also I was a little miffed there wasn’t much more of Mrs Castaway who in ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’ is a marvellous character that I am very much looking forward to seeing Gillian Anderson playing in this rather fabulous makeover…
It’s also a very short collection, unlike the tome its predecessor is, which while makes for a great series of tales to read here and there wasn’t quite as meaty as I liked. I did love it though, and it didn’t feel like a spin off which I almost expected it to. So who has read ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’? Did anyone catch the adaptation last night and if so what did you think? Would you want to read a spin off like ‘The Apple’? Which of your favourite novels would you like to see a collection of mini-tales of the characters and what they have been up to before and since be published?