Category Archives: Michel Faber

The Apple – Michel Faber

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?

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Filed under Canongate Publishing, Michel Faber, Review

Movie Potential

Oh the question from Booking Through Thursday is a really good one this week, well they are always interesting. This week it is this: What book do you think should be made into a movie? And do you have any suggestions for the producers? Or what book do you think should NEVER be made into a movie?

Part of me doesn’t want to have any of my favourite books turned into films, though some of them have, as they always get ghastly movie covers made, why do they do that with books to movie, cant they just keep the same ones? I have never seen a movie cover that I have liked. Here are some of the ones that had I not read them already would have truly put me off. Sorry just a strange issue I have there, moving swiftly on…

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If I was too say which of all of my favourite books I would like to see in movie form it would be a huge massive production of The Woman in White (as long as Kiera Knightly doesn’t get to star in it) by Wilkie Collins, I know its been adapted by the BBC but I would love to see that on the big screen. I would say the Life of Pi but I think that is already happening. Oh I have thought of another Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White that would make a brilliant movie, so I guess that one. On the whole though I would rather my favourites were left alone in case they don’t live up to the book as I have translated it into my own head!

The most recent read that I would have made into a film would be Child 44 however that has already been optioned. I am actually interviewing the author Tom Rob Smith today so if anyone has any questions for him do let me know on here or here. It’s a fantastic book and will make an amazing movie.

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Filed under Michel Faber, Tom Rob Smith, Wilkie Collins

The Crimson Petal & The White – Michel Faber

For the last week and a half I have been lost in Victorian London and it’s been fabulous. I have one man to thank for this and that’s Michel Faber. ‘The Crimson Petal & The White’ comes highly hyped and recommended as a modern classic and for once I think this is a title that deserves the praise.

The tale is based around Sugar, a prostitute and the brothels and back alleys she frequents at the beginning to the upper classes she climbs too. Firstly I must say she is a fantastic heroine, she isn’t the prettiest prostitute in the land but she is certainly the most favoured. She’s intelligent, witty and certainly has her wits about her. It tells of her meeting William Rackham, a Perfumery Owner, and all that befalls them and a host of wonderful characters during Sugar’s rise.

I have to say I am not the best with long books, I love reading them but find them daunting however this book draws you in from the first lines. ‘Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them.’ It’s compared on several sites to a Dickensian masterpiece, having not read on of Dickens novels (the shame) yet I cannot compare the two authors. I can say that Michel Faber writes with a fantastic descriptive prose and makes his background characters (such as Mrs Castaway) as fascinating and interesting as the main.

I think what I loved about this was for a historical novel it was real. In fact in some parts quite graphic, I found it quite odd to think my Gran had read these words and that my mother is currently reading them, I’m not sure if some of the language will be discussed in upcoming phone calls. It’s not a book for prudes, or maybe actually it should be. From reading past historical novels not from the original era this had a real heart in comparison. Faber doesn’t try to be really clever by intertwining royalty or well known names (other than Pear’s) or using the powerful tool of hindsight to make him seem a clever writer. He simply uses the Victorian world he has clearly researched in depth to create a fantastic landscape in which his characters inhabit.

Are there any negatives? Not really, I did find some of the occasional business/perfumery descriptions a tad too much and wanted to skim them, I didn’t. Also the end… I didn’t want the book to finish. I have now fortunately remembered that I did a swap for ‘Apple’ Faber’s collection of tales from the characters after ‘The Crimson Petal & The Rose’ part of me wants to dive straight in, however I shall restrain myself and leave Sugar where she is, plus ‘Mister Pip’ has been sat tempting me on the top of my to read pile for a while now.

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Filed under Books of 2008, Canongate Publishing, Michel Faber, Review