NOW A MAJOR BBC DRAMA starring Romola Garai, Chris O'Dowd, Gillian Anderson, Richard E. Grant, Shirley Henderson, and Mark Gatiss.
'Watch your step. Keep your wits about you; you will need them....' So begins this irresistible voyage into the dark side of Victorian London. Amongst an unforgettable cast of low-lifes, physicians, businessmen, and prostitutes, meet our heroine Sugar, a young woman trying to drag herself up from the gutter any way she can. Be prepared for a mesmerising tale of passion, intrigue, ambition, and revenge.
©2011 Michel Faber (P)2011 W.F. Howes Ltd
First let me say that if you dislike crude language I would avoid this book as it treats sex and prostitution quite unflinchingly and describes the world it deals with in a way that I found to be refreshing but may offend some. Normally prostitutes in fiction are depicted as "tart with a heart", sexy siren or cold hard witches. They never seem quite real but this book breathes life into the world it depicts; it evokes sights, smells and characters of this world in sometimes alarming detail. I loved the introduction, the story and the narration. It was quite wonderful
I have always been an avid devourer of the written word. I am now no longer to read books and cannot wait for Audible day each month.
This book is the "Marmite" of historical fiction; readers/listeners will either love it or loathe it. I am definitely in the former category.
The book is a narration of several intertwined people's lives over the period of about a year, the narrator being an integral part.Through these lives, a story of how love comes into the most unlikely of lives. The main characters are Sugar, a much sought after prostitute with many qualities not usually found in the fallen women of fiction, and William, a typical Victorian father who thinks he is anything but typical of his class and time. The story weaves through Sugar and William meeting and her deciding to improve her lot because of William's infatuation for her.
There are a number of supporting characters, and rather than the usual story of a "tart with a heart" winning her man, "Pretty Woman" style, it is the slow development of love in those characters who both crave it and think they're beyond it.
To begin with, I was felt cheated by the somewhat abrupt end, wanting to know more about what happened to the characters. However, the more I thought about I reaslised that I didn't need to know at all; the author told us undirectly and there were happy endings for those who deserved it most.
I can recommend this book to anyone, especially women as I don't think it's particularly a man's book, who enjoys a saga and isn't offended by graphic descriptions of the world inhabited by prostitutes and their clients. The narration is superb, the nuances and inflections add perfect undercurrents to the book. I can do nothing more than recommend this highly and strongly recommend that listeners give it a go - you'll either love it or hate it.
Firstly to the narration, it was great, I really enjoyed the voice and the timing. The book however is a somewhat different story. personally I am greedy as to length of books, the longer the better, one of the factors that swayed me into purchasing this one was the 50(ish) hours length. Oh how I wish I had those 50 hours back, or at least wasn't so stubborn about finishing it once I had started. The book gives a fabulous sense of place, the time, the social conditions of the era. But it is simply too wordy and drawn out. Minor characters are developed and then vanish with no real impact on the plot. And I hated the ending...I like things to be wrapped up in a nice neat unequivocal ending..this lacked that. All in all listening to this book was an exercise in frustration, there is a great book lurking in this overly obese story.
When I was at school, we were taught that a good story had a beginning, a middle and an end and that the most frequent failing of young writers was to devote too much time and space to the beginning and middle and then have to rush the ending. If Michael Faber was taught this at his school, he has clearly forgotten the lesson.
This book has an intriguing start and we are drawn into Victorian London; its strata of society, the hardship of the poor contrasting with the fecklessness of the rich, all carried along by strong narration. A good tale is being woven, with interesting characters and I was always keen to find out what would happen next. However after about 15 hours listening, I began to wonder where the story was heading. Lots of social comment, an abundance of period detail but slow progress on the storyline. After 30 hours, I was beginning to despair. I felt a little ashamed because it's undoubtedly well written and well read but does seem to drag so!
In the end, it became almost a badge of honour to finish the damn thing and, at around 42 hours it stopped. Not with an ending but right in the middle, as if the author had run out of steam or had not the wit to concoct a decent finish. Having listened for the equivalent of a working week, I felt let down, cheated even, and begrudged having invested so much when I could have enjoyed something else.
The book has had some rave reviews so I guess I'm in a minority. Perhaps it was just too literary for me...
I've just finished reading this and I have to say that this book was absolutely superb! Some reviewers have said that it's too long. Long it is, but the level of detail carefully rendered in the words of this excellently written story serve to paint a vivid set of characters in an equally well defined world. Faber's style of writing is one of unhurried story-telling which allows the reader to better understand the characters that inhabit this world. It's a style I was instantly impressed with from start to finish. Other authors often rush a story fearing that the reader would lose interest in the plot if they didn't move things along at perhaps an unrealistic rate. No, Faber allows his story to slowly mature permitting the reader to "live" this world with him.
His story is character driven (as all good stories are) but the reader gains real insight into their inner thoughts and feelings over time just like actually getting to know someone in real life.
This tail is like a fine wine that can only be appreciated with time and care and Faber delivers both in generous measure.
I could go on uttering many superlatives about this book and all wouldn't do it justice in my opinion. Take the time to read this story and you will be drawn into a rich and enthralling place you wont want to leave.
Like others here, I too was desperate to find out more about what happens to the characters seen here as soon as I'd finished the book so acquainted you feel with them by the time it's sadly all over.
Yes, there is a peppering of bad language throughout, but it's required to give the story its gritty and visceral sense of reality that this journey is. Narration I found to be excellent with the various tones and accents of each character done with aplomb.
Finally, this book has a host of words I'd never come across, so it's given me plenty of opportunity to extend my vocabulary when I look up what they all mean.
Start your enthrawling journey today and enjoy!
I loved, loved, loved this book, listened to it in the car, in bed, in the bath, I loved the way the story was told as a journey, and how we followed the characters through time, and even through each other. I admired Sugar, loved little Sophie, felt sorry for poor Agnes and so wanted to know what happened to them in the end, and was sad to not find out. This book is long, I loved every minute but wanted, no, needed to know more about how my beloved characters ended up..... part 2 please Mr Faber!
This book is an education in itself... beautifully written, and now, narrated, it is a non-hurried look in depth at life in Victorian England, covering many themes, including prostitution, the poor, the sick mental illness and the background to women's rise and suffrage.
Do yourself a favour..take the time to read this... it will open your eyes.... The BBC dramatisation has also been done in a first class way.... well done everybody....especially the author.
I very much enjoyed the book until the ending. I believe many readers will feel they are left hanging. If the author were planning a sequel to continue the story, I would withdraw my criticism and rate the book 5 stars.
I had heard that this book was amazing, so was thrilled to see it as an audiobook and didn't hesitate to download it. However I really wish I had read it rather than listened to it as I found the narration clunky with poor meter and flow and littered with mis-pronunciations which rather dragged me out of the story.
If I hadn't paid so much for it I may have ditched it all together, but rather foolishly ploughed on.
I watched some of this story on television and was desperate to know what happened at the end. It was also really interesting hearing the difference between the screen version and the authors written word. Both were superb. I listened to the whole book almost without pause. Brilliant!!
"Loved this Book!!"
I loved this book SO much and when I read the first review that was written for this book I felt so sorry for waiting to give my opinion. I think that anyone that enjoyed watching "The Duchess of Duke Street" and/or "Upstairs, Downstairs" on PBS would probably like this story as well or more. This is not a book for the squeamish so if you cannot tolerate a certain amount of sex and unpleasantness, don't bother. I was able to keep track of the many characters quite easily, partly because the narrator is so easily understood. Once I started listening, I was so hooked! I finished this almost 42 hour book in just 10 days and wished it was longer. The ending was excellent. It was a bargain for just one credit. (Editor NOT needed, thank you very much).
"MESMERIZING STORY, HISTORICAL AMBIENCE, BUT....."
I loved this book - every word of it, from the very unusual start.....right down to the last words BEFORE the ending. You quickly become immersed in the hidden Victorian world of sex for sale and the sinners who consider themselves perfect gentlemen in every way - with no thought or understanding of the women they use and abuse, whether whores, wives or servants.
All the realistic and captivating characters are totally believable, and the narrator clearly defines them. The plot has twists and turns that are, for the most part, not too surprising. But the characters, and the story, carry you forward, and keep you caring about the characters - with hope that the story will be true to their personalities and the expected choices that they should make.
You quickly find yourself cheering for an extraordinary 'fallen woman' and hoping that she will overcome all the odds against her. Then wonderful things begin to happen to this deserving woman, and you want this to be the best 'Cinderella story' of all time. But I don't want to spoil the ending for you.
Under ordinary circumstances, I would have rated this book at 5 stars. But, the sudden, unexpected ending really ticked me off - and I down-graded the rating by 1 star. This is ?going to be? or is ?now? a BBC series - so I must assume that the reason for the abrupt ending for the book is because a SECOND season (and book) will soon be on our reading horizon. Curses on the ending of a series that leaves you hanging! But it's nice to know that you will eventually 'know all', when the next season begins. I am looking forward to seeing the TV series - and certainly looking forward to another book that continues with the life of Sugar - a very unusual lady of the night.
"Add my name to the list of devoted fans!"
What a brilliant book. I hung on every word of this amazing tale. I thought I would be less than pleased with the ending, but it felt just right to me. I'm so glad I took a chance on it. It will be one of my favorite "re-reads" in years to come. Michel Faber is a genius. And Jill Tanner does him proud!
"Good writing, unlikeable characters"
The author describes Victorian London and Victorian life with great detail that must have taken a great deal of research. The way people dressed and lived, even the lives of prostitutes and businessmen, are described in eloquent language that engaged me. The story was interesting and unique, and I listened to the entire thing. My main problem is my own wish for one character to really like. Sugar, the main character, was forced into prostitution as a child by her mother, and she wants to be a writer. Her stories' main theme was revenge on men--she killed them off in gruesome ways. She falls in love, or allows herself to be loved, by a wealthy man whose wife is mentally ill and who completely neglects his young child by that wife. He removes Sugar from the brothel and installs her as his concubine because he wants her all to himself. The main character becomes more and more entwined in his life, hoping to somehow raise herself into a higher class. In the end, he is no better than any of the other men in her life, and she then manages to get great revenge on him and flee, but the story ends there and we don't know what really becomes of her.. By this time she has become someone that I could not root for, and all of the other characters are twisted and revolting as well. I think the author tries to say that all women were demeaned by that society, and perhaps all men were as well. There seems to be a fad among modern authors now to revisit Victorian England and explore its facets that were not discussed during that era--perversions, homosexuality, moral dishonesty, child exploitation, degradation of women. I think that is fine, but I am still so old-fashioned that I want one character that I admire and applaud, and I didn't find that character. Perhaps you will enjoy this story more than I did.
"Yawn Yawn Yawn"
For the first time since I started to listen to audiobooks I have finally found one that put me to sleep almost immediately.
There is very little substance to sink your ears into and I have barely even got through the beginning of the second file and I am ready to delete it. The characters are ever changing and honestly not terribly interesting either. Just as you feel you can relate the story changes entirely. I really don't like the way you as the reader are spoken to directly either and told what to do when.
Just the way that it was narrated irritated me - Jill has a way of pausing after each sentence for a period far too long to keep the flow of the words at a comfortable pace.
"Can't Put It Down"
While I freely admit, I am not finished with this book......not even finished with part one of the five, I have to say I LOVE IT. I wanted to counter the few less than stellar reviews given by previous reviewers. Yes, it is rather long-winded and probably could have used a more scissor-happy editor; however, this is one thing I love about the book. The author is indeed verbose, using many words to describe people, places, and things, but this has always helped me to more easily visualize settings and characters. I detest authors who are skimpy with descriptors (I guess I just don't have a vivid enough imagination). This author is excellent and I will be looking forward to more from her.
Believe it or not, the characters come across as likeable (more or less), even when they are obviously toffee-nosed snobs. The book is definitely adult. If you are squeamish about sex, coarse language, and the seedier side of life, do give it a miss. BUT if you, as well as I, enjoy reading about lives lived completely differently than your own, buy it. You just might find yourself being transported to a different place and time. And you WON'T want to leave. I actually can't wait to finish this review so I can turn on my iPod again to be sent back to London, circa 1874. I'm anxious to see how Sugar is getting along; how William will manage his serious "issues", and to meet the other interesting and complex characters created by Ms. Faber.
Apparently this book has been made into a major BBC drama now starring Romola Garai, a terrific, young, English actress. I'd love to see it sometime. It'd be interesting to see how they "clean it up" for airing on public television.
"Disappointing, unappealing characters"
I generally am very fond of historical fiction. It was clear the author had done her research. She chose to write about the seamy underbelly of Victorian England, and portrayed it very well. But I also prefer books with characters who are sympathetic. They don't have to be perfect (in fact, perfect characters are usually annoying) but there has to be somewhere I can connect, on an emotional level, with the people the story is about. I didn't like any of the characters in Faber's book, so by the (extremely unsatisfying and inconclusive) end, I didn't really care what happened to any of them.
I found the author's use of the present tense in the narrative voice distracting and affected. I also hated the "dear reader" style interjections into the narrative. I could see that the author might have been trying to evoke a Victorian prose style, but again, it just didn't work for me. A straightforward, omniscient narrative voice, in the past tense would have helped -- though with such a dearth of sympathetic characters, even that wouldn't have saved it for me.
I liked none of the characters. The least detestable were Henry and Emmaline Fox, but even they were not sympathetically portrayed. I thought the narrator did a decent job with the material -- at least, her characters were relatively easy to tell apart, and not annoyingly affected (I do hate it when narrators use inappropriate regional accents to differentiate characters -- especially when the people are members of the same family -- and Tanner doesn't do that...)
I did plow through to the end. But that's fairly faint praise. I don't have any desire to seek out the television version, nor to read the next book in the saga (if one is ever written).
"needs a sequel"
A wonderful book...but the ending is so unsatisfactory... In fact, there is no ending at all - there is an abrupt stop - it actually made me mad and wanting. Listen anyway - it is a masterpiece.
"A Contemporary Dickens"
What a fantastic story. From the first word to the last! A contemporary Dickens, Mr. Faber has written a cast of characters to warm the heart and treat the eye in 1860's London. With just enough sex to shock a Victorian, he leads us on a journey of vice and redemption. Even the superb narrator adds humanity with occasional growls of tummy!
"Interesting listen with a sudden stop"
I enjoyed this book until it came to an abrupt end with no resolution to the story. To describe it in the terms of a three act play, it has an overly-long second act and stops just as the third act is warming up - like a student running out of "blue-book" space while answering an essay question.
If you don't mind drawing your own conclusions, the rest of the book is well written and very well narrated.
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