The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories
The Crimson Petal and the White, Faber’s monumental novel of a Victorian prostitute’s progress, won him fans all over the globe. However, some readers were frustrated by the ending, which left Sugar, the prostitute, and her young charge, Sophie, on the streets with an uncertain future ahead of them. While these stories do not reveal Sugar’s final outcome, Faber revisits the same cast of characters and moves backward and forward in time with them.
Although a huge fan of the novel, I found this collection to be uneven and disappointing. After a less-than-modest introduction (‘All in all, my novel had made a powerful impression on an extraordinary range of people’), Faber launches into “Christmas on Silver Street,” an annoyingly twee Yuletide fable. The other tales are entertaining enough, although some, like “The Fly, and Its Effects upon Mr Bodley,” seem more like character sketches than fully realised narratives. Only the final piece, “A Mighty Horde of Women in Very Big Hats, Advancing” matches the depth and power evident in Faber’s novel writing. Here we meet a grown-up Sophie as an Edwardian suffragette living in a free-spirited ménage with her bohemian artist husband and androgynous sister-in-law. The story is poignantly narrated through the eyes of her son, now an old man in a nursing home, trying to recall a lost era of hope and innocence, before the promise of the 20th century clouded over with world wars and bitter disillusionment.
As £12.99 seems a hefty price for this slender collection of only seven stories, I recommend waiting for the paperback.