Thursday, Dec. 12, 2002

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

How is it that a historical novel about a prostitute in Victorian England made most other fiction this year feel hopelessly dated? Faber's sprawling, sexy fable follows his heroine, a whore named Sugar with many talents and few inhibitions, as she wriggles her way up the social ladder. One of the rare 800-page novels that feels too short, it's a sprawling, sexy triumph: witty as a Duchess, cruel as a corset, and smart as the Dickens.