The Crimson Petal And The White

When people talk about holiday reading, they normally mean an undemanding page-turner.

However, for me a week's holiday is one of the few times I get when I can really get into something a bit more substantial.

And at over 800 pages, The Crimson Petal And The White is certainly substantial, so much so that you probably won’t have to find room in your suitcase for any other books.

If it is Victorian in scope, it is Victorian also in subject matter, taking us on a tour of 19th Century society in the company of a prostitute called Sugar, a tart with not a lot of heart but one you cannot help but applaud as she manoeuvres her way through the cruelties and hypocrisies of Dickensian London.

As you probably know, the book was recently adapted into a six-part series on BBC, but from what I saw of the TV version the emphasis was very much on the sex. In fact, because of that I only lasted one episode…so it might have got better.

Admittedly, there is a lot of sex in the book as well (often in great anatomical detail), but it is certainly not there to titillate and it never feels like a major part of the story.

Instead, the author is more concerned with the politics of both class and gender, as well as with maintaining a gripping narrative, which keeps up a great pace through the myriad plots and sub-plots.

If you enjoyed it on TV, you’ll certainly love the book. If you didn’t, then don’t be put off because the book is in my opinion far superior.

You’ll just need to find an uninterrupted week to read it in…