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Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white...

I finished a very interesting book today : 'The Crimson Petal and the White' by Michel Faber. I'm not going to write a book review or anything, but it's such an odd, gripping book that I feel I need to share my experience.
I normally don't do drastic experiments when I borrow/buy books. Meaning that I usually stick to authors I know. But when I saw this book at the BC library, I don't know I just felt like turning a few pages and skimming through.
The first chapter - even the first paragraph caught me off guard. It literary grips you and holds on to you with a fierce tenacity that doesn't lessen all through its 800+ pages.

800+ pages? You say. Don't you believe me?
Well. Look at these lines in the very first page and see for yourself -

And yet you did not choose me blindly. Certain expectations were aroused. Let's not be coy: you were hoping I would satisfy all the desires you're too shy to name, or at least show you a good time...'"

Basically, the story is set in Victorian England. If you're already conjuring up images from Oliver Twist or Vanity Fair or some such novel - well trust me this is nothing like those. For one thing, this novel, though set in the 19th century, is narrated with a very 21st century mind set. And it is never judgmental. The characters are on their own and the reader is free to make her own mind. Another thing I loved about this book is that it makes you feel as if you're actually there in person - a witness to all the sights and sounds and smells - no matter how pleasant or horrible they are. It's as if you're in a 4-D movie..The story really does come alive.

That being said, there are certain elements that you would find familiar. There's Sugar - the heroine - who is a prostitute. There's Agnes - the mad wife . Henry - the social reformer. And lots of lace and corsets and smelling salts, dirty London streets and the 'season'.

There are several references to other literary works in that same era too. It was kind of funny when Sugar - who becomes the governess to her lover/employer's daughter- says to herself 'there won't be any Reader I married him in this story' (remember Jane Eyre? )

After finishing, I felt mystified about the book's title. I googled it and turns out
Michel Faber got it from the following poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Now sleeps the crimson petal, now the white
Nor waves the cypress in the palace walk
Nor winks the gold fin in the porphyry font
The firefly wakens: waken thou with me.

Now droops the milkwhite peacock like a ghost,
And like a ghost she glimmers on to me.

Now lies the Earth all Danae to the stars,
And all thy heart lies open unto me.

Now slides the silent meteor on,
and leaves
A shining furrow, as thy thoughts in me.

Now folds the lily all her sweetness up,
And slips into the bosom of the lake:
So fold thyself, my dearest, thou,
and slip
Into my bosom and be lost in me.

Haunting and sensual isn't it?
Personally, the 3rd and 4th stanzas are my favorites although I don't understand the 2nd one.
BTW, if you're interested, Reese Witherspoon actually sings this in the movie Vanity Fair.

After seeing it's namesake, I thought that Crimson petal alludes to Sugar and White to Agnes. It is after all their story. But then again maybe not. Sugar is, even though a 'street girl' constantly striving to be a 'lady'. And her conduct far outshines that of Agnes's - who is born a lady but does nothing spectacular.

And to finish off this post, what better way than the parting words of the very book:

"And to you also: goodbye. An abrupt parting, I know, but that's the way it always is, isn't it? You imagine you can make it last forever, then suddenly it's over. I'm glad you chose me, even so; I hope I satisfied all your desires, or at least showed you a good time."


  1. Ah.. the Crimson Petal !

    Yes.. Indeed a brilliant book !.. I share the same view of your 4D movie relation to the story telling of the author !

    But I stay away from anything of Lord Tennyson !

    Guy wrote such depressing poems !

  2. Hmmm... I usually don't go for these themes, but after your glowing review, I just might take a peek :)

  3. @Nash_Node
    yep..hmm about Tennyson - I actually havent read that much poetry by him..And don't know a lot about poetry anyway- only bits and pieces that I picked up here and there :) But I have to say this particular poem isn't depressing..

    lol sure hope you do! Coz you'll miss out on a treat if you dont

  4. @ Niroshinie !

    Hmm... no really ! .. you see... this poem it self is not a stand alone poem !

    If you take it like that, yes, there's nothing much to be worried about it. But Tennyson is the same chap who wrote "The Charge of the Light Brigade" (hope you have read it... if not.. read it.. absolute master piece of poetry.. at it's BEST)

    So.. as I was telling, this poem you have noted, is merely a single sonnet out of a series of poems which dealt with the passing away of his loved one (many think it's his wife / or daughter.. but no one is sure.. the stint is called "Princess" .. and he's not much reviewed for his use of language and depth in this series of poems)

    If you take the poem as a single stand alone axis.. this poem actually has a very sexy kink into it.. especially the last stanza !... but read this poem again with the notion of loosing someone you have loved ! (loosing mean death) .. then you will grip the full depression and despair in this poem !

    anyways.. as for books !

    may I suggest something from Jonathan Kellerman.. such as the "Conspiracy Club" ! .. He has almost the same way of story telling where you have to race though the pages and to find what happens next and quite gripping till you put it down !

    However, his type of writing is not everyone's cup of tea.. but do check it out if you get your hands on one !

  5. @Nash_Node
    Princess? No I didn't know that..
    And yes this one does have erotic undertones..although I thought it was the 3rd one that was the most kinky, what with the Danae story and all..Dont know why but the last stanza made me feel sort of sad..nostalgic almost. Maybe because the lily has 'spent her sweetness'..?
    I'll keep my eye open for Jonathan Kellerman. Thanks a lot for the tip!

  6. @Niroshinie !

    My bad.. my bad !

    Now only noticed !

    It's not Jonathan Kellerman ...

    Rather please amend it as Gerald Seymour on the likes of his book "Rat Run" !

    Sorry for the wrong info !

    Check this

  7. Is there something strange in the conduct of the doctor with Agnes,the mad woman?

  8. well the tv series of this is out and Gillian Anderson is playing Mrs.Castaway..hmmm


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පර්යේෂණ සහ ආචාර ධර්ම අවසරය

පසුගිය සති කීපයකම නිරත වෙලා හිටිය වැඩක ප්‍රතිපල ඊයේ ලැබුණා. ඒ මගේ පර්යේෂණය සඳහා ඕනෑ උන 'ආචාර ධර්ම අවසරය' නැත්නම් ethics clearence එක ලැබීමයි.

මගේ පර්යේෂණය මුලික වශයෙන් පරිගණක විද්‍යාව සහ මෘදුකාංග ඉංජිනේරු විෂයන් වලින් කෙරුනත්, මිනිසුන් ද සහභාගී කරවාගෙන කෙරෙන කොටසක් ඇති නිසා තමා මෙහෙම අවසරයක් ගන්ඩ උනේ.

ටිකක් පැහැදිලි කරොත්, මේ පර්යේෂණයේ ප්‍රථිපලයක් වන මෘදුකාංග පද්ධතිය නිවැරදිව වැඩ කරනවාද නැද්ද කියන එක තහවුරු කරන්න එක විද්‍යාගාරයක කරලා බලල මදි (සහ කරන්න අමාරුයි). 'හැබෑ ලෝකයේ' එය වැඩ කරන හැටි බලන්ඩ ඕනේ.

මගේ පර්යේෂණය 'ස්මාර්ට් තාක්ෂනය' නැත්නම්, කෘතිම බුද්ධිය සහිත ගෘහස්ත පද්ධතියක් (smart home) සම්බන්ධයෙන්. වෙනත් මෘදුකාංග වලට වඩා මේ වගේ පද්ධතියක් හදන කොට ගොඩක්ම සැලකිලිමත් වෙන්න ඕනේ මිනිස්සු මෙහෙම තාක්ෂනෙකට කොහොම ප්‍රතිචාර දක්වයිද කියලා. 
හිතන්න, ඔයාලගේ ගෙදරත් කෘතිම බුද්ධියක් නැත්නම් 'ස්මාර්ට්' පද්ධතියක් හයි කරලා කියලා. මේ වගේ පද්ධති වල අරමුණ මිනිසුන්ගේ ජීවිතය පහසු කරන එක. උදාහරණයකට ඔන්න ඔයාගේ 'බුද්ධිමත් ගෙදර' ලව්වා ඔයාට පුළුවන් වෙලාවට ලයිට් දාන්න/නිවන්න, …

පරණ අවුරුද්දේ අන්තිම POST එක

පරණ අවුරුද්දේ අන්තිම පැය ටිකනේ දැන් මේ ගෙවෙන්නේ. ඉතින් අන්තිම පොස්ට් එක සිංහලෙන් ලියන්න හිතුනා..
හ්ම්ම්..අද නම් මං අපරාදෙ කියන්නැතිව බහු ජන හිතාය වැඩ ගොඩක් කළා.. ඒ කිව්වේ අවුරුදු කෑමක් හැදුවා - සාලෙ මොප් කළා - පහන පොලිෂ් කළා ...ආ තව අසල්වාසීන්ට කැවිලි පිඟං අරන් ගියා...මගේ කාමරේ අස් කරා (- ඒක ඉතින් බහු ජන නෙවෙයි නෙ - මට විතරයි නෙ :D )

ඉස්සෙල්ලම කියන්නම් හදපු කෑම ගැන - හැදුවෙ බිබික්කම් හෙවත් පොල් කේක් හෙවත් පෝරං ආප්ප (කැමති එකක් කියාගන්න. අම්බලංගොඩ පැත්තෙ බිබික්කං කියනවා, පානදුරේ පෝරං ආප්ප, කොළඹ පොල් කේක් --- හ්ම්ම් පැටලුනාද මන්ද කොහොම හරි මං ඔය පළාත් තුනේම ඒව කියනව. අසන්නෝ සිහි බුද්ධියෙන් අසත්වා )

ඒක හදන්න හරී ලේසියි. අමාරු පොල් ගාන එක විතරයි :) පැණි සීනි ලිප තියලා ඒක පත් පැණි වෙන කොට පොල් සහ කැන්ඩීඩ් පීල් දාන්න යි තියෙන්නෙ. හැබැයි පත් පැණි සීන් එක නම් ටිකක් සංකීර්ණ්යි. ඒක බලන්න ගිහින් ඇඟිල්ලත් පිච්චුනා :(
මට මේ පාර කැන්ඩීඩ් පීල් හොයාගන්න බැරිඋනා :( අපරාදෙ කියන්න බෑ පුනර්ජීවනයේ නගරයේ නම් කේක් බඩු ගන්න නියම තැනක් තියෙනවා. මැරවින් ගේ අඩවියේ නැද්ද මන්ද.
ඉතින් මං මෝඩය වගේ ඉස්සෙල්ලම පොල් පැණි මි…