This book was totally getting 5 stars because it’s beyond good. It’s one of those books that makes you smell the horse droppings on the dirty London street and see the smog building in the chilly morning air as Oliver Twist wanders by with his grubby little face begging for more gruel. But then Faber decided he was tired of writing and the conclusion of this book literally gets into a hackney carriage and clip clops away into oblivion. And then I was angry.
But let’s back up. I couldn’t put this book down…this 900 paged tome was my constant companion for four straight days. I didn’t want to eat (which is really the highest honor of any book), I didn’t want to sleep, or do any actual adult-ing for four straight days. I just wanted to read this book, and be with these characters, and live in grimy, sh*t smelling, dusty, disgusting, sexually repressed, feminist-lacking London. Because Faber’s just that good. I read a lot of historical fiction, some of which really make you smell the sh*t in the streets (looking at you, Heyday, and Gods of Gotham), but no historical fiction has ever made me feel the way Faber’s does. There’s no historical detail too small, or character motivation too unimportant. Every single sentence is so intertwined with the ones that come before it that every single thing in this book leads right back to the plot. Lots of historical fiction becomes about the setting, with the characters just waltzing through it with a tangential plot. Faber’s plot is simple: insufferable dandy visits a prostitute, ends up with more than he bargained for; life goes to hell and hand-basket. And somehow Faber magically manages to spin 900 pages of pure gold out of the straw plot left on the reaping floor of most romance novels.
It was a jaw-dropping spectacle of a book until page 896 when the prose just literally stops halfway down the page, and the next page you turn to is an advertisement for Faber’s next book. What the sh*t, man? I’m invested in these characters; I care about them. I NEED to know what happens to them. But I don’t. Because the last scene is the insufferable dandy being helped inside of a hackney and clip clopping away into the night. We know nothing about what happens to the other characters, both of whom literally just walk off the set and disappear into London somewhere. I trusted you, Faber….I trusted you. To only be led on!
I immediately bought his follow-up short story collection, “The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories” which advertised that you would at least find out what happened to the Dandy’s daughter, Sophie. It was a lovely collection, and I highly recommend it, but it was a small recompense for the wound Faber inflicted by not concluding his d*mn masterpiece.
With all that being said, I’m stocking up on the rest of Faber’s books right now, and renting the BBC’s “Crimson Petal” TV series because apparently I’m a masochist….