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The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
Michel Faber sets this novel in Victorian England and fills it with steamy sex, prostitution, poverty, violence, wealth and privilege. Sugar is a talented 19-year old prostitute, well read and intelligent, and desperate to pull herself out of the misery of poverty. She meets William, an heir to a perfumery business and wedded to a woman gone mad. William is so taken with Sugar's erotic skills that he takes her as a mistress and puts her up in her own house filled with luxuries. She in turn helps him with his business decisions. This is the bare outline of a story that is ambitious in theme and scope. The Seattle Times says, "The Crimson Petal and the White is so spellbinding that at 848 pages, it seemed all too short."