Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

Michel Faber is best known for his novel The Crimson Petal and the White, which detailed an affair between a young man and a prostitute in the Victorian Era. The stories in The Apple revisit characters from the novel, but they stand by themselves. As Faber states in the introduction to the collection: “The tales collected here are complete narratives, and if The Crimson Petal had never existed, I would wish to have written them regardless.” Thus, one does not need previous experience with the characters to enjoy these views into their lives.

Each story in this collection represents a small window into Victorian society. The first story in the collection, “Christmas on Silver Street,” transports the reader to a brothel where a young prostitute uses her earnings to give the son of another prostitute a Christmas feast that she believes he deserves. The tenderness of the gesture contrasted with the harsh reality of life in a brothel draws the reader towards both characters.

In “The Fly, and Its Effect on Mr. Bodley,” a proper gentleman who frequents a brothel struggles with mortality. Mr. Bodley arrives, to the surprise of the brothel’s madam, very early in the morning. He, however, is not visiting to lay with any of the girls. During Mr. Bodley’s last visit, a fly had landed on the naked skin of the girl he was with. While a commonplace occurrence, Mr. Bodley begins to realize that he’s no different than the prostitute; he’s human and someday he will be dead and forgotten.

“A Mighty Horde of Women in Very Big Hats, Advancing,” is Faber’s way of moving from the Victorian Era to the Edwardian Era. A young boy recounts how life has changed by describing the adults around him. The boy’s father, an artist, sits around the house finding inspiration for his paintings, while his mother and aunt work for the women’s suffrage movement. The young boy recalls many different perspectives on the changes taking place in society.

I found Michel Faber’s prose simple, yet descriptive. I had not read The Crimson Petal and the White and was pleasantly surprised to find that the stories really do stand apart. I am sure, however, that anyone who is familiar with the novel will enjoy seeing how Faber revisits his characters.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Canongate UK. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.