Short Stories Challenge – Clara And The Rat Man by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories

Published January 28, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s Clara And The Rat Man all about?:

Michel Faber revisits the world of his bestselling novel The Crimson Petal and the White, conjuring tantalising glimpses of its characters, their lives before we first met them and their intriguing futures. You’ll be desperate for more by the time you reluctantly re-emerge into the twenty-first century. Meet Clara, a prostitute with a rather strange request from a client that leads her to a rat pit of all places!

What did I think?:

From the beginning, this story had real potential as I love the style of writing Michel Faber uses when taking us back to a filthy and poverty-stricken Victorian London. We are introduced to Clara, a young woman who used to have a slightly higher social standing as a ladies maid (Mrs Rackham for the Crimson Petal fans), however she has fallen from grace and must resort to selling her body so that she can pay her rent and barely survive in a cruel and dangerous time. On one of her daily searches for a punter, she encounters a man who does not seem like your ordinary client (in that he has no interest in sleeping with her) but offers her a shilling every week if she will let a nail on one of her fingers grow. He then proceeds to meet her every week to check on her nail progress, and gives her money if it has not been bitten or broken.

I don’t really want to say too much more about the plot, however if you are at all familiar with Faber’s Crimson Petal and The White, which I recommend reading before these short stories, you will understand that it’s not for the faint-hearted! I’m a big fan of the novel and its variety of tantalising characters, and enjoyed reading about what happened to Clara after she was dismissed from the Rackhams. The Rat Man client is definitely one of those characters where you have to gulp hard before you can continue reading, and I loved that the author clawed that emotion out of me, while leading me to feel fairly sorry for him at the end. However, I was really disappointed by the ending which left me slightly cold, expecting a bit more. Oh well, onto the next!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

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