What’s The Apple all about?:
Michel Faber revisits the world of his best-selling 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. In the Apple, we return to the story of our main character Sugar whom in this tale is becoming slightly irked by an evangelist singing outside her window.
What did I think?:
As I’ve mentioned before in previous reviews of stories in this collection, it’s probably best to read Faber’s masterful novel The Crimson Petal and the White before embarking on any of these stories where we catch up with the characters from the novel. Some of the stories are prequels to the events in the novel and some reveal what happened next. They can all equally be read as stand-alones but to to get a real idea of the characters, I would recommend reading the novel first. The Apple has to be one of my favourite stories in this collection. We return to the life of the main character Sugar, an intelligent and independent young woman who has been forced into a life of prostitution to make ends meet.
As the story begins, Sugar is in bed sleeping off yet another night with a lusty gentleman when she is rudely awoken by the sound of a female evangelist singing at the top of her voice about sin and being a good Christian deliberately in the knowledge that she is outside a brothel. Sugar is enraged, even more so when the woman spies her leaning out of the window and continues to sing, all the more determined to deliver her message from God. Sugar is sorely tempted to fish “a turd” out of her chamberpot and throw it at the woman to show her “God’s mercy” but reasons with herself that this would waste a good glove.
Instead, Sugar busies herself with reading, she is in the middle of some works by Trollope but soon enough this too inflames her already terrible mood:
“In every story she reads, the women are limp and spineless and insufferably virtuous. They harbour no hatred, they think only of marriage, they don’t exist below the neck, they eat but never shit. Where are the authentic, flesh-and-blood women in modern English fiction? There aren’t any!”
Sugar is starting to believe that if she ever wants the truth about women in fiction, she would have to write it herself. Prominent authors at the time seemed to believe that they had to treat women gently, as if the brain they possessed was good for nothing but seducing men and mothering. After all, they are such fragile creatures that need things explained “in simplified terms that ignorant young ladies and dim-witted matrons can understand.” Looking out upon the evangelist, Sugar sees that she has a young child with her and is attempting to give the child an apple yet the child is upset and crying so the woman slaps her. Sugar is incensed and without thinking, runs out of the brothel without dressing properly to chastise the woman but when she gets downstairs the evangelist has disappeared. The apple has been left behind and Sugar, silently seething, takes it so that she can have something to throw if the woman ever returns.
This was one of the shorter stories in the collection but a real gem in my opinion. I love the fierceness of Sugar’s character and really enjoyed being back in her world. The author makes some fantastic insights into the lives of women at this time and writing like the quote I displayed above serves its purpose perfectly. Faber never fails to shock or enlighten his reader and whenever I’m reading something by him, I get a delicious thrill of never knowing what to expect next. There is one perhaps more controversial quote in this short story that my sister, Chrissi Reads has touched on in a discussion post HERE:
“Reading, by its very nature, is an admission of defeat, a ritual of self-humiliation. It shows that you believe other lives are more interesting than yours.”
Whatever your thoughts on this statement (and mine were to COMPLETELY disagree!) there is no doubt that Faber is a writer that pulls you in, makes you feel a range of emotions and leaves you (hopefully) quite satisfied at the end. For this story, this was definitely the case for me.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
NEXT SHORT STORY: Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)