Michel Faber

All posts tagged Michel Faber

Short Stories Challenge – A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Published February 13, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing all about?:

In the final story of this collection we learn what became of Sophie Rackham through the memories of her son who is speaking to us from the 1990’s at the grand old age of 92.

What did I think?:

For the final story in Michel Faber’s collection, I was expecting something stupendous as I was such a big fan of his novel The Crimson Petal And The White. In the Apple, Faber takes the characters from his ground-breaking novel and gives us an eye-opening tidbit into their lives post The Crimson Petal. I was so pleased that he chose the last story to give us an idea of what happened to Sophie Rackham after her extraordinary adventures with Sugar – I’m wary of spoiling things for people who haven’t read the novel so I won’t mention much more about what actually happened and generally speaking, I loved what I read but it left me hungry for a bit more.

My favourite part of the story was probably the first half. It opens with a man recalling his childhood with his mother, Sophie and I found it incredibly engaging and in points, frankly hilarious. Henry has spent much of his early childhood with his parents in Australia and has only recently at the age of seven, moved back to England where he was surprised to discover that this is where his parents real home is. He notes that it wasn’t especially easy fitting in at his new school due to the strong characters of his parents and their living situation which they share with an “Aunt” Primrose. She is no relation to the family but has been living with them as long as he can remember and is what the children in his class claim as unnatural, mainly due to the manner of her dress which is quite “manly,” in appearance and certainly not conforming to the fashions of the time (1908).

All three parental figures to Henry are such interesting characters and strident believers in suffrage and Votes For Women. The main crux of the story focuses on a famous Suffragette March in that year, which Henry is delighted to be a part of. Things don’t exactly go according to plan on the big day however, and it is the events at the march and certain things he has picked up in intimate conversations with his mother that makes Henry realise that his childhood was such an innocent time. He is only now starting to discover that the adult world is far more complex, and the adults he knows far more fallible than he ever could have believed.

As I mentioned, I really enjoyed the earlier parts of this story especially learning about Henry’s family in the events preceding the famous march. That’s not to say I didn’t like the second half – I loved how Faber empowered women and there were many bitter-sweet moments as Sophie Rackham tentatively explored her early life again before becoming overcome by the whole process. I just felt as if there should have been more information about Sophie’s childhood after the events of The Crimson Petal which was only gently and very teasingly touched upon. Of course, I would have loved to hear about Sugar also and what happened to her but she remains quite a distant, ghostly figure in this narrative. Saying that, The Apple is a great collection of stories for fans of the novel which heighten the whole reading experience and quite frankly, made me desperate for a follow-up!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

NEXT SHORT STORY: The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone).

 

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – October to December

Published October 2, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Image from http://www.slideshare.net/ernella32/teaching-the-short-story

It’s nearly the end of the year and here’s what I’ll be reading short story wise to see out 2015!

Week beginning 5th October

Corrugated Dreaming by Dianne Gray from the collection Manslaughter And Other Tears

Week beginning 12th October

Beachcombing by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 19th October

A Man And Two Women by Doris Lessing from the collection The Story: Love, Loss And The Lives of Women edited by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 26th October

The New Veterans by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 2nd November

The Adventure Of the Blue Carbuncle by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 9th November

Vuotjärvi by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 16th November

Bibhutibhushan Malik’s Final Storyboard by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner: Love Stories

Week beginning 23rd November

The Jesus Stories by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 30th November

We Were Just Driving Around by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 7th December

The Chamois by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 14th December

Under The Pylon by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 21st December

A Mighty Horde Of Women In Very Big Hats, Advancing by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 28th December

The Mean Time by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Short Stories Challenge – Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Published September 12, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s Medicine all about?:

Medicine is a short story which focuses on William Rackham, more specifically how far he has fallen since his days with heroine Sugar.

What did I think?:

With Medicine, once more we are taken down into the seedy Victorian world first created in the brilliant The Crimson Petal And The White. It is the turn of William Rackman, the major male character in the mentioned novel and my, how his life has changed! We meet him in one of his private rooms, taking pills for one of the many illnesses he appears to be afflicted with and travel with him on his ramblings and self-pity as he recalls better days. He seems to rail and curse at the woman he was most enamoured with years ago, no, not his wife Agnes, but a prostitute called Sugar who he let into his house and who he blames for everything that has happened as a result. First for the death of his poor, innocent and sweet wife Agnes who he feels he could have “rescued,” if it wasn’t for that bloody woman Sugar who ruined his life.

Williams has now taken a new wife, Constance and she appears to be a steady presence in his life even if the two hardly speak any longer and lead pretty much separate lives. He comforts himself that he should go and visit his lavender fields but no, all of that reminds him of Sugar and how they used to wander the fields when he was obsessed with her. Oh yes, and now his business has gone to ruin, that is also the fault of Sugar. He is feeling pretty much hard done by and has nothing to show for his years of slog in the manufacture of his soaps – shops are refusing to stock his goods while the paperwork and debts mount up. And then there is this blasted illness:

“William Rackham stares at the vista in dismay. If he summons a servant to clean up the mess, she will take one look at his desk, and another at his guilty face, and judge him to be no better than a helpless infant. But surely a man of his standing should not be cleaning up snot? And what should he use to clean it if he did? His handkerchief is white silk, and his desk is stained with ink, mottled with dusting-powder and, to be quite frank, a little mildewy on parts of the leather surface. His sleeve…Almighty God, is this a fair fate for a man who has already suffered a thousand humiliations? Wiping up snot with his sleeve?”

His new wife Constance has been unable to provide him with an heir to his business and that gets him thinking once again of the child he does have in the world (who disappeared with that harlot, Sugar) rendering him angry and very melancholy. A dizzy spell causes him to pass out for a while and hallucinate that Sugar is with him again, touching his face, ready to lead him once again into happiness but it is his loyal servant Letty who brings him round with a slap to his face reminding him once again of what he had, what he lost and what he has right now – burdens, anger and regret.

As I read Medicine I was instantly transported back into Faber’s world and enjoyed his exquisite prose and occasionally blunt manner of writing. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my favourite story in the collection but it was by no means the worst either. I enjoyed reading about the life of William Rackham after the events penned in the novel and I’m afraid that I didn’t really feel one iota of sympathy towards him. In a way, he came off worse in this short story than he did in The Crimson Petal And The White. William blames everyone else (especially Sugar) for the troubles he has suffered and his character moaned and whined so much that it was almost a relief when the story ended. Saying this, I am looking forward to the next story in the collection!

Would I recommend it?:

Probably.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – July to September

Published July 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Welcome to another three months of short stories! This little lot should see me through into the autumn.

Week beginning 6th July

Small Degrees by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 13th July

Airshow by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 20th July

The Menace by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 27th July

Candia by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 3rd August

Medicine by Michel Faber from the collection The

Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 10th August

Necessary Women by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 17th August

The Mistletoe Bride by Kate Mosse from the collection The Mistletoe Bride and Other Haunting Tales

Week beginning 24th August

Tell Me I’ll See You Again by Dennis Etchison from the collection A Book of Horrors

Week beginning 31st August

The Whisperer in Darkness by H.P. Lovecraft from the collection The Definitive H.P. Lovecraft

Week beginning 7th September

The Rat In The Attic by Brian McGilloway from the collection The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 7

Week beginning 14th September

Care by Julie Orringer from the collection How To Breathe Underwater

Week beginning 21st September

The Cat That Walked By Himself by Rudyard Kipling from the collection Stories To Get You Through The Night

Week beginning 28th September

The Wedding Gig by Stephen King from the collection Skeleton Crew

Short Stories Challenge – The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories

Published April 26, 2015 by bibliobeth

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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):

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NEXT SHORT STORY: Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

 

Short Stories Challenge 2015 – January to March

Published January 9, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Another year over, and a new year of short stories begins! Here’s what I’m going to be reading each week until the end of March.

Week beginning 5th January

Magpies by Lucy Wood from the collection Diving Belles

Week beginning 12th January

A Married Man’s Story by Katherine Mansfield from the collection The Story, Love, Loss & The Lives of Women 100 Great Short Stories chosen by Victoria Hislop

Week beginning 19th January

The Barn At The End Of Our Term by Karen Russell from the collection Vampires In The Lemon Grove

Week beginning 26th January

The Five Orange Pips by Arthur Conan Doyle from the collection The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes

Week beginning 1st February

She Murdered Mortal He by Sarah Hall from the collection The Beautiful Indifference

Week beginning 8th February

Demons by Rajesh Parameswaran from the collection I Am An Executioner

Week beginning 15th February

The Ceiling by Kevin Brockmeier from the collection Things That Fall From The Sky

Week beginning 22nd February

Keeping Watch Over The Sheep by Jon McGregor from the collection This Isn’t The Sort Of Thing That Happens To Someone Like You

Week beginning 1st March

The Archduchess by Daphne du Maurier from the collection The Breaking Point

Week beginning 8th March

The Oversoul by Graham Joyce from the collection Tales For A Dark Evening

Week beginning 15th March

The Apple by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: Crimson Petal Stories

Week beginning 22nd March

Martin Misunderstood by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)

Week beginning 29th March

Cellists by Kazuo Ishiguro from the collection Nocturnes: Five Stories Of Music and Nightfall

Short Stories Challenge – The Fly, and Its Effect upon Mr Bodley by Michel Faber from the collection The Apple: New Crimson Petal Stories

Published November 20, 2014 by bibliobeth

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What’s The Fly, and Its Effect upon Mr Bodley 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. The Fly, and Its Effect Upon Mr Bodley follows Mr Bodley as he has an epiphany on life after watching a fly in the most peculiar of places.

What did I think?:

I’ve had a bit of trouble deciding how exactly I’m going to write this review but I’m going to carry on typing and see where the momentum takes me! Our main character is Mr Bodley, a regular “user” of the prostitutes at the infamous Mrs Tremain’s brothel in Fitzrovia. One morning, Mrs Tremain opens her door to a quite different gentleman, “bleary-eyed,” and “desperate-looking,” which is considerably different from his usual demeanour. Furthermore, it is rather early on the whole for him to be contemplating a bit of a good time and he is without his partner in crime and best friend Mr Ashwell which in itself is rather disturbing as the two men are known to be inseparable. Upon further interrogation, it is clear that something terrible must have happened to Mr Bodley:

“The willingness of comely girls, the novelty of foreign flesh, the smell of strawberries – none of these things can mean anything to me now… In this house, the candleflame of my manhood was snuffed out.”

Of course this is incredibly worrying for Mrs Tremain, Mr Bodley being one of her best customers and all, so she begs him to tell him what has happened so she may set it right. He explains that when he was last at the house and things began to get er… slightly more intimate with one of the girls, a fly came in and settled itself on her left buttock. Mrs Tremain’s defence of her establishment is one of the most hilarious passages I have read:

“We keep a clean house, sir. The Queen’s palace won’t be so clean, I’ll wager. But we must keep it ventilated, sir. That’s part of good health: ventilation. And where there’s an open window, a fly may enter. And even be so bold as to settle on a girl’s bottom.”

But Mr Bodley does not think it is the fly so much, after all he left feeling rather satisfied, job completed. It is only afterwards that he begins thinking about things more deeply. Flies and what they feed on, flies laying eggs, and how when we die our decomposing bodies crawl with maggots that arise from the eggs that are laid by flies! Even the offer from Mrs Tremain of the same girl who she assures him is very much alive and maggoty-free, or a new girl, Lily free of charge cannot tempt him or cheer him in any way. We live, then we die – what is the point in it all? Luckily for him, Mrs Tremain has an answer and a prescription for his melancholy that has him soon sleeping soundly, quite literally.

I think as with all the stories in this collection, you need to have read the author’s fantastic novel, The Crimson Petal And The White, as it involves the same characters. Fans of The Crimson will love it and the humour in it is knock your socks off, laugh out loud funny, so is definitely worth a read. I also love that Michel Faber is not afraid to explore the dark side of human nature, take a few risks and be blatantly crude in places. However, it probably isn’t for the easily offended or innocent! Really enjoying this collection so far, and looking forward to the next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

NEXT SHORT STORY: Busted by Karin Slaughter (stand-alone)