Michel Faber - The Apple (3 stars)

Short story collection


Often, the image of an author is someone beavering away in the privacy of their own soul not caring a jot for anyone other than the characters and their own measuring of success. So, it’s almost reassuring to hear when a writer has not only listened to what readers think but gone out on a limb to act upon their suggestions.

Michel Faber may have thought that he had seen the back of his Victorian creations in The Crimson Petal and the White, but the devotees to hooker Sugar and her clan had other ideas. In his foreword, Faber recalls the many people who wrote to him with a simple message: ‘whatever became of Sugar and how dare you leave us dangling like that.’ This new book gets off to a slightly irritating start with Faber reprinting a large selection of the correspondence which all say the same thing, though not always in different ways.

Fortunately, The Apple (which mainly features back stories of the subsidiary characters from Crimson Petal) gets things back on track swiftly. With the elegant and stately manner which both attracted and repelled critics of his novel, Faber draws out gentle moments and intricate details with deft precision. Though the gruesome side of the times is never far from revealing its ugly self: the vicious dog slaughter of rodents in ‘Clara and the Rat Man’ is one notable example. While The Apple is largely a tasty treat, it’s hard to escape feeling that Faber was subconsciously railroaded into the project.

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