Book Reviews of The Crimson Petal and the White

The Crimson Petal and the White
The Crimson Petal and the White
Author: Michel Faber
ISBN-13: 9780156028776
ISBN-10: 0156028778
Publication Date: 9/1/2003
Pages: 944
Rating:
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 347

3.5 stars, based on 347 ratings
Publisher: Harvest Books
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

59 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 11
I really enjoyed this novel. I prefer longer books because you really get wrapped up the story lines and the characters. The book is based around a very likable and understandable character named Sugar. It's very easy to comprehend where Sugar is coming from and why she makes the choices she does. The back of the book is a bit misleading because it says she climbs the ranks of society which made it sound Evita-esque, which isn't the case. The narrative is refreshingly different and it pulls you along through the story and you get to be in the heads of most of the characters at one point or another. I expected it to be much more graphic than it was from what others have said, but in my opinion it's not very graphic at all. Normally I like a neat and tidy story ending to sum things up, but somehow the way this novel ended seemed very fitting.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 20 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 11
A fascinating peek inside English upper crust and the 'lower' crust. Set in the early 1800s (I think), it's the story of an intelligent whore and the man who is so captivated by her, he loses himself.

The pictures of her life on the street and his, spent navigating the murky waters of his wife's bizarre beharior, is rather Dickensian.

The title, which immediately sets a contrast, kept me guessing all the way through. Which character is the Crimson Petal and which is the White? Faber continually shifts the characterizations so that the reader is always guessing.

Would I read this book again? I loved it, but probably not. The reason? The major effect of this book is the mystery inherent in the title. Now that I've read it and know the ending the enigma is solved for me.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 64 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 9
If you can stomach through sexually explicit scenes and language, you'll find a delightful read. This will explore themes of religion, social stratification, cleanliness and family. The characters are vividly portrayed.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on
Helpful Score: 8
A well-written but a bit rambly story of a prostitute in 19th century London. Some great details. Loved the way the story ended, although some I know felt that it disappointed. Just not sure it had to be as long as it was--a bit diffuse. Enjoyable read on the whole--I would recommend this.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 39 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 6
I picked this book up because my book club was reading it, and then I never got to read it at that time or discuss it with them. Not all that intrigued with the story synopsis on the book's cover, I read it quite a bit later. I thought I was going to hate it, but I had this brand new (very long, expensive) book and felt I needed to pick it up and give it a try. I was surprised... I enjoyed the story more than I thought I would.

The story takes place in victorian England. It's the story of a prostitute, her client, and his extremely proper family. The characters are all very interesting and well developed. There are parts of the story that are a little slow, but if you stick with it, it gets interesting again.

If you're easily offended, I would steer clear of this. There are some parts of the story that are a little gross. However, if you don't mind some graphic descriptions, you'll probably like this book. It's different from anything else you've ever read.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 42 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Huge Novel that just rambles through peoples lives and then ends. Unfortunately, for me at least, I get enough of this in my own life. Leaving me unsatisfied at the end of a really really long book.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 81 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
What a marvelous suprise this book was! I've recently begun exploring and enjoying historical novels, but found the idea of a novel of nearly 900 pages a bit daunting. And yet, I was disappointed when it ended: this is a real tribute to the way it brings to life the Victorian era, and a cast of characters who intrigue and interest you to the point that you want to hear more. Yes, it is graphic at times, as is inevitable given the subject matter; but the story and characters become very real and compelling. I'll definitely look for more of Mr. Faber's work!
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 95 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
Although it's billed as "the first great 19th-century novel of the 21st century," The Crimson Petal and the White is anything but Victorian. The story of a well-read London prostitute named Sugar, who spends her free hours composing a violent, pornographic screed against men, Michel Faber's dazzling second novel dares to go where George Eliot's The Mill on the Floss and the works of Charles Dickens could not. We learn about the positions and orifices that Sugar and her clients favor, about her lingering skin condition, and about the suspect ingredients of her prophylactic douches. Still, Sugar believes she can make a better life for herself. When she is taken up by a wealthy man, the perfumer William Rackham, her wings are clipped, and she must balance financial security against the obvious servitude of her position. The physical risks and hardships of Sugar's life (and the even harder "honest" life she would have led as a factory worker) contrast--yet not entirely--with the medical mistreatment of her benefactor's wife, Agnes, and beautifully underscore Faber's emphasis on class and sexual politics. In theme and treatment, this is a novel that Virginia Woolf might have written, had she been born 70 years later. This New York Ties Notable Book becomes a fast read since you are truly able to put it down.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on
Helpful Score: 3
I loved this book. Reading the description, you'd think it'd be horribly vulgar, a trashy romance. But it wasn't; it was a real-life, in-depth drama.

I was drawn to it because of the time period. I love the Victorian era and I thought, well, I could just try it, and if I didn't like it, I would put it down. I ended up reading it twice.

Michel Faber is one of my favourite authors because of how -real- his characters are. The main character, Sugar, goes through a great change, one she never saw coming, as she rises from the bottom of society to a dizzying height of happiness she never knew she could feel. William Rackham, the other main character, struggles with discerning the difference between love and lust. His wife, Agnes, is passionate, innocent, melodramatic, and devoutly religious; adorable and pitiful in her naivety, but beloved despite all.

Other characters enrich and complicate the story: Henry Rackham, an awkward man bound to a religious life; Mrs. Fox, a charitable widow; Clara, a weasel of a servant; Caroline, a poor prostitute; and Sophie, the nearly-forgotten daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rackham.

Altogether, this novel is an intense tapestry, a tale of the human condition, of weaknesses, trials, love, lust, and greed. It's a tale of healing and hope, of betrayal, and of despair. It's one of my favourite books.

So if you hate soppy romances and dry historical fiction, pick up this book and give it a read. Michel Faber will amaze you with his talent and his deft portrayal of humanity, beyond the romantic brightness of fiction.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 18 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I had heard very good things about this book, and love historical fiction, but I couldn't get into this one. I rarely put a book down without finishing it, but this was one that I didn't get through. After reading 400 pages it didn't seem like it was going anywhere, and while I would kind of like to know how it ends, I don't want to know bad enough to spend more time to read another 400 pages.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on
Helpful Score: 2
Michel Faber writes impressively vivid, evocative prose; fully plausible human (push-pull) characterizations; and engrossing plots. This book, which introduced me to him, was given to me by a friend with some hesitation and qualifications. I'm so glad it was.

I don't usually write reviews, but I'm so pleased to encourage you to read what seems to me a contemporary cross between Dickens (for ambition and scope), James (or Austen? for astute characterization), Hardy (for poetry) and who? I can't think of a comparable classic plotter. Our taste in plots has changed; hasn't it? Faber's very contemporary in this despite his genres - so perversely unpopular the genres he chooses: as though he wishes to escape notice while still making beautiful work.

I've just been sent (I think, hope) a book of stories I've not read. (Under the Skin is another bizarrely brilliant novel.) How wonderful to sink into something large and whole and know you'll be buoyed there by a full vision and talent.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 83 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I didn't like the author's style initially. But then I came to like the book. And then, again, I came to really dislike it. Too much stuff unresolved. Hated the ending. This is another one of those books that I *wanted* to like but just didn't. I enjoyed a book of similar ilk--"The Dress Lodger"--so much more.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 19 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A very intense, emotional, historical fiction.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 84 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
One of my favorite books...the book is long, but the story is quick...of a prostitute in 1800s England. From dirt poor to the choice whore of a rich man, it is her story of waiting for him to leave his wife and choose her.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 48 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I could never quite get into this book. From the very beginning, my interest was barely piqued, but I stuck with it for as long as I could (which was pretty long considering the book's 900 pages) but eventually boredom and regret over how much time I was wasting with this book kicked in and I quit without even finishing it... I just could not bring myself to care about any of these characters and their day-to-day lives. Most of them I felt had very few endearing qualities. You may feel completely differently about it though!
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 25 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I have been reading for many years and this is by far the worst book I have ever read. I started the book over 2 years ago, got approximately 100 pages in and could not go any further and abandoned it. I forced myself to pick it up recently and was determined to give it a 2nd chance and finish it. Unfortunately, it never improved. I felt the author was overly discriptive of everything and unnecessarily most of the time. I kept getting the feeling that he was trying too hard. The book was dark and depressing which in of itself wasnt a bad thing but you factor in the ending and it all just seems like a waste of time.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 5 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
loved this book I just loved how all the characters were introduced the way they were and the love between the prostitute and the rich guy was so rich!
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Fabulous, interesting, thought-provoking as only Faber can be. A thoroughly enjoyable romp!
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I did not get the sense that this was a thought provoking mystery about who the Crimson Petal is and who the White is, because surely everyone is both?

It was more of a raunchy look at the various ways people use and punish each other and themselves, starting with ill education and ending in abuse.

The story began and ended very intimately and I wished the author had kept up the reader's personal involvement throughout the book instead of at select moments.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 8 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I loved this book! The characters were completely believable and you cared about them. I am still filled with the characters and the story even after having had finished it a few weeks ago. What i thought was especially unique about the book, is that intersperced throughout the story, the author/narrator speaks directly to the reader in a personal manner. The story is about a young prostitute from Victorian England, who by no fault of her own got "into the life". And about others whose lives touched or ran parallel to hers. Her character was unique, interesting and complicated as is the case with us humans. A really good book.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 14 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This book relates the adventures and every day life of Sugar, a prostitute in Victorian London. She escapes the brothel and meets various people along the way, most of them dysfuctional. It is a long book -- almost 900 pages.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 32 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Such mixed reviews of this book demonstrate how powerful and unusual it is. It is somewhat dark and disturbing but fascinating none the less. Sexually explicit, a tale of the Victorian period which tears away the polite veneer of Victorian society and shows it for what it was. Far from predictable in both plot and writing style, this book has the ability to take you places you haven't been before. I thought this was one of the best written books I've ever read. I have hesitated to list it on paperbackswap because I thought it was so very special but have decided to share it. Read this book, it is amazing!
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 97 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
An incredibly entertaining, epic story of Victorian London. The characters are wonderful and the story is absorbing.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 21 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
One of the best fiction books I've read in a very long time. A fabulously detailed story of Victorian England. Highly recommended.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 31 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Absloutley devoured this whole book!
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Wonderful book - Even though it was a long book - it was great because it seemed to never end - after 900 pages I still wanted more!
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 4 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
It was hard to get into, and the topic (prostitution) is a bit heavy, but great character development.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 47 more book reviews
I ordered this because of all the great reviews I had read. It is a very good book, though long. I agree that once we got through the beginning narration, it got better. I would be careful who I recommend this too, as it is, as my mother would say, "racy!"
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 92 more book reviews
Despite the fact that this book may feel like a doorstop, this is one amazing read
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I have tried to read this book for over a year and am giving it up, very boring and hard to follow.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 13 more book reviews
Once I got into this book, I couldn't put it down. I didn't like the author's style at first, but he moves away from the "Dear Reader" comments eventually and lets the story take over. While not pornographic, this is a fairly sexy book, so be warned.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 82 more book reviews
"Sugar is a 19 year old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns to escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through society. Beginning with Wm. Rackham, a perfume magnate whose lust for Sugar soon begins to smell like love, she meets a host of lovable, maddening, unforgettable characters as her social rise is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy sevants, vile guttersnipes and whores of all kinds."

This book is VERY LONG, but very good. The writing is rich and very vivid. You can't help but to care for Sugar and her quest for a better life. At first the book is confusing in how it introduces the characters, but stick with it because you will love how the story unfolds.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 4 more book reviews
I loved this book. It is not an easy read in the beginning but definitely worth getting into. I frequently missed my stop on the bus because I was so engrossed.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on
Faber writes very well and I was engrossed with the story of Sugar and the ways of prostitution in the nineteenth century. The author has a way of making scenes come alive with long descriptions, which some readers might find difficult. The biggest problem for me is that I like stories with a resolved ending. I won't give anything away, but the end of this book was very disappointing - it leaves you hanging without telling you what happens to the characters.

Do you like reading a long story only to come to..... a cliffhanger? If not, avoid this book. If you like good prose and a sense of mystery regardless (think the end of Blade Runner - The Director's Cut, or the end of Terminator with the winding road)then you may enjoy this book. Just don't expect a satisfactory resolution or to find out what happens to these characters.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 432 more book reviews
THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE is a crude narrative, to say the least, with an inherently arrogant, rambling style that I found extremely disengaging.

I never developed much interest in William or Sugar, both contrasting themes in some of the most crass descriptions imaginable!

Yuck.

You really feel you need a bath after reading some of these scenes. They're just...blech. I had to skim to reach the end and closed this 900-page doorstopper feeling I wish I'd spent the time reading something else.

1/5 stars. I can't recommend it. Definitely not for everyone.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 2 more book reviews
a very slow book could have told the same story in less then two hundred pages if you dont want to be bored dont get this book a complete waste of time
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on + 11 more book reviews
Interesting insights into the seedier side of Victorian \"society\" and a good read. I found it to be a bit predictable, but still very entertaining. The copy I have is a hardcover.
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Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I think it needed the advice of Dorothy Allison in that most authors should chop off the last fifty to hundred pages they actually write. The end was completely unrealistic and got quite tedious to read. The first half of the book was very enjoyable for me, crude language and all.
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on
This was a very interesting read. I found myself pushing thru it trying to get more information. It was long and at times slow, but I had to know what was going to happen..... Only to be left not knowing at the end. The people were very real. There were no heros or villians, except for Sugar's mother. Each person had good points and bad ones. They could all be kind or cruel, gentle or rough. I don't think I would read again, but enjoyed it for the most part. It is a long book, but not a hard read.
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This book took a long time for me to get into. One of the book clubs I'm in read it and there were very mixed reviews. It was an interesting read, but definitely not a quick one.
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good historical fiction, a bit wordy though
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It was good for a fiction novel. A thick read and unique perspective, not your usual period romance nor prostitution tale.
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After reading nearly 150 pgs I was still having very mixed feelings about this book, so decided to pass it on
reviewed The Crimson Petal and the White on
The Crimson Petal and the White whisks readers on a journey through the filthiest parts of urban Victorian London and on to the cleanest suburbs. Farber uses a refreshing style, regularly reminding the reader that she is, in fact, reading a novel, and that her views of the story are necessarily constrained--by who is doing the telling.

The story follows Sugar, a 19-year-old prostitute, and her involvement with William Rackham, the heir to a cosmetics company. Their relationship evolves throughout the narrative, complicated by William's wife Agnes and her adamant grip on Catholicism. A parallel story is that of Henry Rackham, William's older brother, who grapples with the decision to enter the clergy. Henry is faithful, devout and rarely doubtful--only when it comes to his all-too-human love for Mrs. Fox, a young, vibrant, active widow.

The story lines swirl and mix with each other. Every wonderfully multidimensional character changes, grows, questions him- or herself. Many of them bump into each other, sometimes without knowing just how importantly they figure in each other's lives.

The Crimson Petal and the White, as its title suggests, is a study in thematic opposites: masculine and feminine roles, love and lust, madness and sanity, victims and survivors, earthly death and immortality, cleanliness and filth, right choices and wrong. At heart, it is a novel of how love (real or manufactured, familial or romantic) shapes the choices we make, and ultimately, our lives. How love may become the key to our immortality. How love can build us up and break us down. How true love for others begins with a sincere love of the self. How love can sustain us or drain us dry.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves excellent literary fiction, who is willing to read something a unconventional (and lengthy--but really, I wanted to keep reading!) and who enjoys good literature as art. I am so thoroughly taken by this book that I can't wait to get my hands on others by Michael Farber.
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A fantastic story about an 1800s prostitute and her struggles with existence, love, and money.
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Meet Sugar a 19 year old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns for escape to a better life. Most like this book in my book club.
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Wonderfully told story. I loved the way the author introduced the characters by making it seem the reader was following behind them, unobserved, and privy to their thoughts and feelings. It was a very insightful look into the customs and morals of the period, and the extemly hard life unmarried women had making a way for themselves in the world.
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This is a real page turner. It"s about the life of ptostitutes during the Victorian age. The book follows the life of Sugar who rises into society. Her mother is a madam who taught her the ways of pleasing men from the early age of nine. This book is full of love romance and lots of sex.it's over 900 pages of pure entertainment. I hated to see the end coming. I loved this book.
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I bought this book because it's a bestseller but I couldn't get through it. I don't like the language -- too crude for me.
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Very detailed account of the Victorian lifestyle for a "kept woman."
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There are many, many reviews of this novel, so I won't try to go over the same territory covered by those who love it or hate it. I will just try to explain why I have mixed feelings -- obviously, I didn't "hate" it, because I kept reading right to the bitter end, and I found it a real page-turner. and a quite impressive piece of work.

But ...

I didn't LOVE it ... I wasn't bothered by the length. As other reviewers have said, the length, the level of everyday detail and the leisurely development of character and situation, makes this novel an immersive experience. Nor was I overly bothered by the graphic sexual content that some readers complain about. (Look, if you pick up a book about Victorian prostitutes, um, what do you expect?) Yes, perhaps, "yuck" -- but isn't that the point? We only have to read about it, Sugar and women like her had to live through it or starve.

I think my mixed feelings arise from a sense that Faber was just showing off: "I'm doing this (900 pages, intrusive narrative voice, very graphic sex scenes) just because I can ..." By the end, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to take away from it -- about Victorian prostitutes, the ambitions of women in a repressive society, about the importance of storytelling -- except that Michel Faber is very, very clever.
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wonderful historical novel set in london in the mid1800's
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Great book. I must admit that I originally picked it up because I was impressed by the paper used! Although the word choices were a it shocking for me (an I'm no prude), I still enjoyed this book.
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This is a great book!
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The panoramic novel takes place in the 1870s, and focuses on a writer named William Rackham who is married to the sickly, depressed Agnes but is so enamored of a prostitute named Sugar that he hires her as governess for his daughter. Around these characters, the tumult of Victorian London is revealed as the story spirals into a tale of ambition, love, and revenge. A New York Times Notable Book for 2002.

"Michael Faber's previous work....was certain ambitious and accomplished, but nothing could have prepared his readers for the sweep and subtlety of THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE....Faber's is an immensely difficult project, and to carry it off he returns to the self-conscious reforming zeal, the bracing ethical assurance, the heartbreaking generosity and the sly rhetorical tricks of the great Victorian novelists. Like them, Faber and his glorious teenage heroine...confront an empty and befouled world armed with nothing more than wit, determination and a good heart. And, to our satisfaction, they win."
New York Times Book Review - James R. Kincaid (09/15/2002)

"I don't know when I've read a novel that divided my sympathies as much as this one does, engaging me on a narrative level while at the same time leaving me asking, 'And? And?' There's no doubt that THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE is an achievement or that Faber is an ambitious and talented writer. The book is a compelling perversity: a long, detailed Victorian novel from someone who doesn't appear to like Victorian novels, who distrusts everything that would make a reader want to pick up THE CRIMSON PETAL AND THE WHITE to begin with."
Salon - Charles Taylor (10/21/2002)

"Over 800 pages long, this novel is impressive for the unflagging energy with which it covers stage after stage of a marathon in which it all too deliberately competes with the shades of Dickens and Wilkie Collins. It is also impressive for the candour, denied to those two master storytellers, with which it illuminates the dark, dangerous world of Victorian sexuality. As if flourishing a banner inscribed 'Let copulation thrive!', Michael Faber acts as enthusiastic, clarion-voiced guide through a vast peep show in which every aspect of human cruelty, degradation and criminality is on display."
Literary Review - Francis King (10/01/2002)
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"Tells a good story grippingly and colorfully...An old-fashioned page-turner with pleasingly newfangled twists."
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A colorful story of an uncommon and difficult life in the person of "Sugar", a prostitute of the 19th century.
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Meet Sugar, a nineteen year old prostitute in Victorian London who yearns for escape to a better life. From the brothel of the terrifying Mrs. Castaway, she begins her ascent through socirty. Beginning with William Rackham,a perfume magnate whose lust for Sugar soon begins to smell like love, she meets a host of lovable,maddening,unforgettable characters as her social rise is overseen by assorted preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.
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National Bestseller. A New York times notable book. Like new