This week the BBC broadcast the first episode of its adaptation of Michael Faber's internationally renowned historical novel, The Crimson Petal and the White.
Romola Garai (above) plays Sugar, the brilliantly realised red-haired whore whose intelligence, wit and propensity to do anything a man may desire, renowned for 'never saying no', entrances William Rackham, (Chris O'Dowd) the egotistical industrialist magnate whose wife, the fair haired Agnes, is on the verge of a breakdown, unwilling to reciprocate her husband's advances whilst at the same time being abused by the sinister Doctor Curlew, who is played to perfection by Richard E Grant.
The book is true to its Victorian origins in that it is a sprawling beast with vivid and detailed descriptions woven into an intricate plot and a cast of characters from every spectrum of society. Where it differs to what Dickens offered is in its open treatment of sex which is unflinching and graphic at times, not to say decidedly uncomfortable - but then this is a novel about the life of a prostitute at a time in London when, for every twelve men, there was at least one woman who would do their bidding for a price.
Faber's writing is superb though many readers have found the content to be too dark, oppressive and disturbing. It is all of these things - and more. This is no pretty romantic tale and the VV must confess that when she came to the book's end she was left with a decidedly bad taste in her mouth - at the same being quite sure that that was precisely what Faber intended.
All in all the VV is reserving judgement after seeing just one episode of the BBC dramatisation. Admittedly, it must be very hard to condense such a lengthy novel into four one hourly episodes. Certain details are bound to be lost - but if, as the VV fears, the child of William and Agnes is not to be included, then she would be sorely disappointed - for, without giving anything away, the part Sugar plays in the fate of this girl is an essential part of the plot.
If you've read the book or seen this drama, the VV would love to know what you thought. The first episode is available to watch on iplayer now. This BBC page also has further details about the novel and its characters.