Modeled after Dickens and Eliot, Faber's sweeping novel breathes life and authenticity into the Rackman family saga and an extraordinary woman's place in their lives.

Longing to leave her sordid life as a prostitute behind, Sugar becomes William Rackman's mistress. When William inherits his father's perfume business, he asks Sugar for advice and she convinces him to bring her closer to him. He makes her his daughter Sophie's governess.

As William's interest in Sugar wanes, she manages to hold on to her place using Sophie's dependence and her possession of William's wife's secret diaries.

Faber's 21st-century take on Victorian England hooks you from the start and holds throughout this lengthy novel. The gritty prose and earthy descriptions of the essence of poverty, the rescue society work, the mechanisms of high (and low) society thrust you into Sugar's world. Here is an epic on the grandest of scales that lures you in, holds you captive and has you wishing it would never end—a book you'll savor because it so satisfies your yearning for a "big read." (Jul., 900 pp., $15.00)

Reviewed by: 
Kathe Robin