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'The book was powered by rage.'

30 September 2002

'At university, one of my areas of study was Victorian literature, so I decided to see if I could write a novel as carefully planned and constructed as those of George Eliot, but with the narrative energy of Dickens.

'I was a radical feminist, driven by many of the same things as Sugar - adolescent alienation, solidarity with disenfranchised misfits on the fringes of society. The book was powered by rage. I spent years in libraries, reading the Illustrated London News for the year 1875, guides for governesses, and treatises on hysteria. I planned the architecture of the book for months. I sketched out what would happen in every scene.'

Michel Faber, the author of the much-heralded first novel The Crimson Petal and the White, which he started writing 21 years ago, quoted in the Observer.