This is one of the most extraordinary books I've ever read. Shocking and crude, it brutally reveals the ugly (even grotesque) living conditions of the less fortunate (particularly the poor and the prostitutes - being a poor prostitute seemed to be the worst combination possible), and the sharp divide between the social classes in Victorian England.
Like Joanne Harris in a previous post, Faber allows each character to have its own unique voice and communicate his/her thoughts directly to the reader, making the story even more interesting and intriguing. The characters are also what literary critics would call 'round': although they are nothing more than dramatic constructs, they are far from perfect or even worse, 'flat' (something I'm not going to expand on, so I won't spoil it for you!).
Overall, a real page-turner for all of its 800+ pages, but make no mistake, this is not for the faint-hearted!
PS: I think it was also made into a TV series by the BBC, but unfortunately I haven't had the chance to watch it yet. But when I do, you can expect a review post!