Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Reviewed by L.D.Y.

Hardcover (available in trade), 511 pages, 2002

Rating: 10/10

Reason for Reading: A buzz book.

Synopsis: Sue Trinder, orphaned and left to Mrs. Sucksby and a “family” of cheats and liars in London, 1862, is about to receive a ticket out of poverty. All she must do is pose as a personal maid and convince a young girl to marry the conniving Gentleman, who will then take her money and split it with Sue. But Maud Lilly will prove to have a mind of her own in this Dickensian tale of deceit, lies, and murder.

Why you should read this book: Ever wanted to read a big tome by Charles Dickens, but were afraid it would be dry and outdated? Fingersmith has all the twists and turns Dickens’ novels have (Oliver Twist is given several nods), but with sex thrown in, as well as an almost gleeful wickedness by many of the seedy characters running through the novel.

Why you should avoid this book: Despite the modern writing, this is still a historical novel, so beware if this isn’t your favourite genre.

Opening paragraph:

My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. People called me Sue. I know the year I was born in, but for many years I did not know the date, and took my birthday at Christmas. I believe I am an orphan. My mother I know is dead. But I never saw her, she was nothing to me. I was Mrs Sucksby’s child, if I was anyone’s; and for father I had Mr Ibbs, who kept the locksmith’s shop, at Lant Street, in the Borough, near to the Thames.

Fabulous quotes:

She shivered and smiled and clutched at my arm, and then she drew me to her and put her head against mine. Her cheek was cool, and smooth as a pearl. Her hair was bright with beads of rainwater. I think she was weeping. But I did not pull away to try and find out. I did not want her to see my face. I think the look in my eyes must have been awful.

I have seen no house but the madhouse I was born in. I am used to grimness and solitude, high walls and shuttered windows It is the stillness of my uncle’s house that bewilders and frightens me, that first day…The driver puts the steps down for us, but I will not let him take my hand; and when Mr Way makes me a bow, I think he does it to tease-for I have many times seen nurses curtsey, laughing, to lady lunatics. He shows me past him, into a darkness that seems to lap at my buff gown. My ears feel full, as if with water or wax. That is the silence, that my uncle cultivates in his house, as mother men grown vines and flowering creepers.

I lay with Maud’s white glove in my fist, and now and then put the tip of one of its fingers to my mouth, imagining Maud’s soft hand inside it; and I bit and bit.

Also Recommended: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens; Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue; The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber.

Also by this author: Tipping the Velvet; Affinity; The Night Watch.

Author’s website: sarahwaters.com

Awards: Man Booker Prize: Shortlist, 2002; Orange Prize: Shortlist, 2002.

© Lisa Yanaky 2003-2007

2 Responses to Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

  1. Waters’s main inspiration for Fingersmith was Victorian ‘sensation fiction’, which is packed with murder, bigamy, and cases of mistaken identity. Wilkie Collins and Mary Ann Braddon wrote books that were enormously popular (not to mention scandalous) in their day, and are worth checking out if you enjoyed this!

  2. Lisa says:

    Thanks a.s., I’ll have to check out Mary Ann Braddon. I’ve read a few of Collins’ books, The Moonstone and The Woman in White and really liked both of them. There’s just something nice about throwing Victorian fiction into the mix after reading dozens of ‘modern’ books.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *