Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

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Growing up as a foster child among a family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder hopes to pay back that kindness by playing a key role in a swindle scheme devised by their leader, Gentleman, who is planning to con a fortune out of the naive Maud Lily, but Sue’s growing pity for their helpless victim could destroy the plot.

I began this book so long ago, and somehow lost it… then my fiancée found it somehow, so I’ve just finished! …wow. The blurb is entirely too simple for this novel, which has layers upon layers of plot and character, which is exactly what I needed at this point!

Being my third Sarah Waters novel, I thought I was in for a really slow, yet satisfying novel to sink my teeth into. While yes, it was very satisfying, I found this offering to be much faster paced, leaving you rather unsure of where the story was going to go next. To say the twists and turns surprised me is an understatement. I did see some coming, but more often than not I was taken aback by the way the story rolls about, like a winding street in a  London slum.

Waters has an amazing way of conjuring up place, leaving you feeling totally immersed in the huge, foreboding manor house, or in the aforementioned slum. There was an undercurrent of menace, quiet at some points, but rising to a fever pitch at others, which was so satisfying. This sense of menace was done with more flair than it was in Affinity, though I enjoyed that book as well. I’m almost sad that this leaves me with only three more Waters books to read before I’m all caught up!

There was a fair bit of horrible physical nastiness in this book, especially in the final section, which I found quite disturbing, but it was more the psychological games that the characters play with each other that leave you feeling sick to the stomach. It all becomes far more twisted and distorted than I first imagined. The first section went quite slowly for me, but the final two sections picked up the pace and definitely became more and more brutal as they went on.

The lesbian theme is understated, and surprisingly tender (considering the characters involved!) and it doesn’t play as much of a part in either the plot or the characters lives as other people seem to suggest. I really liked that, as it made them feel more human and less of a Victorian lesbian caricature, falling into the “erotica” trap, which in the hands of a lesser author is a genuine possibility…. and would have been a major problem, considering the content of the character’s lives!

I’d definitely recommend this to people who like mysteries and Victorian era novels, because Waters is a master at both. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year!

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4 thoughts on “Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

  1. I love Sarah Waters, and I only have one left that I haven’t read (The Night Watch). I think Tipping the Velvet is still my favorite, but Fingersmith is probably a close second.

  2. I’ve read Tipping the Velvet and didn’t mind it, but wasn’t wowed, and I now know to leave this one alone if it’s icky – so thanks for that. Good, varied reading you’re doing at the moment!

  3. Pingback: Review: The Ballroom by Anna Hope | bookarahma

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