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Fingersmith [Paperback]

Sarah Waters
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Oct 2002 --  

Book Description

Oct 2002

We were all more or less thieves at Lant Street. But we were that kind of thief that rather eased the dodgy deed along, than did it ... We could pass anything, anything at all, at speeds which would astonish you. There was only one thing, in fact, that had come and got stuck - one thing that had somehow withstood the tremendous pull of that passage - one thing that never had a price put to it. I mean of course, Me.'

Sue Trinder, orphaned at birth, is born among petty thieves - fingersmiths - in London's Borough. From the moment she draws breath, her fate is linked to another orphan, growing up in a gloomy mansion not too many miles away . . .

A modern day Dickens, Sarah Waters is one of Britain's stars.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Paperback: 600 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; Reprint edition (Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573229725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573229722
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 167,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966 and lives in London. Author of Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith and The Night Watch, her most recent book is The Little Stranger. All of her books have attracted prizes: she won a Betty Trask Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and was twice shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Fingersmith and The Night Watch were both shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes, and Fingersmith won the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger Award for Historical Crime Fiction and the South Bank Show Award for Literature. Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith have all been adapted for television.

The Little Stranger was a bestselling hardback and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Product Description

Amazon Review

Fingersmith is the third slice of engrossing lesbian Victoriana from Sarah Waters. Although lighter and more melodramatic in tone than its predecessor Affinity, this hypnotic suspense novel is awash with all manner of gloomy Dickensian leitmotifs: pickpockets; orphans; grim prisons; lunatic asylums; "laughing villains" and, of course, "stolen fortunes and girls made out to be mad". Oliver Twist (which is mentioned on the opening page), The Woman in White and The Prince and the Pauper all exert an influence on it but none overawe. Like Peter Ackroyd, Waters has an uncanny gift for inventive reconstruction.

Divided into three parts, the tale is narrated by two orphaned girls whose lives are inextricably linked. It begins in a grimy thieves kitchen in Borough, South London with 17-year-old orphan Susan Trinder. She has been raised by Mrs Sucksby, a cockney Ma Baker, in a household of fingersmiths (pickpockets), coiners and burglars. One evening Richard "Gentleman" Rivers, a handsome confidence man, arrives. He has an elaborate scheme to defraud Maud Lilly, a wealthy heiress. If Sue will help him she'll get a share of the "shine". Duly installed in the Lillys' country house as Maud's maid, Sue finds that her mistress is virtually a prisoner. Maud's eccentric Uncle Christopher, an obsessive collector of erotica (loosely modelled on Henry Spenser Ashbee) controls every aspect of her life. Slowly a curious intimacy develops between the two girls and as Gentleman's plans take shape, Sue begins to have doubts. The scheme is finally hatched but as Maud commences her narrative it suddenly becomes more than a tad difficult to tell quite who has double-crossed who. Waters' penchant for Byzantine plotting can get a bit exhausting but even at its densest moments--and remember this is smoggy London circa 1862--it remains mesmerising. A damning critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy, a gripping melodrama and a love story to boot, this book ingeniously reworks some truly classic themes.--Travis Elborough --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A chilling, ingenious erotic thriller - unputdownable (SUNDAY EXPRESS)

She distils a slice of London Victoriana, involving pickpockets, orphans and identity, into a fantastic plot and handles the story so well that you just can't wait to get to the end. (Tracy Chevalier,author of The Girl with a Pearl Earring)

Sarah Waters is one of the best storytellers alive today (Matt Thorne, INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY)

Fingersmith is the third slice of engrossing lesbian Victoriana from Sarah Waters. Although lighter and more melodramatic in tone than its predecessor Affinity, this hypnotic suspense novel is awash with all manner of gloomy Dickensian leitmotifs: pickpoc (Travis Elborough, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite remarkable 19 May 2008
By Net
This was one of the most well written, well-constructed stories I've ever read. Slow building but packing quite a punch with a complex web of a plot so neatly and intricately woven, it was amazing. I enjoyed it more than Affinity (also worth a read) and thought Waters' attention to detail regarding the characters and their surroundings was superb. The skill with which she fleshed out this story is extraordinary - this is clearly a writer with immense talent. It was wonderful - gripping, touching, just perfect.
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105 of 111 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review 1 Nov 2001
By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER
It is 1862. Sue is an orphan, her mother hanged for murder, who has been brought up by Mrs Sucksby and her little gang of thieves - she's a "fingersmith", a pickpocket. One of the gang, "Gentleman", has a plan to marry a lady, Maud Lilly - the niece of a man he is binding prints for, who is the heiress to a great fortune. Sue is employed as a maid to Maud Lilly, to help Gentleman elope with her, and, when the time comes, leave her in a madhouse and take her inheritance. For this Sue is promised 2,000.
But that's only the very beginning of the book - there are many ups and downs and twists to the plot as the novel progresses.

I hadn't read anything by Sarah Waters before, so some aspects of this book came as a bit of a surprise to me. The novel starts off like a cross between Oliver Twist and Jane Eyre, so sudden outbursts of strong language come as a bit of a shock. With the appearance of a tasteful lesbian episode, graphic depictions of grim Victorian asylums, libraries and dark little shops dealing with collections of erotica it becomes less Dickensian and more like the movie "Quills". The descriptions of Victorian London are excellent. There is a real feeling for the dark, narrow, filthy streets of London of the period and of the fetid swill of the Thames. Dealing in the milieu of seedy bookshops and erotic literature, lends the book a further sleazy aspect.
If the plot's dramatic twists and developments are a little unconvincing, it is the author's assurance in the handling of the characters that carries it off and makes you want to believe them. Even if the character-types are a little stereotypical and Dickensian, the characters themselves are well-developed.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pickpocketing the Pages of History 30 Oct 2002
Sarah Waters' third novel begins simply enough. Sue Trinder is a teenage orphan who lives amongst a group of confidence men, thieves, baby farmers and fingersmiths (a 19th-century term for a pickpockets). An unscrupulous man commonly and ironically known as Gentleman compels Sue to join in his plot to win the heart of an elderly bookish man's niece named Maud. Maud is heiress to a fortune, but she can only claim it if she marries. The plan is: win the lady, ditch the wife in an insane asylum and split the fortune. Sue becomes Maud's maid and when the plot is reaching its timely conclusion is the exact point where it is fractured and split like a forest path into numerous twisting paths revealing long held secrets and hidden strife. Sue and Maud are made to endure separate trials in their journey including the incarceration in a mad house, the subjection of reading and transcribing appalling pornography to a perverted old man and a dangerous journey through treacherous London in search of a friend in order for them to discover what their true pasts consist of and what predestined traits may tweak their futures.
It is fitting that at the beginning of this novel a reference is made to Dickens' Oliver Twist. Fingersmith is a novel descended from Dickens voluminous library as well as much 19th century sensualist fiction. Waters skilled use of language to evoke characters and a sense of place through physical detail and psychological mapping of experience is a distinct characteristic of this descent. She also has a tremendous ability to use fabulous names such as (Mrs Sucksby and Miss Bacon) as Dickens did to mark poignant traits of her characters.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounded 16 April 2003
I found the review that says the plot is slow and that Sarah Waters uses too many words where few would suffice astounding. I found this novel one of the most unputdownable I have ever had the pleasure to read and cannot imagine a more inappropriate criticism. It is such a fast-paced and brilliantly plotted book, with, in my opinion, not a single wasted word. The descriptions of the day-to-day life of the country mansion and the make-up of the asylum were fascinating and perfectly done, certainly not overdescriptive in the way in which Dickens sometimes indulged.
Not only was it wonderfully gripping, but a serious read in content and a stylistic work of art. The dialogue and narratives are genuine and alive, drawing you into the intriguing world of the characters. The skill of the author, in constructing a work of such perfectly balanced symmetry of plot and depth of atmosphere and subject, blew me away. I think it is a work of genius.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep it close to your chest! 19 Mar 2003
Fingersmith is one of those rare books where the quality of the story transcends the need for any high brow literary criticism. That said, it's a cracking good read, superbly paced and voiced, with twists and turns to make you gasp.
If the setting of "London 1862" doesn't ordinarily inspire you away from 20/21 century "pop" novels, don't so readily dismiss this book. It's a gem of a plot. Whilst London and its surrounds are as evocatively captured as any novel written at the time, it has more edge, more subterfuge, more emotion, more sauce than most contemporary fiction.
There's much more to say about each location set piece, and that plot, but do yourself a favour; before you read it, don't read any more reviews (shame on those who give away some of the story!) and then enjoy the journey.
If you read one book this year, make it Fingersmith. You'll be recommending it to all your friends for a long time to come.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Interesting story line with lots querky twists. Easy to read and pick up anywhere as it holds your interest. Thanks.
Published 1 day ago by jacqui
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read
Words simply cannot describe how wonderful this novel is. It is so beautifully written it reminds me of poetry. The story line is simply amazing.
Published 9 days ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars ... a book club read and whilst it was universally liked by other...
This was purchased as a book club read and whilst it was universally liked by other members of the group I am afraid it was not for me. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love it, happy!
Published 10 days ago by zoesun
5.0 out of 5 stars Twister
A really good read. The plot twists and turns and keeps you gripped until the last page.
Published 18 days ago by Blinger
5.0 out of 5 stars A period novel with a difference
Love the twists and turns , and the changes in perspective. I thought I'd predicted the plot early on and was so wrong - except the final chapter of course, but that didn't... Read more
Published 1 month ago by KT
5.0 out of 5 stars A thoroughly enjoyable read and a book I will read time and time...
I bought, and read, this book as a part of my university reading. The story is one which hooked me from the start. I thought I knew where the story was heading and then... Bam! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Tobchipbob
4.0 out of 5 stars Very well written, but I feel ambiguous about this one
This modern literary classic is very well written and for the most part a good page turner, but I am not entirely sure what I thought about it and whether I really liked it. Read more
Published 1 month ago by John Hopper
5.0 out of 5 stars Poignant
Really moved me. So many twists that I didn't foresee. Do yourself a favour and just read it, you won't regret it.
Published 2 months ago by Felicity
5.0 out of 5 stars Another success for Sarah Waters
This is great. I just love the characters Sarah Waters creates and her prose flows and is well extremely well crafted. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Jane Byars
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