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Fingersmith [Hardcover]

Sarah Waters
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 Feb 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 rising stars.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; First Edition edition (4 Feb 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860498825
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860498824
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 22.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (173 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 479,572 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


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)

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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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as "Affinity" but still good 29 Dec 2007
This is the second book by Waters that I have read; the first being AFFINITY. And although I did enjoy FINGERSMITH, it did not captivate me as AFFINITY did.

The story is about a young girl, Susna Trinder. An orphan, her family now consists of pickpockets and thieves. In absence of a mother, Mrs Sucksby, has provided Susan with the love and care - if not sometimes harshly - that Susan would otherwise have gone without.
Susan's life changes when one of the petty thieves, known as Gentleman, comes to her with a suggestion of how they can do a job together. And, if they are successful, it would mean that Susan would make her fortune.
The plan is for Susan to become maid to a young woman who has a large fortune. Gentleman shall make this lady fall in love with him, marry her, and then they shall get her installed in a madhouse, thereby leaving them with her wealth.
Yet plans and fate have other ideas. And in the world of thieves and misfits, who can you truly trust?

Once again, FINGERSMITH, is a great read, set in Victorian England. Waters has a way of creating the atmosphere so well that you are drawn into the world of the characters, sensing how they feel and think about what happens to them.
Like the shadowy world that Waters has created, FINGERSMITH, does feel dense. Although this achieves insight into the indidvidual characters, it can also make some parts of the novel seem more static. There were certain sections that I wanted to rush so that I could get back to more exciting parts of the story. However, this does not detract from the fact that Waters has once again produced a brilliant story, perfect for those times when you need a bit of escapism.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply a brilliant book.
Simply a brilliant book. Having recently read The Paying Guests, I thought it would be fun to re read one of Walters earlier books, and I think this is my favourite. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Emily Blackwell-Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Fingersmith
Why has it taken me so long to read this book! As a lover of all things books I am ashamed of myself. Read more
Published 3 days ago by Kirstie 381
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
An attempt at dickensian that didnt really come off .
Very confused and awkward to read
Published 5 days ago by G WIVELL
4.0 out of 5 stars A ripping yarn
A very good read, plenty of well-researched detail. Is the lesbian stance justified? You must decide for yourself, I found it rather contrived, but I am not gay.
Published 5 days ago by Kindle Customer
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 25 days 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 1 month 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 1 month ago by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Love it, happy!
Published 1 month 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 1 month 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
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