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Fingersmith Paperback – 26 Jun 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 560 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (26 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860498833
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860498831
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (192 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,093 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 triumph of narrative magic, a glowing, sinister backlit enchanter." -- Times Literary Supplement

"Buy it or borrow it - but do yourself a favour, and read it." -- Docklands and City of London Recorder

"Infuses Victorian melodrama with a refreshing, modern sensibility... the novel is a tremendous achievement." -- The Lady

‘A worthy, innovative, even subversive successor to the doorstoppers of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins’ -- TELEGRAPH

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Net on 19 May 2008
Format: Paperback
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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107 of 113 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 1 Nov 2001
Format: Hardcover
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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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jane Gordon on 16 April 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on 30 Oct 2002
Format: Hardcover
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 By Brida TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 Dec 2007
Format: Paperback
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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