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112 of 118 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review
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...
Published on 1 Nov. 2001 by Keris Nine

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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing start, but loses momentum
This is a well-written work and one with a very intricate and ingenious plot, but I can't say I was that taken with either of the main characters. In fact, at times later on in the novel I had difficulty telling them apart at all. I was keen to read on just to see what happened, but I do think that the novel could easily have been cut down without anything significant...
Published on 28 Sept. 2004


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112 of 118 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Review, 1 Nov. 2001
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fingersmith (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. No-one is an out and out villain - each character has their own personal motivations and these change as circumstances change. We see characters differently as the novel progresses and feel a certain sympathy for each of them in their predicaments.
It's not exactly a conventional plot, or a romantic period bodice-ripper as might have been expected - or rather it is quite conventional, but it's just the twist that the female protagonist couldn't care less about the handsome rougue of a male suitor but is attracted to her maid instead, that makes "Fingersmith" a little bit different. From the reviews I have read of her other books, this will no doubt please fans of Sarah Waters. It is well-written, an enjoyable Victorian adventure, a page-turner with a ludicrously convoluted and, frankly, unbelievable plot that twists and turns just when you think you know where it's going and keeps you hanging in there for the resolution to the terrible predicaments that both main characters find themselves in. A good and very enjoyable read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unputdownable, 21 July 2008
This review is from: Fingersmith (Paperback)
This was a fabulous read - one of the best novels which I have read for a long, long while.
It starts off simply enough with the protagonist Sue Trinder leading us gently into her warm but villanous life with Mrs Sucksby in the slums of Victorian London. However, with the arrival of Gentleman, the plot kicks in and we are taken to a sinister old house 40 miles outside of the city, where much of the narrative takes place.
So far, so good. Waters' writing weaves a spell on us as readers, and I began to feel comfortable, settling into well-written, familiar territory, and very happy to be there. However, with the end of part one came one of the most unexpected twists I have ever come across, and from then on I could not put this novel down - how would this be resolved? was the main question now on my mind.
From start to finish this novel never once fails to please, and I would absolutely recommend it.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite remarkable, 19 May 2008
By 
Net (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fingersmith (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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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pickpocketing the Pages of History, 30 Oct. 2002
By 
Eric Anderson (London, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fingersmith (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. Where Waters veers from Dickens is in her conjuring of robust female characters who can dominate the novel, not through the circumstances of their plight and their representation of certain social injustice, but through the powerful voice they use to assert their individual positions. Of course the great descriptions and plotting Waters uses to conjure this tale of a 19th century English plot to capture a family fortune makes a great many statements about the ways in which women were marginalised and the bizarre social positions they were forced to inhabit. However, the great strength of her brilliant protagonists Sue and Maud is in the way their actions are guided more by their impulsive desire to survive rather than to spur the trim, thrilling plot or subscribe to any societal roles presented to them. Their struggles led by these natures produces a longing for a happy resolution built not out of sentimentally contrived conventions, but a deserved reward for revealing to us their faulty human natures.
Sue and Maud are not angels. They both deceive and betray each other, but they discover in this Darwinian world a rare affection for each other and a chance to share confidence when one's closest family is apt to betray you. The curious mirroring effect Waters uses with them, mixing pasts and characteristics of them, is descended from a more recent literary genius, Angela Carter. There are elements of her ideas (particularly realised in her novel Wise Children) on the way identity can be splintered, performed and reimagined which correspond to the ways Susan and Maud's fates are intertwined. Their relationship is drawn out as a struggle to express their mutual love and define their suppressed lesbian desires. But this is also presented as an arduous task to realise the aspects which make them powerful individuals. This novel makes the remote past enticingly familiar and relates a harrowing story that makes you wish it to continue on and on.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astounded, 16 April 2003
This review is from: Fingersmith (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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars enthralling reading, 26 Aug. 2008
By 
SJSmith (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fingersmith (Paperback)
From beginning to end this novel is engaging. Having only read one other of hers (Tipping The Velvet) I will certainly be going on to read her others. It's easy enough to find out plot details about this so I won't go into that. What I will say is that her writing style is fantastic. I was pleased not to have known anything about the novel before I read it, as I do believe any spoilers will impact upon your enjoyment. All you need to know is that all of the characters are fabulous, evocative narrative really pulls you into Victorian London.

The time is 1862 and we are with a mix of characters from all classes. The way Waters moves between the different strata's of society is impressive, making the journey both enjoyable and knowledgeable. Even the way the characters speak is entertaining and you find yourself supporting both Lilly and Maud at different times. I can't wait to read more by Sarah Waters and can thoroughly recommend this. You won't be able to put it down.
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28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This novel deserves to win the Booker, 19 Mar. 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Fingersmith (Hardcover)
Sarah Waters' third novel will surely catapult her to the forefront of British letters. 'Fingersmith' combines Barthesian 'pleasure of the text' with a rich literary allusiveness that gives the reader both the deep satisfaction of the Victorian triple-decker novel with the awe one feels in coming across a masterpiece.
The twists - which some have found convoluted and unconvincing - took me completely by surprise and gave me that passion to read on - unlike some recent over-hyped novels, where one is finishing out of a sense of bloody-mindedness, of not being defeated - which marks out only those novels of the first rank. Let it not be said that Waters is a mere pasticheur - her tones are her own, the voices she writes so well realised, the odd flourish of poetry so much the work of an artist rather than a writer in receipt of an overpriced advance that for Waters not to end the year garlanded with awards and recognition of her true qualities will reflect very badly on the literary culture of this country.
I will say nothing about plot, character, setting - these are easily available elsewhere - I just want to say that the 'lesbian Victoriana' tag should not deter anyone - man, woman, straight, gay - from buying this book and devouring it.
Sarah Waters' first editions - I have not read her previous two novels, but am off to find them at the first opportunity - are going to be a great investment. This young writer has done just what I guess she admires in her Victorian forebears: written a novel which combines great literary art with page-turning popular readability.
Waters? More like brandy, diluted by champagne.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I envy you that have yet to read this...., 21 Feb. 2012
By 
Annie "Pippin" (Perth, Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fingersmith (Paperback)
I have just had a quick cursory look at all of my reviews on this site - and most of them are five out of five stars.

Perhaps it is because I know what I like. So this review will attempt to say what precisely I love about this book - without giving anything of the plot away. It occurs to me that there are lots of people out there who share my tastes. So this is for potentially a fellow reader. To quote Julie Myerson: 'There are always novels that you envy people for not yet having read, for the pleasure they still have to come. Well, this is one.' Agreed!

If you like:

1. Memorable, three dimensional characters who make the alien world of 19th century London and rural England come well and truly alive.
(*This is so important to me as a reader. It is all very well to have all the boxes ticked as regards historical accuracy, but if you cannot make the reader feel that this other world is not 'other', then it is a waste of time)

Sarah Waters not only sets her novel in a world that my own ancestors lived in, and man, this woman knows her material (poor, working class London), but she breathes life into it.

2. A rollicking good plot. Again, all the brilliance in the world will not disguise a boring read. If you want (as I do very very much) an intelligent, beautifully written story that keeps you reading way past your normal bed time, your eyes closing in rebellion against your desire to want to read 'one more page' - then this is for you.

3. A book you will return to? Then yes again. I knew as soon as the last page was finished that this was a 'stayer' on my bookshelf.

There are some wonderful reviews here that provide excellent description of the setting and plot, so will not repeat their material again. The less you know, the better.

Highly recommended if you recognise your own tastes here. This is what the joy of reading is all about. Thank you Sarah Waters for a wonderful piece of writing!
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding, 16 Sept. 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Fingersmith (Paperback)
Having read all the books that were on the shortlist for the 2002 booker prize, I can honestly say this was the best. Usually I can see the odd twist or turn in a plot coming up, but with Fingersmith the twists are so unpredictable and sudden they caught me complety by surprise. It has been ages since I have simply not been able to put a book down. Although it takes a while to get going, once it's got you hooked there's no going back. What I also thought was brilliant (without giving anything away) was how everything in part two slots into place so well with part one (If you've read it you'll know what I mean).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the most compelling book I've read, ever, 21 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Fingersmith (Paperback)
I was lucky to be handed this book around a year ago when it was selected for World Book Night 2011, a celebration of great writing where 25 titles are handed out free to readers, who then pass them on. I am so pleased I was, because Fingersmith must be one of the most gripping stories I have ever read. It's a bumper novel - 547 pages, and I was lost to it for days because, from start to finish I literally could not put it down. It was absolutely brilliant, full of fascinating characters and their equally riveting relationships, mystery, a haunting kind of intrigue and an incredible feeling of total immersion in a rather strange past. It's actually converted me back to reading historical novels again, where my love of reading began yet which I some years ago abandoned in search of contemporary fiction.I know I've raved about a few books recently, but this really must be one of my all-time favourite novels.
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Fingersmith
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (Paperback - 26 Jun. 2012)
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