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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quite remarkable
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...
Published on 19 May 2008 by Net

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19 of 21 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 Sep 2004


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32 of 32 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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107 of 113 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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21 of 22 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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43 of 46 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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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
By 
Brida "izumi" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Fingersmith (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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5 of 5 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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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep it close to your chest!, 19 Mar 2003
By 
mfl (london) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Fingersmith (Paperback)
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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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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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made me gasp, 7 Feb 2005
By A Customer
This review is from: Fingersmith (Paperback)
I was loaned this by a friend (who hadn't yet read it but I was after something to read for my hols.) I picked it up just before I went away. I knew nothing of the writer or what to expect from it. I ended up finishing it before I went !!! I couldn't put it down, it drew me into it's pages and made me gasp at bits and I just had to read on to see what would happen. I never saw any of it coming. I never found it tedious or drawn out as some have commented I enjoyed all of it and hated it when I'd finished it !!! I've now given it back to my friend with a YOU MUST READ THIS !!! I shall certainly consider another of this authors books !!!
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Fingersmith
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (Paperback - 26 Jun 2012)
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