Fingersmith Hardcover – 4 Feb 2002
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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)
Top customer reviews
There is an unusually good start to the book. The reader is taken straight into the action and the story is set up for the rest of the book.
Using the eyes of the lady, Margaret Prior, the book works well to describe the prison in all its horror from an outsiders view. The desriptions of the prison are a strong element of the book and the hardness works as a contrast to the tenderness of the feelings that Margaret relates in her diary.
Writing in a diary makes the story feel very personal and it is written cleverly. Even the dialogue is reported as Margaret hears it rather than as it actually happened.
The first half of the book is wonderful but then the plot seems to run out and it feels as though the book is being strung out until the clever ending when it picks up again. At the end I could not put it down and had to find out what had happened - shame about the lull in the middle of the book.
Compared to her other books, this is not Sarah Waters best but still it is a very accomplished novel.
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