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Monday, March 8, 2010

Book Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Paperback, 592 pages
Riverhead Trade
October 1, 2002
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Genre: Victorian Historical Fiction

Source: Personal Collection

No one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals. Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer." Mrs. Sucksby’s household also hosts a transient family of petty thieves--fingersmiths--for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives--Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a na├»ve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, they all will share in Maud’s vast inheritance.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to regret her decision.”

Fingersmith begins in the seedy part of Victorian England with a “family” of petty thieves, or fingersmiths. Sue Trinder is a member of this family (and the narrator of the first part of the book). One day, a friend of the family, Gentleman, tells them of a plan he has to swindle a well off young woman of her inheritance, with the help of Sue. She is to play the role of a maid to this young woman and be the inside player in the game. As things progress and Sue gets to know Maude, Sue becomes less desirous of this swindle.

Part two of this book is set at the manor house where the well off young woman (Maud) lives. She becomes the narrator at this time. We learn about her past and see the events that happened in part one from Maud’s perspective. There is a HUGE twist that takes the reader into part three and an outcome that you will never see coming. This initially small scale swindle, takes on legs of its own and grows exponentially.

It took me a very long time to read this book, but that had nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the story bring told. I was going to school at the time and there was very little free-reading time. When I was actually able to read, I devoured the pages. I hadn’t read anything Victorian at that time and couldn’t get enough of the descriptions of the world around them. The main characters of Maud, Sue, and Gentleman were expertly created and were wonderful, innocent, and malicious (in that order). Even the minor characters were well created and had distinct personalities of their own.

I really loved the twist – I never saw it coming and it really took the book in a new direction – but it was very fitting and true to the story. I found myself connecting with the characters – feeling sad and angry and disappointed at times.

A two part BBC miniseries was created in 2005, with the same name, and stars Sally Hawkins and Sue and Elaine Cassidy as Maud. I recently saw this movie and thought that it was very well done. You can see my review of the movie coming up later this week.

FYI: Trailer does contain spoilers...watch at you own risk!

An extract of the book can be found here to get you in to all of the intrigue of the novel.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Sarah Waters:
The Little Stranger
The Little Stranger
The Night Watch
The Night Watch
The Paying Guests
The Paying Guests
Tipping the Velvet
Tipping the Velvet
Find Sarah Waters: Website

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. Oh, my. The movie trailer gives away the unforeseen twist. It looks like a very good book. I'll be looking for it.

  2. I have had this book on my shelf for so long; I think it is time I picked it up! Thanks for the great review :)

  3. I just started this book and I am loving it! Thank you for letting us know there is a mini-series too...


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