Fingersmith
Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, 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 naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

Fingersmith Details

TitleFingersmith
Author
Formatebook
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseOct 1st, 2002
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN1101057025
ISBN-139781101057025
Number of pages592 pages
Rating
GenreHistorical Fiction, Fiction, Glbt, Historical, Mystery, Romance, Queer

Fingersmith Review

  • karen
    June 9, 2010
    lesbian dickens!now that i have your attention... dana has been bugging me to write a review of this for the longest time, and now that she is on vacation and out of my path for ten minutes (seriously - the girl moved to my town just so she could stand under my window all night calling "hey!! heyyy!! write a review for fingersmith! come on, you know you want to!!") every night.so, now that i have a little breathing room, i will do my best.it's true, i want her to read this. i want everyone to re lesbian dickens!now that i have your attention... dana has been bugging me to write a review of this for the longest time, and now that she is on vacation and out of my path for ten minutes (seriously - the girl moved to my town just so she could stand under my window all night calling "hey!! heyyy!! write a review for fingersmith! come on, you know you want to!!") every night.so, now that i have a little breathing room, i will do my best.it's true, i want her to read this. i want everyone to read this. sarah waters has some amazing strengths - she creates well-developed, complicated characters, she is a master at pacing, she can construct very tight, multi-layered narratives where the next move is always surprising, and she recreates the victorian setting better than anyone else that i have read. there is also a kickass "mystery" plot in here. not a detective-y whodunnit mystery, but more traditionally dickens/collins family mystery with elements of mamet's house of games. it is almost 600 pages of puppy-shuddering bliss. but be honest, i had you at lesbian dickens.sarah waters is an author i always break my "save one book" vow with - her last two books, i had to buy the very day they came in, i slapped a "do not disturb" sign on my head and i just plowed through them in a matter of hours. and then i felt that gutsick christmas midafternoon void where you look around and whimper hopefully - "more??". she is that good. and this is her at her very best.for me, the best aspect of the victorian is the marginalized, the liminal members of society and what they do to get by. in this case, there is a young woman raised by a band of thieves (a band of thieves!!!) who gets roped into perpetrating a pretty long con only to find herself in a love triangle and perhaps being conned herself.but i have said too much!seriously - this book is a genuine crowd pleaser, even though the obnoxious lady from last week dismissed it ... "i don't want to sound fatuous, but i suppose i shall say it anyway.... this looks so.... middlebrow..." (david, i am using your voice here to recreate, i hope you don't mind)not that there's anything wrong with "middlebrow", especially coming from a lady like this who proved that she had no idea what a 17-year-old reluctant reader would be pleased to get as a gift and instead was imposing her own values on this poor girl.(shame, shame) hey, kid - hope you enjoy the journals of john evelyn!! a real page-turner! poor thing...all i know is this is a truly enjoyable and memorable book,and my brows suit me perfectly. hhmph.it's also like this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=quqzSt...
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  • Paul Bryant
    September 28, 2007
    This totally wonderful novel does exactly what the title says, it fingers your myth, it steals up on your soul and breathes down its neck and a shudder of pleasure is felt to the ends of all your extremities, your brain will wobble, your hair will vibrate strongly, and your eyebrows will be thrust up and down like energetic trampolining children as the intricate-clockmaker plot fastens your eyes ravenously to every page - draw the curtains, do not charge the mobile phone, tell your friends you h This totally wonderful novel does exactly what the title says, it fingers your myth, it steals up on your soul and breathes down its neck and a shudder of pleasure is felt to the ends of all your extremities, your brain will wobble, your hair will vibrate strongly, and your eyebrows will be thrust up and down like energetic trampolining children as the intricate-clockmaker plot fastens your eyes ravenously to every page - draw the curtains, do not charge the mobile phone, tell your friends you have gone to Tibet for three weeks, or Saskatchewan if that's less likely to make them worry. If there's an earthquake or a revolution you won't notice. In that way this book is close kin to The Quincunx and The Crimson Petal and the White. I want to be buried with all these three novels. So, you may know it's a Modern Victorian novel, which is a mini-genre I love & want more of, and you may also have heard that in this particular Modern Victorian lesbians are somehow involved. It is true, but what is more to the point is that a completely enthralling love story is portrayed, which happens to be between two women. Five stars each the size of Sirius.
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  • Steve
    December 1, 2015
    Pigeons and pearls. Perceptions and palpability. I’d explain in detail, but that would spoil all the fun. Instead, as elliptically as I can, I’ll hint at their relevance with vague allusions. Sue was an orphan in Victorian London, raised among thieves. Despite the fact that in the hierarchy of larceny her lot were never more than petite bourgeoisie, Sue’s existence was not as Dickensian as it might have been. Baby farmer Mrs. Sucksby seemed to take a particular shine to Sue, and more or less rai Pigeons and pearls. Perceptions and palpability. I’d explain in detail, but that would spoil all the fun. Instead, as elliptically as I can, I’ll hint at their relevance with vague allusions. Sue was an orphan in Victorian London, raised among thieves. Despite the fact that in the hierarchy of larceny her lot were never more than petite bourgeoisie, Sue’s existence was not as Dickensian as it might have been. Baby farmer Mrs. Sucksby seemed to take a particular shine to Sue, and more or less raised her as her own. Then came a fateful day when Sue was 17. A “gentleman” of their acquaintance called on them with an intricate plan. Mr. Rivers, known to them simply as Gentleman, outlined his scheme to bilk a young lady the same age as Sue out of her inheritance. Maud, the young target, lived in a declining but still functioning country estate with a reclusive uncle. Sue was to pose as a lady’s maid and bolster Gentleman’s case for marrying Maud. Sue would then get a cut of the money. So you’re pretty sure you know what I mean by pigeon, right? As for “pearl,” you might imagine those shiny white things cast among swine, or, if you know Sarah Waters and her reputation for lesbian love stories, you might picture lustrous riches in more carnal terms. Part of what I like about this book is that, for reasons of reversed notions, I’m forbidden to elaborate. That means an easier review, benefitting you and me both.I can say that the book is broken into thirds. Sue narrates the first part, Maud gets a turn to tell her side of the story in the second, and Sue takes over again at the end. Keenly observed perceptions and perspectives are keys to making this work. But then, things are not always as they seem. As a rule, I like surprises, and Waters gives us some good ones. After reaching critical mass, though, I began reading each scene suspicious of more. To be honest, it became a distraction.As for the palpability, you expect that from Victorian England, right? Mind you, we’re not talking about Mayfair here. This is the seedier side, where the muck, the rough edges, and the hard feelings truly are palpable. Separate from that, the rare moments of tenderness are also honestly felt. As are the relationships, predicated on what each thinks she knows about the other at any given time. I give Waters credit for making me think about surface relations, hidden agendas, and more visceral matters of the human heart.I suspect anyone who has read both this book as well as The Crimson Petal and the White is constitutionally incapable of avoiding comparison. I know I can’t. For me, Crimson Petal gets the nod in the novel-about-fascinating-women-set-in-Victorian-England run-off. It’s unforgettable for its plot, characters and writing. But this one shines, too. The writing is vivid, the language is colorful (even in the title – fingersmith for pickpocket), the plot is engaging, and the emotions are, uh – what was that word? – oh yeah, palpable.
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  • Violet wells
    August 6, 2015
    This novel, for me all pastiche, pasteboard and mirrors, really irritated me principally because I could have read two good novels in the time it took me to wade through it. For a start it’s way too long. It’s not like Waters is serving up any profound insights into human nature or casting her eye over a wide panorama of human life. It’s essentially a novel that traffics in pastiche (plagiarism?) and is built on two startling plot twists (and as such tailor made for the screen). Waters overwrite This novel, for me all pastiche, pasteboard and mirrors, really irritated me principally because I could have read two good novels in the time it took me to wade through it. For a start it’s way too long. It’s not like Waters is serving up any profound insights into human nature or casting her eye over a wide panorama of human life. It’s essentially a novel that traffics in pastiche (plagiarism?) and is built on two startling plot twists (and as such tailor made for the screen). Waters overwrites every single scene, always telling us far too much, always throwing yet more wood on the fire which has the effect of continually tipping the emotional register close to melodrama. Whenever a character is in the grip of an emotion it’s like an entire orchestra strikes up operatic music. The dialogue is often ham Victorian slapstick (even the BBC couldn’t rectify this). She also endlessly repeats herself. Doesn’t help that to enable the plot twist she has to write the entire first part again from another perspective. This is often the problem with plot twists – they stifle all the blood out of the characters, they reduce characters to devices. The plot of this novel straitjackets all the characters. The men are pantomime villains. They have no inner life. Are simply wheeled on and off stage when required. The women aren’t much better. They have to do what the plot requires them to do. There’s never a sense that their natural feeling is creating the plot. Suspension of disbelief is impossible. So much in this novel is preposterous that it’s as far-fetched as Harry Potter except this isn’t a fantasy novel. It quotes or pastiches most of popular Victorian literature. Most notably The Woman in White. But also, of course, Dickens and George Eliot (Casaubon, the ogre of the library, is here compiling an inventory of pornographic literature). On a good note it did make me again appreciate the brilliance of Dickens who could do great plot twists without sacrificing character development.
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  • Adina
    January 9, 2017
    It seems that Fingersmith is one of those books that people want to read but are not doing it for some reason. I say this because I have 30 friends that added the title on their TBR shelf. I was also one of them as I've bought the paperback two years ago and I only convinced myself to read it now. I do not regret finally taking the plunge and I recommend my friends to go ahead and do the same because it is worth it. If the size is a deterrent than I can tell you that it does not feel like a 500+ It seems that Fingersmith is one of those books that people want to read but are not doing it for some reason. I say this because I have 30 friends that added the title on their TBR shelf. I was also one of them as I've bought the paperback two years ago and I only convinced myself to read it now. I do not regret finally taking the plunge and I recommend my friends to go ahead and do the same because it is worth it. If the size is a deterrent than I can tell you that it does not feel like a 500+ pages door stopper. Fingersmith is a novel that is strongly based on its plot so I will not say too much about it here. Susan Tinder is an orphan raised by Ms. Sucksby in Victorian London house of schemers and thieves. One of the regular visitors to the house, Gentleman, makes Sue an offer she cannot refuse. She is asked to help him relieve a young woman, Maud, of her fortune. The young woman lives in a Gothic, secluded manor together with his strange uncle. Gentleman secured a temporary job with the uncle and the plan is for Sue to become Maud’s maid, help the thief seduce the young woman into marriage and after the fortune was secured to lock her in a mental hospital. Do expect some crazy plot twists, some of them quite preposterous. The book is structured in three parts, the first and last one narrated from Sue’s POV and the middle one from Maud’s. Sarah Waters is a wonderful storyteller and she manages to perfectly recreate the atmosphere of Victorian London. There is a bit of Dickens feel to this novel which drawn me even more into the adventures of the two young women. After reading this book I feel once again grateful that I live in this era and in a country where women have equal rights. The thought that women could have been sent to a mental institution by their husbands if they did not behave feels so scary and unbelievable to me. I read something similar in another book so this detail was probably not part of the author’s imagination. It was almost a 5 star for me but something was missing. Maybe some of the plot twists were a bit inconceivable, maybe the story was a bit melodramatic. Worth reading, nevertheless
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  • Limonessa
    October 4, 2011
    I have to admit that throughout almost all of Fingersmith the main random thoughts sweeping across the desolate land of my mind were along the lines of: WTF? WHAT? WHAT DID JUST HAPPEN?This is an intricate, ambitious, original, jaw-dropping, gut-punching, heart-wrenching plot for which I will NOT give you a synopsis. First, because I wouldn't know where to start from and second because it's better for you if you know NOTHING about it. Then you'll have my same random thoughts, as stated above. I' I have to admit that throughout almost all of Fingersmith the main random thoughts sweeping across the desolate land of my mind were along the lines of: WTF? WHAT? WHAT DID JUST HAPPEN?This is an intricate, ambitious, original, jaw-dropping, gut-punching, heart-wrenching plot for which I will NOT give you a synopsis. First, because I wouldn't know where to start from and second because it's better for you if you know NOTHING about it. Then you'll have my same random thoughts, as stated above. I'll just give you a few fundamental points: you need to know it's set in Victorian England, it's about thieves, an elaborate scam and it is not for people who don't tolerate gratuitous cruelty, mind games and deceptions in their books.Actually, I'd say its main theme is just that: DECEPTION. This is not what I would usually pick up: books that keep continuously on edge, anxious, oppressed, frustrated, puzzled, even nauseated at times are so not my cup of tea. So while on the one hand I gave it 4 stars because I did like it, on the other hand I cringe when I look at it, even now, a few days later. But I guess it's just what I am meant to feel, for such a book. So yes, a success in its genre. My main complaint is its length. Its change of pace unsettled me, starting off as dull, then giving you a big punch in the face around one third in, then lulling again for quite a long chunk to finish off with a great epilogue. So while some parts where breath-taking and put me in a frenzy (I swear I was tachycardic), some other parts kind of put me in a stupor (while monsoons where still blowing my mind and I was trying to figure out what could possibly happen next.)All in all a great read but not for the faint of heart. I'm pretty sure I want to read something else by this author, once I get over the persecutory delusions I developed with Fingersmith.
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  • Cecily
    August 14, 2012
    A tricky book to review, partly because it didn't live up to my (possibly unfairly high) hopes and partly because I'm trying to write shorter, punchier reviews, but this was almost 600 pages long. I have failed...Great ExpectationsWaters is an award-winning historical novelist, who specialises in the Victorian period (and lesbian protagonists). This book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize and her PhD thesis even covers a key subject of this book.I was expecting something l A tricky book to review, partly because it didn't live up to my (possibly unfairly high) hopes and partly because I'm trying to write shorter, punchier reviews, but this was almost 600 pages long. I have failed...Great ExpectationsWaters is an award-winning historical novelist, who specialises in the Victorian period (and lesbian protagonists). This book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the Orange Prize and her PhD thesis even covers a key subject of this book.I was expecting something like the wondrous sensuality of Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White, in terms of atmosphere, writing and to some extent, content: another “dirty Dickens”. Unfortunately, it fell short. It’s not a bad book, but nowhere near as rich or enjoyable as I'd hoped.Literary NodsI noticed quite a few echoes of classics, and I liked all but one of these little homages. That one though, is the main reason I gave this book only 3*.A fingersmith is a pickpocket, and Oliver Twist is explicitly mentioned on the first page (and a couple of times thereafter). Unsurprising but harmless.There are indirect allusions to Don Quixote, when it's suggested that too much "literature" might trigger madness, and a librarian is “a curator of poisons”.Jane Eyre is a clear inspiration, with a Mrs Rivers (not that there was, quite, one in JE), a magical-realist thread tugging, almost literally, at the heart of a separated lover, and a willful child who is treated rather as Aunt Reed treated Jane.Aspects of the life of one character have eerie echoes of one in Great Expectations ((view spoiler)[raised in material comfort, but corrupted and deliberately inured to love (hide spoiler)]). Noticing this wasn’t really a spoiler, but it added to the feeling of familiarity, rather than originality.There are quite a few ghost-story tropes, but only in a couple of chapters: fog, a mysterious candlelit figure at a window, clocks striking in a dilapidated house, nightmares… etc. The fundamental problem for me was the numerous parallels to another classic, meaning that the plot of this held few surprises: (view spoiler)[The Woman in White. A young woman living in a large lonely house with an uncle who spends most of his time in the library; uncle’s dodgy friends; enticed away by her drawing teacher; the wrong woman locked in an asylum in an attempt to gain a legacy; Marian/Marianne; some big coincidences… (hide spoiler)]Plenty of authors have successfully based their work on a well-loved tale, so I’m not sure why I had such a problem with this one. I think it’s that I didn’t enjoy it enough in general, coupled with the fact this could be classed as a mystery, so knowing the plot rather killed the mystery.Three Sections, Two NarratorsThe book is split into thirds. Part one (3*) is narrated by Susan, a girl of about fifteen, who has lived all her life with fingersmiths, in a household that is a slightly more benevolent version of Bill Sykes and Nancy’s establishment. Her storytelling style is necessarily rather plain. She overuses “pretty” as a modifier (“pretty precious”, “pretty good”) and sprinkles the odd bit of thieves’ slang, yet it didn’t conjure the right tone for me.Part two (4*) is narrated by Maude, who is the same age, but living in a country house with her reclusive uncle. I really enjoyed this section, partly because her more descriptive and thoughtful voice was more engaging, but mainly because of the way this section repeatedly refuted so many of my assumptions and quibbles in part one, and raised questions about most of the others. Almost nothing is as it seemed. “Why should my uncle lie?”… “Why should he tell the truth?”Part three (2*) was back to Susan. That in itself was predictable, and most of the plot was too.Anyone struggling with part one who is tempted to skim it to get to part two really shouldn’t, otherwise the contrasts and contradictions will be lost on them.SURPRISE!?Several reviews mention the frequent and surprising plot twists. I didn’t really notice any until the end of part one, and once I realised the book whose plot it follows, most weren’t really surprises, though they certainly count as twists: so many lies and so much double-crossing and confusion. I can see why it can be exciting: love, betrayal, mistaken identity, wealth, madness, revenge, escape, transformation, murder… yet excitement eluded me. FingeringWaters is well known as a lesbian writer who often includes lesbian themes. That crops up here, but is not extensive enough to sway readers one way or the other when deciding whether to read it.Fingers feature prominently though, mainly in part two. Maude always wears spotless gloves and her uncle has a big brass plaque on the library floor beyond which servants must not cross, lest their eyes damage the books. He says it’s in the shape of a pointing finger. Erotica or Porn?This book is neither, but it indirectly raises question about the distinction. “The flesh made word” was a neat (and maybe slightly heretical) definition. “Words… they seduce us in darkness and the mind clothes and fleshes them.”AbuseSome have suggested books should have trigger warnings. It can be tricky to do that without spoilers. There’s nothing graphic here, but abusive and manipulative relationships of various kinds are explored here. “I might pass for a girl in an allegory, Confidence Abused”.One interesting angle is that (view spoiler)[the situation that would alarm modern social services is less damaging than the comfortable and outwardly respectable one (hide spoiler)]. There’s also the quotidian dishonesty of and betrayal by lifelong crooks, but that’s rather different. Willing Suspension of Disbelief?These factors contributed to why it didn’t feel Dickensian enough to me (it’s set in 1862). It seems mean-spirited to check these things out, but I did. If you’re fond of this book, or haven’t read it, skip this section.(view spoiler)[Right from the start, the name Susan bothered me. It gnawed away at me. I was surprised to find it was not as uncommon as Maud(e), though it was far rarer than Anne or Margaret. My bad. Another character is frequently seen smoking a cigarette (sometimes from a pack, sometimes he rolls his own). Again, that seemed noteworthy, and again I checked. This proved far less likely. Searching published documents of the period, Google Ngrams finds hardly any occurrences of the word at the time. You can see the charts here: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph... %3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CSue%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Ccigarette%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CMaud%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CMaude%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CMargaret%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2CAnne%3B%2Cc0. Ngrams is far from perfect, but it’s a handy resource. (hide spoiler)]I was also distracted by a Chekhov’s Gun that never properly went off ((view spoiler)[Maude steals a razor blade, vandalises a book rather than slit her sleeping uncle’s throat, but doesn’t use it on subsequent occasions when it would have been really useful (hide spoiler)]) and Waters’ rather odd way of introducing direct speech: She said,“Direct quote as new paragraph, following on from paragraph that ended with a comma.”Had I been enjoying it more, I would probably have been able to ignore these issues.More positively, some of the things that seemed improbable in part one turned out to have vaguely plausible explanations in part two, and as with many Victorian novels, guilt is a major theme, though here the twist is that few have more than a passing acquaintance with it. RatingOverall, not a bad book, but nowhere near as enjoyable as I'd hoped. It was a page turner (though towards the end, I wanted to speed it up a bit), but it just didn’t speak to me – and I did listen.If I'd never heard of it or the book it’s based on, I would probably have given 4*, but my enjoyment was only 3*.Quotes• “Stitching dog skins onto stolen dogs, to make them seem handsomer breeds”. Not a crime I’d ever heard of!• “Servants grow sentimental over the swells they work for, like dogs grow fond of bullies.”• “How many stories does one man need?” The question relates to the uncle in his library, but it could be asked of many of the double and triple-crossing characters in the book.• “The silence, that my uncle cultivates… as other men grow vines and flowering creepers.”• “It is not the prospect of whipping that makes me meek. It is what I know of the cruelty of patience.”• “My obedience enrages her more than ever my passions did.”• He “carries his daring, his confidence, close and gaudy about him, like swirls of colour or perfume.” • “Even wax limbs must yield at last. to the heat of the hands that lift and place them.”• “A man in love with his own roguery.”
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  • Candise
    January 10, 2008
    A friend knocked on my door one evening and I answered, looking disheveled and I think a bit frightened. She asked me what was wrong, if she had interrupted something. I said no, that I had just been reading Fingersmith and I was really stressed out because now I had to leave the house and didn't know what was going to happen next. And that is basically how this book took over my life (in a good way).Sue is an orphan who lives in London in a house of petty thieves. A con man known as Gentleman c A friend knocked on my door one evening and I answered, looking disheveled and I think a bit frightened. She asked me what was wrong, if she had interrupted something. I said no, that I had just been reading Fingersmith and I was really stressed out because now I had to leave the house and didn't know what was going to happen next. And that is basically how this book took over my life (in a good way).Sue is an orphan who lives in London in a house of petty thieves. A con man known as Gentleman convinces her to take a position as the maid of young wealthy heiress Maud Lilly, and in doing so, help him seduce and swindle her. The intimate nature of their relationship as well as the underlying plot allow the two girls to grow much closer than either anticipated, as each one has so much at stake.I literally couldn't put this book down. When I had to leave the house I took it with me, hoping that I might get a moment to read a little further. There were so many plot twists, but the amazing thing was that it was actually smart and unpredictable.I gasped out loud. I actually yelled, "No fucking way!!" on page 183 (only a third of the way into the novel). When I wasn't reading, I used up my brainpower guessing about what would happen next, how the heroines could get out of the situation. To put it bluntly, I was obsessed. Everyone I've talked to about this book has had the same experiences. So if you enjoy obsessing and agonizing over a novel that will overtake your life for at least a week and make you anxious and excited, then this is definitely the book for you. In fact, if you love fiction at all, you should read this book immediately.
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  • Emily May
    August 20, 2012
    This is a Victorian murder mystery with a lesbian romance. You will probably love it, but even if you don't, it's highly unlikely you will have read anything else quite like it.
  • Linda O'Donnell
    January 18, 2015
    Holy Crackers! What a read! I felt like Alice falling down the Rabbit Hole. This story has more twists and turns than a shopping cart caught in the wind in a Walmart parking lot. When you commit to this one, please know that it is heavy lifting at almost 600 pages. Some parts are easily predictable, while other parts leave you smarting from the surprise attack.Many others have done an excellent job in relaying the plot design here. I won't go into that aside from saying that Sarah Waters has an Holy Crackers! What a read! I felt like Alice falling down the Rabbit Hole. This story has more twists and turns than a shopping cart caught in the wind in a Walmart parking lot. When you commit to this one, please know that it is heavy lifting at almost 600 pages. Some parts are easily predictable, while other parts leave you smarting from the surprise attack.Many others have done an excellent job in relaying the plot design here. I won't go into that aside from saying that Sarah Waters has an exceptional talent of sculpting her characters befitting of the Dickens era right down to the crisp dialog. I was intrigued from the start. It's like throwing out the time old question of, "Who are you, REALLY?" Be prepared for some crazy zapped answers to that one."We have a name for your disease. We call it a hyper-aesthetic one. You have been encouraged to over-indulge yourself in literature; and have inflamed your organs of fancy. You have read too much."Such was told to women of the day. That quote from the book left me laughing with my head fully tilted back and thinking, dear reader, how you and I would be locked up for sure from mega hours and years of "taking to the literature". Maybe that is why I tend to be glassy-eyed and incoherent after a block-buster read. Now there's a name for that......
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  • Tatiana
    April 28, 2010
    As seen on The ReadventurerFingersmith packs quite a few twists and surprises.At first, after reading the book's plot summary, I expected it to be a rompish, Les Liaisons Dangereuses-like adventure. 17-year old Susan Trinder, a foster kid in a family of fingersmiths (thieves), is recruited to act as a lady's maid to equally young and wealthy Maud Lilly. Susan's role in the devious scheme is to gently push this naive and simple-minded girl into the arms of Mr. Rivers, strip Ms. Lilly of her inher As seen on The ReadventurerFingersmith packs quite a few twists and surprises.At first, after reading the book's plot summary, I expected it to be a rompish, Les Liaisons Dangereuses-like adventure. 17-year old Susan Trinder, a foster kid in a family of fingersmiths (thieves), is recruited to act as a lady's maid to equally young and wealthy Maud Lilly. Susan's role in the devious scheme is to gently push this naive and simple-minded girl into the arms of Mr. Rivers, strip Ms. Lilly of her inheritance and then dump her in a madhouse.Needless to say, the story didn't quite turn out to be about a man seducing an innocent girl out of her knickers and money. Like every other reviewer, I will refrain from revealing anything more of the plot. Let's just say, Fingersmith becomes a much, much darker tale full of violence, abuse, betrayal, dark secrets and a little bit of girl love (not explicit like in Tipping the Velvet). Nothing in this novel is what it appears to be on the surface.Very few modern authors manage to write historical fiction that sounds authentic. Sarah Waters is one of the few that can do it exceptionally. I haven't read much Dickens to enter a flowery comparison here, but Waters' prose is very much on par with the best 19th century writers, only slightly more explicit and touching on the subject hushed out in the mainstream fiction of that era (I am talking porn and reprehensible way of treating wealthy women behind closed doors and in houses for crazies). Knocked down a star for the not long enough ending and necessary to the plot, but nevertheless often redundant, middle part.
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  • Wendy Darling
    September 16, 2009
    Reread December 2016 after seeing THE HANDMAIDEN. -------------A superbly written novel, full of great twists and turns. You may be able to guess some of what's going on, but the author will still surprise you with daring prose and unexpected red herrings. If you've never read the author before (as I had not) I'd recommend not reading ANY reviews about the book, not even the Amazon general description. The book jacket and this http://orangeprizeproject.blogspot.co... should whet your appetite en Reread December 2016 after seeing THE HANDMAIDEN. -------------A superbly written novel, full of great twists and turns. You may be able to guess some of what's going on, but the author will still surprise you with daring prose and unexpected red herrings. If you've never read the author before (as I had not) I'd recommend not reading ANY reviews about the book, not even the Amazon general description. The book jacket and this http://orangeprizeproject.blogspot.co... should whet your appetite enough. Trust in the author to do the rest.
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  • helen the bookowl
    February 24, 2015
    4.5/5 stars. I don't like to use this word but this book was definitely a "mind-fuck". I went into it not knowing much about it other than that Sarah Waters has written it, a lot of people have recommended it and I had previously read "Tipping the Velvet" by Sarah Waters, so I wanted to read more by her. I LOVE that I didn't know what was coming because that made the reading experience so much more intense. I was in awe at several points in the book and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out 4.5/5 stars. I don't like to use this word but this book was definitely a "mind-fuck". I went into it not knowing much about it other than that Sarah Waters has written it, a lot of people have recommended it and I had previously read "Tipping the Velvet" by Sarah Waters, so I wanted to read more by her. I LOVE that I didn't know what was coming because that made the reading experience so much more intense. I was in awe at several points in the book and I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what was going on. Sarah Waters plays with the reader and provides you with incredible plot twists, and she manages to weave it all together perfectly through small details and descriptions that are repeated during the narrative. I loved it! I would like for everyone else to read this book without knowing too much about it, and therefore I'm not going to say much else. But trust me when I say that this book will pull tricks on you, so if you like those kind of reading experiences you should definitely pick it up :)
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  • Catie
    April 13, 2011
    This book is like the most filling and nutritional junk food meal I’ve ever eaten. It has so many of the hallmarks of fluffy escapist literature: breathless action, turns of fate that are positively Dickensian, romance, family drama worthy of daytime television…not to mention an ending that I would probably accuse of being “too neat” in any other novel. But here…the emotions and characters just feel so heartbreakingly honest and real. Not to mention, any ending that harkens to one of my favorite This book is like the most filling and nutritional junk food meal I’ve ever eaten. It has so many of the hallmarks of fluffy escapist literature: breathless action, turns of fate that are positively Dickensian, romance, family drama worthy of daytime television…not to mention an ending that I would probably accuse of being “too neat” in any other novel. But here…the emotions and characters just feel so heartbreakingly honest and real. Not to mention, any ending that harkens to one of my favorite Anne of the Island scenes is just going to make me blind with the swooning.I’m not going to write any sort of synopsis for this book, and that’s just for your own good. It’s best to know very little going in. Instead, here are a few vague (as possible) reasons why I love this book so much.This book had my jaw dropping to the ground repeatedly. I was so completely wrapped up in the utterly engrossing feelings and thoughts of the characters that I never anticipated a few dramatic turns that I really should have seen coming. And the layer upon layer of mystery and intrigue, which could very easily have become confusing and illogical, actually builds to something that makes sense. The characters are nuanced and completely grey. They in turns make me want to comfort, protect, question, glare at, weep with, and stab them. Especially when they cheapen and stomp all over things which should be held sacred. You know what you did, character who I shall not name. Now come over here, because I think you need a hug. There are two narrators who do sound similar, but I think this is intentional. Their destinies are so woven together and their lives contain such horrible symmetry; it’s easy to see how their voices would echo. However, what’s most fascinating is how they differ: when repeating the same events, how the dialogue changes just subtly; how they remember things just a bit differently. So much is colored by their individual experience and these minor differences really illuminate their individual characters. But the places where they feel the same feelings and in the same moment are also so powerful. (view spoiler)[I still have an ache in my chest about the mirror scene. (hide spoiler)]The romance is at once fragile and formidable. I want to shield them from the world; to protect the little spark of goodness that they kindle in each other from all the avarice and perversion that surrounds them. Only, these two ain’t exactly pigeons…neither one of them. Amidst all the lies and greed and manipulation, they somehow find a road to their own best selves. A pretense of caring and love, an illusion, somehow brings forth what is true. And that’s when the romance feels formidable. If these two could ever set aside their histories, families, and misfortunes, and just be together then I felt sure they could do anything. They could take over the world.For all of my adult friends who love YA, but want something with a little more substance, this is for you. The main characters are seventeen, and feel authentically so. This is unequivocally one of my favorites that I’ve read this year. I can’t believe it took me this long to get to it! Perfect Musical PairingThe Civil Wars – Poison & WineThis is a love song, but it isn’t. It’s about a love that’s denied and uncertain. And it also has two narrators, speaking back and forth. I just listened to it about ten times in a row and it feels so perfect!“You only know what I want you to…I know everything that you don’t want me to.I wish you’d hold me when you turn your back.The less I give, the more I get back.Oh, your hands can heal, your hands can bruise.I don’t have a choice, but I’d still choose you.”
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  • Elaine
    October 21, 2014
    I am always a little scared of books that have been nominated for The Booker Prize or the Orange Prize because I always feel that they are books that I “should” read and enjoy but worry that they are going to be too “intellectual” for me and way over my head, so it was with some trepidation that I picked up this book and yet, when it comes down to brass tacks, I absolutely loved this read and feel quite bereft now that I have got to the end of it. Set in mid 19th century London and its surroundi I am always a little scared of books that have been nominated for The Booker Prize or the Orange Prize because I always feel that they are books that I “should” read and enjoy but worry that they are going to be too “intellectual” for me and way over my head, so it was with some trepidation that I picked up this book and yet, when it comes down to brass tacks, I absolutely loved this read and feel quite bereft now that I have got to the end of it. Set in mid 19th century London and its surrounding areas, the writing is exquisite in the way it brings the setting and the times to life. There is a very Dickensian feel to it with the colourful characters who are just as colourfully named, and the way that the underbelly of society is depicted with the thievery that lies at the heart of Susan’s family, as well as the baby farming, the asylums and the fates of the inmates there at the hands of the staff, not to mention the decadence that is revealed later on in the book. In fact, you could almost call it “Decadent Dickensian”. There were times when I could really forget that I was reading a book written in the 21st century as it felt so authentic.I don’t want to talk about the plot too much except to say that at the centre of it lies “a dastardly plan to relieve a young lady of her fortune”. It is told from the perspectives of two people and each telling reveals a very different side to the story. This story of treachery, betrayal, lies and hidden secrets twists and turns and twists and turns with new shocks and surprises being revealed to the reader all the way through. This is a story in which nothing is as it originally seems to be with a very complex, intricately woven plot which really kept my interest right to the end and I can’t wait to read more of this author’s work now.
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  • Hugh
    December 10, 2016
    This was my first experience of reading Waters - I had been deterred by having seen some of the rather silly TV adaptation of Tipping the Velvet, but when this was chosen as a group read by the 21st Century Literature group I thought I should give it a chance. Waters has clearly steeped herself in Victorian literature, and on one level this is a classic Victorian potboiler full of outlandish plot twists, coloured by the kind of period detail familiar from the likes of Dickens and Hardy. The plot This was my first experience of reading Waters - I had been deterred by having seen some of the rather silly TV adaptation of Tipping the Velvet, but when this was chosen as a group read by the 21st Century Literature group I thought I should give it a chance. Waters has clearly steeped herself in Victorian literature, and on one level this is a classic Victorian potboiler full of outlandish plot twists, coloured by the kind of period detail familiar from the likes of Dickens and Hardy. The plot twists are so outrageous that I won't spoil them here. The two central characters (a classic pair of opposites) are two young women. Sue is an orphan brought up in a criminal household in London's underworld, and Maud is an heiress confined to her uncle's lonely mansion by the Thames near Marlow. The first and last parts are narrated by Sue, and the middle part by Maud, and they both drawn into a plot to gain Maud's inheritance, which is dependent on her marriage.Waters explores many aspects of Victorian society and its hypocrisy, focussing on the experiences of women and their limited choices, with fascinating asides on mental hospitals, erotic fiction and various forms of criminal activity, some of which stretch the reader's credulity. This was a very enjoyable read, so much so that I read most of the second half of the book in one day, if for me a little too melodramatic to be entirely satisfying.
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  • Adam
    June 19, 2007
    Boring. Just boring. Painfully painfully boring. Are you willing to slough through 592 pages of wanna-be Victorian writing for a couple of plot twists and lesbian sex scenes?Half the damn book was Waters narrating in excruciating detail who blushed when. Or, as she puts it, whose "face coloured" when. Note the 'u' in colored. That means that it's a classy British book and not at all a bland excuse to foist a little bit of bean-fiddling on those who are too repressed to admit that that's what the Boring. Just boring. Painfully painfully boring. Are you willing to slough through 592 pages of wanna-be Victorian writing for a couple of plot twists and lesbian sex scenes?Half the damn book was Waters narrating in excruciating detail who blushed when. Or, as she puts it, whose "face coloured" when. Note the 'u' in colored. That means that it's a classy British book and not at all a bland excuse to foist a little bit of bean-fiddling on those who are too repressed to admit that that's what they really want to read about.I will never forgive the person who recommended this book to me.
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  • Daniella
    January 7, 2013
    Part 1 = Amazing. Part 2 and 3 = Is this book over yet?!
  • Chrissie
    February 23, 2015
    ETA: No, this damn book IS worth four stars. I woke up early this morning worrying about my rating! Here is why I must give it four stars: I came to care deeply for three people: Susan, Maud and Mrs. Sucksby. Wait till you find out who exactly the last one is! They moved from being cardboard evil characters to people I felt compassion for. Yes all three of them. And look at all the other good things I have listed below! ***************************By the book's end I was extremely impressed! By w ETA: No, this damn book IS worth four stars. I woke up early this morning worrying about my rating! Here is why I must give it four stars: I came to care deeply for three people: Susan, Maud and Mrs. Sucksby. Wait till you find out who exactly the last one is! They moved from being cardboard evil characters to people I felt compassion for. Yes all three of them. And look at all the other good things I have listed below! ***************************By the book's end I was extremely impressed! By what exactly? *By the ability with which Sarah Waters depicted Victorian London, London in 1862 to be exact.*By the flair with which a lesbian relationship is drawn, even to me who am heterosexual. *By her ability to create from nothing a totally new story that kept me listening. The story is completely credible and yet full of twists and turns. *Waters creates characters that are believable. Originally I was annoyed by the fact that all seemed evil, devious and scheming. I didn't know them well enough when I made that false judgment. *The dialogs and the different dialects reflecting the character's social standing were pitch-perfect. *No, I didn't laugh often, but occasionally I would smile. *The writing is VERY atmospheric; the story reads as a Gothic mystery, and even if this is not a genre that I habitually read I was impressed. Much is CREEPY. Maybe in fact it was so creepy that it made me squeamish and that is why I was so disturbed, because honestly I almost gave up on this book half way through. IF you ARE looking for a Gothic mystery - grab this. I have one serious complaint - the book is too long; it should have been tightened. The first section is told and then we are told it again from another point of view. I was totally exasperated by this. This was too repetitive. I was scared to death that the story would be told AGAIN from a third point of view. No, that didn't happen. So why should one read this book? Because you are given a very good story. Does it leave a message? Yeah, it does. It is all about family, loosely defined. It is about the feelings that bind the members of a family, regardless of the hurt we cause each other. Let me repeat again - the lesbian theme was VERY well done. Readers hesitant on that score will be pleasantly surprised! I was.As stated, I had a very hard time during the first half of the book - so stick with it. I may not have continued if the audiobook had not had such a wonderful narration. Juanita McMahon did a fabulous job. I ALWAYS could here exactly who was speaking. I am not going to give any spoilers, but this is an essential part of the story! I loved the dialect used for Susan and the contrasting tone for Maud. At Audible I will rank the narration with five stars. Need I say more about the narration?I want to leave what I wrote half way through the book. It is important you know that too....... I do think I have given you enough of an indication of what this book offers so you can judge if it will fit what you are looking for.****************************************After a little more than half:A friend asked me if I found the writing in Sarah Waters' Fingersmith verbose. I explained that the fist part wasn't. BUT, but, but, now, in the second part, we are being told the same story all over again, albeit from another person's point of view! Repetition has to be a kind of wordiness, right? The second first person narrative are the words of a woman higher up on the Victorian ladder, and her language is perhaps not verbose, but more polished. Susan's telling is simple, frank and to the point. Maud's is woven into a more educated language that drones on and on. Who is the most wicked?!This is clearly a mystery. I would call it a Gothic mystery to-boot! Creepy stuff, but honestly I am bored the second time around! I am not a mystery fan! I just don't really care, since this is just a make-believe story. Is the writing Dickensenian? According to Wiki this word is defined as:1.Of or pertaining to Charles Dickens or, especially, his writings.2. Reminiscent of the environments and situations most commonly portrayed in Dickens' writings, such as poverty and social injustice and other aspects of Victorian England.Yes, the book does depict poverty, social injustice and English Victorian society. But there is more to Dickens' writing than just this! We all have our own feelings toward his writing. Right now I am thinking that even if the Sarah Waters does have a talent in depicting a time and place well, and even if she threw in a twist I never expected, and even if she let me emotionally understand a lesbian relationship............I am bored. Now again, I have guessed how the story will conclude. Will she throw in another twist?
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  • Kate Quinn
    March 13, 2016
    This book will probably make my year-end Top 10 list. A taut, atmospheric thriller with more twists and turns than a Whitechapel alley, plunging into the seamy underbelly of Victorian London. At first absolutely no one is likeable in this tale, certainly not protagonist Sue, a young thief who enters into a queasy scheme to help a con man marry an heiress and then lock her up in a mad-house to claim her fortune. Everyone has a secret and nothing is what it seems: not Sue, not her unscrupulous con This book will probably make my year-end Top 10 list. A taut, atmospheric thriller with more twists and turns than a Whitechapel alley, plunging into the seamy underbelly of Victorian London. At first absolutely no one is likeable in this tale, certainly not protagonist Sue, a young thief who enters into a queasy scheme to help a con man marry an heiress and then lock her up in a mad-house to claim her fortune. Everyone has a secret and nothing is what it seems: not Sue, not her unscrupulous con-man partner, not even the apparently pathetic Maud who is the mark. Sarah Waters whip-lashes the reader in brutal plot turn-arounds not just once but twice, and accomplishes the impossible in making us empathize deeply with characters we at first despised. The atmosphere is all-enveloping, the plot an intricate marvel, and the tender romance that grows between two brutalized women is a heart-breaker. One of the best books I've read all year.
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  • Amanda Clay
    April 1, 2007
    While not as sexy as Tipping the Velvet, this book is a gripping read. I envy any reader their first trip through the story, because you will never guess what's going on or what's going to happen next. Perfectly plotted, brilliantly realized. Unfortunately, Sarah Waters' most recent book is rather a snore, and in her next book she's promised to abandon writing about lesbian characters all together ('cause the world of heterosexuality isn't yet well-documented. Sorry to be so bitter, but it makes While not as sexy as Tipping the Velvet, this book is a gripping read. I envy any reader their first trip through the story, because you will never guess what's going on or what's going to happen next. Perfectly plotted, brilliantly realized. Unfortunately, Sarah Waters' most recent book is rather a snore, and in her next book she's promised to abandon writing about lesbian characters all together ('cause the world of heterosexuality isn't yet well-documented. Sorry to be so bitter, but it makes me mad that as soon as we get someone decent she can't wait to rush away.) Anyway, this one's very exciting, so check it out!
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  • Stepheny
    February 6, 2015
    I have met so many fabulous people through goodreads. I have created friendships and bonded with so many people through books on this website. It’s truly remarkable. What’s cooler than that? That it is totally acceptable for me to push books on people like a common drug dealer! The fact that these people encourage me to branch out and read books that I normally wouldn’t. Some of those books have been better than others, and some have really surprised me.When the lovely Lisa suggested Fingersmi I have met so many fabulous people through goodreads. I have created friendships and bonded with so many people through books on this website. It’s truly remarkable. What’s cooler than that? That it is totally acceptable for me to push books on people like a common drug dealer! The fact that these people encourage me to branch out and read books that I normally wouldn’t. Some of those books have been better than others, and some have really surprised me.When the lovely Lisa suggested Fingersmith for a group read I wasn’t quite sure. I was hesitant and in the end my determination got the better of me and I was able to snag a copy from the library. The story builds slowly at first. So slowly, in fact, that I was immediately questioning my decision. But once the scheme is set in motion things got much more interesting. And then, I got hit in the face with a brick. Or at least, that’s what it felt like. The twists in this story really hit you. You truly have no idea what you are in for. You totally think you do! Sarah Waters does a great job of patting you on the back and assuring you that yes, you are on the right track, only to pull the carpet out from underneath your feet and laugh in your face. Once certain things in this story are revealed you can’t help but wonder how you had been so blind! Kicking yourself in the ass for months to come! Yes, I still can’t believe the wool was pulled over my eyes so thoroughly.While you think I have ruined the story for you, I most certainly have not. I can alllllllllllllllllllmost guarantee you that you won’t figure it out. But, if you enjoy a challenge, then pick it up and give it a try. It’s worth it.I only have a couple complaints. One was that there seemed to be a fair amount of fluff that was there solely for the purpose of filling pages. I hate that. You really can edit it down and give me a brief rundown instead of a detailed account for the last 3 months, it’s ok. If none of the details really matter in the grand scheme of things, I can let that go. I was also a little dissatisfied with the ending. It seemed like an afterthought. “ Well, I guess I have to end the book, so here. “ I don’t like that. BUT, it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment. After all, sometimes it’s not about the ending, it’s about the story.
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  • Bill
    May 29, 2016
    Outstanding.A couple of months ago, Stephen King tweeted out some recommendations for great summer reading. In one of those tweets, he said, "Everything by Sarah Waters". Now that piqued my interest; I had only a passing knowledge of Waters, having only remembered when Fingersmith wasall over stores' bookshelves, but for some reason it seemed that this was in the romance genre and so, probably not for me.Then I read some of the responses to this tweet: "Ingenious storytelling", "Lots of twists a Outstanding.A couple of months ago, Stephen King tweeted out some recommendations for great summer reading. In one of those tweets, he said, "Everything by Sarah Waters". Now that piqued my interest; I had only a passing knowledge of Waters, having only remembered when Fingersmith wasall over stores' bookshelves, but for some reason it seemed that this was in the romance genre and so, probably not for me.Then I read some of the responses to this tweet: "Ingenious storytelling", "Lots of twists and turns", and so on...but ingenious storytelling? Now that's a rave you don't hear too often. So I slapped it on my list and decided to save it for my staycation by the pool.I'm so glad I saved this for a time when I could really delve into it without the chinsy distractions of a working life. This is a 600 page work, and those pages densely packed with smallish print, so, lotsa lotsa words!Fingersmith lives up to all of its accolades, I'm delighted to report. This is indeed ingenious storytelling, and even though the story itself doesn't seem to travel too quickly (and this only realized in retrospect), the journey is an absorbing visit to 1862 London, with characterization that is very well developed.You're best to avoid any reviews that have plot synopses. Go in blindly and enjoy where Waters takes you. Know only that this a tale of thieves, and a caper, and it's 1862 London. It's terrific and made the first week of my vacation pretty much perfect.Five stars for being everything that reading for enjoyment is supposed to be.
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  • Tara
    March 11, 2009
    If you've read the reviews for this book below, then you know that this book is on almost everyone's "favorite" list, and for good reason. This is my #1 favorite book (a tie to Jane Eyre, which is certainly hard to beat). I read this novel several years ago and have since loaned out 3 copies to friends only to never get them back. I am, in fact, due for another copy -- because I must have one of my own on the shelves!Essentially, Fingersmith is everything I could possibly want in a novel. The na If you've read the reviews for this book below, then you know that this book is on almost everyone's "favorite" list, and for good reason. This is my #1 favorite book (a tie to Jane Eyre, which is certainly hard to beat). I read this novel several years ago and have since loaned out 3 copies to friends only to never get them back. I am, in fact, due for another copy -- because I must have one of my own on the shelves!Essentially, Fingersmith is everything I could possibly want in a novel. The narrators of the novel are wonderfully entertaining; plot twists abound that I could never have imagined the first time I read this book; the descriptions are beautiful but not overly-done. I actually stayed up until 3:00 a.m. 3 nights in a row reading this book because I just couldn't put it down. And when I was finished, I held it above my head and sang a song of the angels. I know that sounds weird, and I've never done that before or since, but really this was the best reading experience in my life.Still haven't found another novel as good as this one. Here's to hope.
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  • Nancy Oakes
    December 31, 2013
    I'm not really sure how to rate this novel. I could go on about how there is a ton of detail here, some of which could have been left out or pared down and on how some of the material verges on cliché, but I have to say that for me this time, it was purely about story. I mean, it's not often I read a 500-plus page novel and manage to finish it over the course of a weekend, but Fingersmith is just the sort of book that enables that to happen. And as if the 500-plus pages I'd just read weren't eno I'm not really sure how to rate this novel. I could go on about how there is a ton of detail here, some of which could have been left out or pared down and on how some of the material verges on cliché, but I have to say that for me this time, it was purely about story. I mean, it's not often I read a 500-plus page novel and manage to finish it over the course of a weekend, but Fingersmith is just the sort of book that enables that to happen. And as if the 500-plus pages I'd just read weren't enough, I had to watch the BBC adaptation immediately after finishing it. Yep - it was all about story this time, and what a story it is! I really can't go into much detail because this is such a twisty novel that to tell would be to spoil. It's so twisty, in fact, that I got to the first major surprise and did a huge gasp nearly making me choke on the almonds I was eating at the time. I remember at the time thinking "that's f***ing brilliant!" but as it turns out, there were more twists to come. The plot is about as nefarious as it gets and quite frankly, while it's not my favorite Waters novel (that's a tie between Tipping the Velvet and The Little Stranger), it had this way of lifting me from where I was back into Victorian England and shutting out the rest of the modern world while taking me there (okay - speaking of cliché, I get that the last part of that sentence was one, but well, it is what it is).Fingersmith is a page-turning novel done in Victorian style and while the plot is so twisted, it's really the people here that are the main focus. And oh my gosh - Sarah Waters can write people so very well. She can also channel Dickens very nicely in her descriptions of London streets and slums, and I will say that the tv drama captured Lant Street as I pictured it in my head while reading. Lovely book -- my advice: forget anything critical, go into it just for the story, have fun with it, and stay away from any spoilers. Readers like myself who are very much into older works will love it for the atmosphere; readers like myself who enjoy Sarah Waters' novels will definitely enjoy it for her ability to lift you out of where you are while inside of it. It took long enough, but it's a book I'm very happy I finally took off my shelves and read.
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  • Nicole
    September 14, 2015
    4.5 starsThe plot twists in this novel are on point!
  • Phrynne
    June 17, 2015
    An okay book but it never really grabbed me which was awkward since it was very long. The plot was very convoluted to the point where I actually gave up trying to understand who was who and why and just read to the end to see what happened. The characterisation was okay, the Dickensian setting well done and the writing good. In fact everything was in place for it to be a good book but it just never made a connection for me.
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  • Blair
    March 16, 2011
    I had high expectations of this: firstly, the one other book I've read by the author - The Little Stranger - is one of my absolute favourites, and secondly, I'd heard/read endless positive reviews of Fingersmith prior to reading it. It's the latter point that spurred me on to finally get round to it, as the plot didn't pique my interest in the same way The Little Stranger's post-war psuedo-ghost-story did. Fingersmith is set in Victorian England, and tells the tale of two teenage girls - both ap I had high expectations of this: firstly, the one other book I've read by the author - The Little Stranger - is one of my absolute favourites, and secondly, I'd heard/read endless positive reviews of Fingersmith prior to reading it. It's the latter point that spurred me on to finally get round to it, as the plot didn't pique my interest in the same way The Little Stranger's post-war psuedo-ghost-story did. Fingersmith is set in Victorian England, and tells the tale of two teenage girls - both apparently orphaned - who have led very different lives but whose fates are intertwined; Sue, a wily London thief or 'fingersmith', and Maud, the heiress to a small fortune who has never left her uncle's forbidding home.This book is the very definition of a page-turner. I had a bit of trouble getting used to the Dickensian language at first and, when I saw how long the novel was, I was baffled by memories of friends claiming to have finished it in a matter of days. Once I got stuck into the plot, however, this was no longer a mystery. This is a book you literally - particularly in the case of the middle third - CANNOT put down. I stayed up into the early hours of the morning to finish the aforementioned section, unable to go to sleep without knowing what would become of the characters. The author is outstanding at making you not only root for Maud and Sue, but really feel the horror of their respective situations, their longing for escape (and the utter frustration of thwarted attempts), their desperate thirst for revenge. The narrative, which shows you events first from one protagonist's point of view, then the other, is excellent - it can't have been easy to describe the same happenings twice and still keep them fresh, but because of certain twists, the approach works, as the reader comes to realise how distorted a reflection of reality one individual's perspective can be.So, why not five stars? Well; there's a strong streak of bleakness throughout the book, and every setting - the streets of London, Mrs Sucksby's house, Briar, the madhouse - seems identically depressing, dingy, mucky, empty and unwelcoming. The apparently boundless wickedness and duplicity of the supporting characters has a similar effect. (That said, both of these elements help in making you empathise with Maud and Sue.) I actually found Gentleman the most interesting character of them all, and I would really have liked to see some of the story from his point of view, or to understand more about the true motivations of the 'bad' characters. The two protagonists are so fleshed-out and real that they do make the others appear rather two-dimensional.I found the ending fascinating, and more than a touch macabre - the way the girls end up back in the thoroughly dispiriting enclave of Briar, the house littered with what seem to be symbols (the broken glass on the floor, the cobwebs and dust, the untouched table and its rotten apples), Maud working in her uncle's sinister library (that library and that house reminded me so much of The Bloody Chamber - at one point I seriously expected Maud to find a torture chamber amongst her uncle's rooms), as if a circle has been completed and the heroines are again trapped. The more I think about it, the more I really think the ending was loaded with hidden meanings; the weirdness of it overwhelmed me so much that Maud and Sue's declaration of love almost seemed like an incidental detail; as 'happy endings' go, it was a very dark one. I could draw a lot of parallels between this ending - in some ways, the whole story, actually - and that of We Have Always Lived in the Castle. Perhaps Waters was using the girls' environment to represent the future difficulties they would no doubt have had in pursuing the life they wished to lead together?All in all, this was an enjoyable book and one best summed up as compelling - I really underestimated how readable I would find it. However, though I know most readers prefer Waters' Victorian novels, I was right in suspecting that I couldn't possibly love this as much as I did The Little Stranger, which I still constantly think about and want to re-read. Definitely recommended, though.
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  • Viv JM
    December 12, 2016
    A ripping yarn! Fingersmith is a fast paced historical novel, chock full of twists and turns and with a cast of colourful characters including some excellent Dickensian villains. Parts one and three are told from the viewpoint of Sue, a young woman who has been brought up among petty thieves and crooks and is part of a plan to defraud Miss Maud Lilley, a rich young lady, of her fortune. Part two is told from the viewpoint of Maud. It is difficult to write too much about the plot without giving a A ripping yarn! Fingersmith is a fast paced historical novel, chock full of twists and turns and with a cast of colourful characters including some excellent Dickensian villains. Parts one and three are told from the viewpoint of Sue, a young woman who has been brought up among petty thieves and crooks and is part of a plan to defraud Miss Maud Lilley, a rich young lady, of her fortune. Part two is told from the viewpoint of Maud. It is difficult to write too much about the plot without giving away spoilers so I will just say that all is not what it seems, and leave it at that!I listened to the Hachette Audio book of this, narrated by Juanita McMahon. The narration was absolutely superb and I would definitely recommend this production and narrator.
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  • BrokenTune
    October 15, 2014
    3.5* rounded up to 4*"We were thinking of secrets. Real secrets, and snide. Too many to count. When I try now to sort out who knew what and who knew nothing, who knew everything and who was a fraud, I have to stop and give it up, it makes my head spin."It was with some trepidation that I started on Fingersmith. This was said to be the book that was most resembling a Dickensian story. I don't rate Dickens highly. I don't mind him, but I was afraid that people loved Fingersmith because they love t 3.5* rounded up to 4*"We were thinking of secrets. Real secrets, and snide. Too many to count. When I try now to sort out who knew what and who knew nothing, who knew everything and who was a fraud, I have to stop and give it up, it makes my head spin."It was with some trepidation that I started on Fingersmith. This was said to be the book that was most resembling a Dickensian story. I don't rate Dickens highly. I don't mind him, but I was afraid that people loved Fingersmith because they love the Dickensian element which inevitably would not impress me much.To my delight, the Dickensian setting was well suited to book but did not distract from the story, the layers, the characters, and best of all the writing. There is not much to say about Fingersmith that has not been said already, and providing a summary of the plot will spoil the book. However, one of the main features that I enjoyed with this one was the language: the melodic, almost poetic, composition of some of the parts - which really need to be read aloud. For example, this part describes a train journey, and by reading aloud you can just about catch the rhythm of the train rolling on the tracks: "Soon the train gives a hiss, and gathers its bulk, and shudders back into terrible life. We leave the streets of Maidenhead. We pass through trees. Beyond the trees there are open parklands, and houses - some as great as my uncle's, some greater. Here and there are cottages with pens of pigs, with gardens set with broken sticks or climbing beans, and hung with lines of laundry. Where the lines are full there is laundry hung from windows, from trees, on bushes, on chairs, between the shafts of broken carts - laundry everywhere, drooping and yellow."
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