Book Review: Fingersmith


Sarah Waters

Penguin Group

592 pages

Sue Trinder lives in Victorian London with her “adopted” family, who makes a living by thieving, a trade which Sue is readily a part of.  Sue’s mother was out to death by hanging, so Sue has always considered herself part of a seedier society.  She is close to Mrs Sucksby, who she considers a mother figure, and other than their profession, life is pretty normal for Sue.  Or at least relatively so!  That all changes when Gentleman comes along.

Gentleman is known by Sue, Mrs Sucksby and the rest of the “family” as he dabbles in their trade and shows up quite often at their home.  One particular night when he shows up though, his objective is to get Sue on board with a scheme of his.  Gentleman is currently working as a tutor in the country home of a man and his wealthy niece, Maud Lilly.  Maud cannot receive her inheritance unless she is married.  As is well known of the time period, this really means her husband will inherit the money, which is all a part of Gentleman’s grand plan.  He wants Sue to come to the home as Maud’s maid and act as a go between for himself and Maud, all the while encouraging Maud to accept his favor.  In turn, he will convince Maud to marry him and become the controller of her fortune.  For her part, Sue will be rewarded with a fraction of the Lilly fortune.

The synopsis I gave you only begins to cover a few pages of what becomes one of the most plot riddled books of all time.  I mean that only in a good way.  Fingersmith can easily be equated to a roller coaster ride, because that is what it feels like.  The twists and turns that are thrown at the reader make it a thrilling book, with the reader having absolutely no idea what will be hurtled their way next.  It was the type of book that I would be gasping in shock through, which, who doesn’t love that!

The gothic element in Fingersmith is unparallel and is what Waters does best.  The grittiness of living in Victorian London coupled by the gloominess of Maud’s mansion was so palpable.  I felt like I was actually living there, completely involved in the story.  And I wanted to be there!

Sue and Maud were both such real characters.  The development was superb and they were both sympathetic despite their obvious faults.  In fact, I couldn’t decide who I cared for more.  I am pretty sure the honor would have to go to Sue though, as she was so misguided yet she never gave up.  Gentleman, on the other hand, was a complete lost cause.  You would be hard pressed to find a villain more vile than he.

Is it just me, or does it seem like I write the shortest reviews for the books I love the most?  The problem with writing a review for Fingersmith is that it is so good, you want to encourage everyone to read it, while not spoiling any of it.  I feel like it is best to write the barest of reviews while just expounding, over and over again, the fact that this is an excellent, phenomenal book.  This one will definitely be included in my Best of 2010 category.

Other Reviews:

Caribous Mom

You’ve GOTTA Read This!

Care’s Online Book Club

Rhapsody in Books

Fyrefly’s Book Blog

Book Lust

things mean a lot

A Guy’s Moleskin Notebook


The Zen Leaf

I bought this book from Barnes & Noble.

This book counts towards the Women Unbound challenge and the GLBT challenge.

9 Responses

  1. I loved this book, too, but think it’s a hard one to review… so much of it is plot!

  2. I had to laugh at your comment that the shortest reviews are for the best books! I think, yes – I KNOW, I do this, too. The shortest post I’ve written for a book was only one word: wow. (for Jhumpa Lahiri’s short stories)

  3. It’s very hard to review this book because so much of it has to be kept under wraps. But it is just the most fun! I’m so glad I took it on faith to read it without knowing what was in it!

  4. I wish so much that I could have liked this. :/

  5. I have yet to read any Sarah Waters, but I certainly intend to do so very soon! I think she’s an author who I’ll greatly enjoy, since I love a topsy turvy twisty book and I’ve really been getting back into Victorian-era fiction.

    Also, I completely understand what you mean about words failing you when you really love a book. It’s almost like you feel nothing you say could do the book justice… I struggle with this all the time! So much easier to slag off a book I hate!

  6. I think my shortest reviews are often for books that I didn’t particularly care for, but didn’t actively dislike, either. If I’ve got strong feelings about a book, either positive or negative, I can blather on for quite a bit longer. (Actually my shortest reviews are for graphic novel, but that’s because they’re typically so much shorter than regular books – less to discuss!)

    I liked a lot of the things you liked about this book – the atmosphere, the roller-coaster twists in the plotting, etc. – but as a whole I didn’t love it nearly as much as most people seem to.

  7. Yay for Fingersmith! I read this early in the year, and it still stands out as one of the best reads. Have you seen the movie yet? I really liked the movie as well; I thought it captured the mood of the book.

  8. I’m looking forward to this novel, and The Little Stranger, neither of which I’ve read. Thank goodness for bloggers to keep me informed and current!

  9. It was a nightmare writing down my thoughts on Fingersmith because I was aware that I couldn’t give anything away, lest it spoil the book for someone who had the misfortune of reading my thoughts prior to the book.

    I loved this book, and am glad you did too. Agree with you on Waters and the goth/Victorian themes. Also agree with you on the book being a rollercoaster ride, and a helluva ride at that too!

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