Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

fingersmithFingersmith by Sarah Waters
2002
582 Pages
5/5 (Easily)

Where do I even begin to describe this book? Can I just say it’s genius and go read it and leave it at that? That wouldn’t be right after all the time I spent with it. It took me nearly two months to read this book. And it’s not because it wasn’t good, it was. I’ve just had so much going on recently. When I did sit down with it, I’d read it in 50-100 page chunks and read the last 200 pages in the last two days. Seriously, how have I lived this long without Sarah Waters in my life? I shall no longer go Waters-less, let me tell ya!

This book has everything. It’s a dark mystery set in 19th century London. There’s an amazing cast of characters that are wonderfully developed. There’s lesbians. There’s insane asylums. There’s a very dark, mysterious, gothic overtone to the whole novel. There are twists and turns a plenty that make you gasp for air. The ambiance and the atmosphere is expertly crafted. I really couldn’t have asked for anything more in a novel than this.

As I said, Fingersmith takes place in 19th century London and it’s surrounding area. Mrs. Sucksby runs a very secretive and mischievous home where she cares for orphans who steal and pawn for her and she in turn gives them a place to stay and feeds them. One of her children is Sue. Sue is the child that is most near and dear to Mrs. Sucksby. Sue never knew her own mother. She was only told that she was once a fingersmith herself that was eventually hung for murder. The tenants of Mrs. Sucksby’s home are always looking for a way to make money, so when a man who is simply called Gentleman arrives with a scheme to make Sue and Mrs. Sucksby rich, she is unable to pass it up.

Sue is to be a servant to a young woman named Maud who lives in a town called Briar, outside of London in the country. The scheme is that Maud is to inherit a great sum of money once she is married. Sue is to convince Maud that she should marry Gentleman so that the money becomes available and the plan is to then send Maud to an insane asylum leaving both Sue and Gentleman with all of the money. But plans don’t always turn out as they seem. Sometimes nothing is as it seems. But that’s all revealed as the book progresses and I’ll leave that for you to discover.

What I will talk about a little bit is the relationship between Maud and Sue. This is where Waters shows her true genius as a writer, I think. Maud is a simple girl when Sue meets her. She has lived her life holed up in her mansion writing and cataloguing books for her mad uncle. She spends her days walking through the garden or staring out of a dreary window. She seems haunted in a way. There is trickery abound between Sue and Maud, yet a relationship forms between the two. Here Sue is trying to fool her mistress, but she forms true feelings for her and it’s a delicate line to balance. The writing in the scenes between the two of them at Briar was just beautiful and I was truly saddened when that part of the book ended. I felt for the characters that that part of their lives had ended.

There’s so much to this book that is just gorgeous, so much that is eerie, so much that is wrong, so much that is all just a perfect catastrophe (in a good way). I can’t wait to delve into more of Sarah Waters work! I have The Night Watch and Affinity sitting here waiting for me and I’m soon to acquire Tipping the Velvet. This is one that I think can be appreciated by anyone regardless of what your favorite genre is. Give it a go, you won’t be disappointed.

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24 Responses

  1. I loved this book so much! I haven’t read Affinity yet, but Night Watch is amazing. Tipping the Velvet, I don’t know, I liked it A LOT, but Fingersmith and Night Watch are my two favorites. So far! She is still young and can write loads more books before she is done. πŸ˜€

  2. I LOVED this book as well. Great review.

  3. Thanks for the review, I’ll have to put this one on my TBR. Found ya through Book blogs, fellow JP resident, was looking for some kind of local book club or something.

  4. I’m reading Waters’ books in published order; I read Affinity last month (which I found a touch disappointing…still awesome, but I think I hold Waters to insanely high standard after Tipping the Velvet), so now I can read Fingersmith! Yay! πŸ˜€

  5. Jenny, I’m so excited about Night Watch!! I’m going to try to squeeze that one in for RIP too, but it’s a bit of a chunkster as well. We’ll see what happens. I’m so excited that she’s a young-in. How old is she by the way? Do you know? I just can’t wait to see what her future holds!

    Diane, Thanks!! It really was a great one!

    Rachel, Woohoo!!! I can’t tell you how excited I am to find another local book blogger. I didn’t know you existed, lol. I though I was the only book blogger in Louisiana, lol. I’m totally subscribing to your blog now! As for book clubs, I don’t do that circuit. But let me know if you find a cool one!

    Eva, I really want to read Tipping the Velvet next…but I really want to read The Night Watch too…and I really want to read The Little Stranger! This is what I hate about choices 😦 Nymeth! I need your help!! Where do I go next? LOL. You’re going to love Fingersmith, I just know it…I can’t see how you wouldn’t!

  6. Great review! I don’t know why I’ve put off reading Waters for so long. Everything I’ve heard about her is fantastic! Of course, I did just pick up Tipping the Velvet at the library today. Let’s hope it’s as good as this one!

  7. I have slowly collected all four of her books and still haven’t read them. Even though I have been told so many times how good they are. I would like to get them read before I buy Little Stranger.

  8. this looks great christ! i’d always been aware of it – simply because of the cool cover, but had never considered reading it.

    apparently it echoes dickens as well as collins’ “woman in white” – now, considering i love both dickens and “the woman in white” i’m sure i’d love this too! even more so as it’s not just referential but develops past its victorian sources. this sounds great! πŸ˜€

  9. Ooh! I went and bought this after reading Nymeth’s review, and you have just reminded me of how excited I was to read it! Great review, thanks.

  10. in checking this out it appears it is a book that follows Affinity. I can’t get into a new series..trying to get a post up about that. But glad you finally finished this and enjoyed it..as you know I am only amazed when you don’t like a book!

  11. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Chris! I’m not sure where I’d go next…I haven’t found any of her books disappointment, so to me she can do no wrong πŸ˜€ Tipping the Velvet seems to be a big favourite, but I’m saving it so I don’t run out of Sarah Waters too soon.

  12. I hate it when I spot a typo just the second after I click submit, and then hit the stop button repeatedly to no avail 😦 *disappointING

  13. you didn’t post this on the mr linky review board!

  14. Y’know how something you’ve never heard of suddenly comes on your radar and you’re suddenly seeing it EVERYWHERE?

    I had never heard of Sarah Waters or this book until Monday when the BBC version caught my eye on my Netflix meanderings and then yesterday I noticed the title again with Waters’ other stuff on my weekly volunteer shift at the LGBT Center library. This morning your review popped up. It’s SO WEIRD!

    Anyway now I have the fates AND a positive review pushing me forward, so this has made the list.

  15. Oh man, sounds like you easily loved this one as much as Ana did! Good thing, I picked it up after Ana’s review, or I’d have to go out and buy it today. And I’m supposed to be on a book buying ban!

    Sounds like this definitely would work for RIP, huh?

  16. I am very, very nervous about this book. I haven’t known too many people to read/review it (Nymeth, my husband, and now you), but you’ve all just loved it so much that I worry I’ve got too high of expectations. I’ve sort of been avoiding it. Sigh. I’ve seen it on peoples’ RIP lists, though, so maybe I’ll include it on mine, too.

  17. I LOVED Fingersmith and Affinity is great too. I can’t wait to read Sarah Water’s The Little Stranger…

  18. Steph, From what I’ve heard, it’s VERY good!! You should definitely read it!!

    Vivienne, Oooh, start with this one pleeeeeeease! It’s so good! I’d love to read your thoughts on it πŸ˜‰

    JP, I haven’t read Wilkie Collins, so I can’t speak for that, but it DEFINITELY echoes Dickens. It reminded me lots of Dickens actually…but with an evil, sinister twist.

    Mariel, Thank you! I’m sure you’ll love it.

    Deslily, No!! You have to read it, lol. I actually thought about you while I was reading this one. It’s a stand-alone as far as I know. It follows Affinity as far as she wrote it after Affinity but I don’t think it’s a series. Definitely works as a stand alone novel. Such a good book. I really think you’d like this one! Seems like your kind of thing!! And I thought I did post it on the Mr. Linky 😦 Going to have to go check!

    Nymeth, You worry too much about typos :p I didn’t even notice that and LORD knows I have more typos than ANYONE! Ok…I think I may read Tipping the Velvet next then! But, but..I realy want to read The Night Watch too!

    Scott, It’s a sign!!!! You have to read it! I just found the BBC production of it on Netflix too and put it on my queue right away. If it’s half as good as the book, it should be a really cool miniseries.

    Debi, I really did love it! If you’re on a book buying ban, you can always get it from the library, right?

    Amanda, Trust me, you have nothing to be nervous about! I had really high expectations for this one too but it actually exceeded them. Don’t avoid it any longer….go read it! There’s a reason it gets so much respect πŸ˜‰

    Amanda A, Glad you liked them so much too! I can’t wait to read that one too!

  19. I seriously want to read this one!! Now I just need to find the time!! πŸ™‚

  20. I really want to read this book but haven’t got around to it yet.

  21. I really must read more Sarah Waters. I read Fingersmith a couple of years ago, thought it was utterly brilliant and then didn’t read anything more by her. Which is stpuid because I have Affinity and Night Watch so there’s no excuse. And her latest one – a ghost yarn – sounds amazing too!

  22. Great review! I have this on my TBR list.

  23. Excellent review! I was looking for one to send to a reluctant friend–someone else’s good opinion would carry more weight than mine, I guess. πŸ™‚

    For the person above who thought this is part of a series, it is definitely not! The only similarity between Fingersmith and Affinity is the time period in which they are set.

    These are my two favorite of SW’s books; I just didn’t enjoy The Little Stranger much, and perhaps the Night Watch would fare better with a second reading, although I suspect my main problem with it is simply that it’s not another Victorian. πŸ™‚ There’s something about the secretiveness necessary in Victorian times for these women that I relish. I would love to find other, similar books, (anyone have suggestions?) but I know they won’t live up to SW’s level of perfection.

    Right now, I have “The Remarkable Journey of Miss Tranby Quirke” and “Galveston 1900” on my tbr list. We shall see…

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