Publisher: Riverhead Trade
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.
[Originally posted on Amazon 2/24/04]
This book is a true treasure. I feel like I made such a great discovery that day I found it on a display table in a book store. Ms. Waters’ writing is gripping and compelling, and her story telling ability is top notch. While the book partly involves a relationship between two women, it is not central to most of the story and the book should appeal to a broad range of readers.
Fingersmith has some dark and Gothic overtones, which makes it all the more flavorful of a read. The absolute best thing about this book, however, are the plot twists and turns. There are at least two points in the book where you simply don’t see what’s coming. I can’t remember having ever been that surprised by a writer and I loved it! (I literally let out an exclamation and dropped the book.)
If you enjoy books with historical settings, devious plot turns, wonderful writing, and/or unusual characters, then don’t pass this one up!
(Note: Tipping the Velvet by Waters is also an excellent read. The other book I’ve read of hers, Affinity, is only for those who don’t mind a dark story with no light to brighten it. It’s very well written like the others, and has some interesting plot turns, but left me feeling like I was sitting in a dark hole.)