Saturday, September 18, 2010

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

I don't remember how I discovered Sarah Waters but I enjoyed her book The Little Stranger so much that I've been on the lookout for her other books ever since. I found Fingersmith at a book sale - apparently unread by whoever donated it but they really should have read it. It's quite long but I read the last two-thirds of the book practically in one session, excited and in a rush to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Fingersmith is a slang term for a thief which is what most of the characters in this story are. Believe me, there is no honor among these particular thieves. A group of them have formed a sort of family in the slums of London, and they come up with a plot to make a huge amount of money. Sue Trinder, who has been raised as a daughter by the "mother" of the family, is sent to an estate in the countryside to be a ladies maid to an orphan, Maud Lilly. Maud is 17 years old and has been living for years with her cruel uncle in isolation from the world. Upon reaching 18 she will be wealthy.

And so the plot proceeds and things go along very slowly and I thought the book was dragging unnecessarily. Then suddenly the action picked up and I was astonished at a huge twist in the narration. Waters had led me right down the garden path. That turned out to be only the first turn-around of many in the story. Waters lets the reader become complacent and then, bang, everything changes in a heartbeat. These twists surprised me right up to the end of the book; I was almost breathless when I reached the end. Yet each curve the story took made perfect sense in retrospect

The narration is done by Sue and Maud alternately so the reader gets bits and pieces as known by each girl which you must put together like a jigsaw puzzle. Both characters are fascinating; especially as the story moves along and you learn more about them.

Part of the book is set in a madhouse where conditions are cruel enough to give you nightmares for a long time. I couldn't imagine how Waters was going to get her characters out of all the messes they were in, but of course eventually it all gets worked out. This is well worth the time to read. If you buy it, I am an Amazon Associate.

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