Thursday, 24 June 2010

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

After being suitably impressed with Sarah Waters writing in The Little Stranger and after reading a lot of cries of ‘read Fingersmith, read Fingersmith’ in the comments section on that post I was looking forward to sitting down with this Victorian yarn.

Sue is an orphan; her mother was hanged for murder, so Sue has been brought up by Mrs Sucksby and her little gang of thieves in the underbelly of London when a seemingly good opportunity arrives. If she helps her friend ‘Gentleman’ woo a rich girl named Maud into marrying him she will earn herself £3,000 of this girls fortune when Gentleman completes his plan to commit his new wife to an asylum. Well aside from the moral implication of committing a perfectly sane girl to an asylum for the rest of her days this is a good opportunity for Sue, so she agrees to work as Maud’s personal maid in the country all the while pushing her towards Gentleman.

This is a very plot driven book with lots of cliff-hangers, parts are sometimes told by different points of view and nothing is quite what it seems.

Most of the book is narrated by Sue and I enjoyed reading her voice the most. She had quite a straight-forward and sarcastic voice which sometimes made me chuckle and I enjoyed her observations about her new role and the servants who work there.

“It was all the most trifling sort of nonsense, and enough to make a cat laugh; but it was life and death to them – I suppose, it would be life and death to you, if all you had to look forward to for the next forty years was carrying trays and baking pastry. Anyway, I saw that, if I was to get anywhere with them, I must watch my steps”

Unfortunately I did not enjoy Maud’s narration as much as it didn’t have as much spark as Sues, although given her circumstances this is more realistic.

While I preferred the character development and overall message in The Little Stranger there is something to be said for a good plot which manages to keep you engrossed and on your toes. Sarah Waters has also impressed me once again with her writing and the images she creates, she manages to twist the genre by having Maud not fall in love with her hansom suitor but with her maid, further complicating the plan. Waters manages to capture whatever atmosphere she is writing about whether it is the back streets of London or the inside of an asylum and while some of the twists were a little unbelievable, as a reader I was still swept along with it.

A gripping and tantalising read, you could do a lot worse than pick this one up.

Verdict 4/5

Posted by Jess


  1. Fingersmith is one of my all time favourite books. I just love the complex plot and all those twists emerged in Victorian atmosphere. I thought that The Little Stanger wasn't anywhere near as good as Fingersmith, but perhaps that just shows how much I rate plot over character development :-)

  2. Jackie - I preferred Fingersmith overall and thats the one I would recommend but I did like the whole thing about the demise of the middle classes which was focased on in the little stranger. I did love Sue though.

  3. sounds good, though the title kind of turns me off.
    maybe I'll check out the Little Stranger first. :-)

  4. Well, I just added both to my "wish list" on Paperback Book Swap, so we'll see which one surfaces first! They both have been on my list of books to read. Thanks for the review!

  5. I do rate Fingersmith i must say and really enjoyed reading your review. have you read Affinity? I think that is absolutely brilliant and most underated.

    Bon weekend

  6. brizmus & Elisabeth - I would recommend reading Fingersmith first as it will keep you on your toes. The little Stranger is much more of a slow read.

    Hannah - I havent read Affinity, out of all her books that seems to be the one with the most mixed reviews. I do have The night watch though.

  7. Hi Jess - great review: I made the mistake which people should never make of watching the TV adaptation before reading the book - but it's actually really good!
    I'm one of the people who enjoyed Affinity - in fact, it might even be my favourite Sarah Waters.

  8. teadevotee - I think I will read affinity at some point as the some people like yourself loved it.

  9. Great review. I read this one with really high expectations. I wasn't let down, but I wish I'd read it without knowing anything about it.