Sarah Waters – Fingersmith
It’s the 1860s, and Lant Street, a dodgy street near Southwark Bridge, is inhabited by petty thieves, small-time burglars, piddling swindlers and the like. Here lives Sue Trinder, a seventeen year old, with Mrs. Sucksby (her guardian), and Mr. Ibbs (a man who fences stolen items), along with a bunch of infants, unwanted in this world, who Mrs. Sucksby brings up and introduces to the world of small crime; and, some adolescent pickpockets (or, “fingersmiths”, if you like).
We were all more or less thieves at Lant Street. But we were that kind of thief that rather eased the dodgy deed along, than did it . We could pass anything, anything at all, at speeds which would astonish you.
One day, Gentleman, a fraudster who was born into a rich cultured family, but went wayward with time, comes to visit (as he oft’ does), with a proposal: He wants to take Sue to become a maid to a rich heiress (standing to get the money upon marriage) who lives at The Briar (a dark miserable place, where the sun never seems to shine), with an eccentric Uncle: Maud. Maud is unaware of how much she is worth, and she is supposed to be a lady in all rights. Sue’s job is simple: make Maud her confidante, and convince her to marry Gentleman. After marriage, Gentleman will have Maud committed to a mad person’s home (lunatic asylum), and, take her fortune as his own. Sue will get £3,000 for her role in the affair, and while she is slightly dubious about the plan, she agrees, to make Mrs. Sucksby and Mr. Ibbs proud.
And so, after being trained by Gentleman, Sue heads to The Briar, and seeks to get the wheels in motion. Everything is going exactly according to the plan: the Gentleman arrives, Maud is completely smitten, they plan the elopement, and Sue helps at every stage.
However, just as you, the reader, thinks everything is happening as planned, and the plot falls into place, Waters does an incredible job of delivering twist after twist – things that you’d never expect, but that doesn’t come across as unbelievable. It’s a book about love, jealousy, betrayal and a web of lies, that seems to spin deeper and deeper, denser and denser. It’s dark, ruthless, and sinister. The characters almost float off the page and dance before you, just as if to prove how real they are. However, despite being descriptive, the book isn’t dull at any stage. Instead, it grips you, and you just keep turning the page, desperate to know what happens next. And… with amazing skill, Waters ensures that you’re always guessing… for nothing is as it seems.
Filed under: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, Booker Prize Shortlist, Books 2009, Guardian 1000, Orange Prize Shortlist, Review, Sarah Waters, Suspense/Thriller | 9 Comments
Tags: London, Sarah Waters, Victorian Society