Author: Sarah Waters
Publication Date: 10/1/02
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Blurb (GR): Growing up as a foster child among a family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder hopes to pay back that kindness by playing a key role in a swindle scheme devised by their leader, Gentleman, who is planning to con a fortune out of the naive Maud Lily, but Sue's growing pity for their helpless victim could destroy the plot.
Fingersmith packs quite a few twists and surprises.
At first, after reading the book's plot summary, I expected it to be a rompish, Les Liaisons Dangereuses-like adventure. 17-year old Susan Trinder, a foster kid in a family of fingersmiths (thieves), is recruited to act as a lady's maid to equally young and wealthy Maud Lilly. Susan's role in the devious scheme is to gently push this naive and simple-minded girl into the arms of Mr. Rivers, strip Ms. Lilly of her inheritance and then dump her in a madhouse.
Needless to say, the story didn't quite turn out to be about a man seducing an innocent girl out of her knickers and money. Like every other reviewer, I will refrain from revealing anything more of the plot. Let's just say, Fingersmith becomes a much, much darker tale full of violence, abuse, betrayal, dark secrets and a little bit of girl love (not explicit like in Tipping the Velvet). Nothing in this novel is what it appears to be on the surface.
Very few modern authors manage to write historical fiction that sounds authentic. Sarah Waters is one of the few that can do it exceptionally. I haven't read much Dickens to enter a flowery comparison here, but Waters' prose is very much on par with the best 19th century writers, only slightly more explicit and touching on the subject hushed out in the mainstream fiction of that era (I am talking porn and reprehensible way of treating wealthy women behind closed doors and in houses for crazies).
Knocked down a star for the not long enough ending and necessary to the plot, but nevertheless often redundant, middle part.