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1.10.2013

A Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters


To think that I waited as long as I did to read this title makes me twitch a little. To think I might not have ever picked it up if it weren't for a couple of reviews I stumbled upon recently makes me worry. What could I potentially be missing out on? So many books!

Sue Trinder has led a quiet life of thieving in the sprawling and dirty streets of nineteenth century London. Ms. Sucksby, a mother figure to Sue, has managed to hold onto her for 17 years despite her occupation of farming infants and dealing with the crooked. When a man, only known as Gentleman, appears with a job that he believes only Sue will be able to complete, she recognizes her chance to be the prize Ms. Sucksby has always hoped she would be. A sinister plan to dupe the naive Maud Lilly, a lonely girl kept in a country house by her overbearing uncle, into accepting Sue as lady's maid, and eventually running off with the dashing Mr. Rivers (Gentleman himself) is soon underway. When the entire job seems to turn quite unexpectedly, readers are taken through madhouses in a world without regulations, the slums of London's back alleys and an unsympathetic period when you didn't know who you could trust.

I recently became acquainted with Sarah Waters this past fall when I completed The Little Stranger. The folks participating in the RIP Challenge had decided to create a readalong and I thought it seemed like something I could read around the same time and have some resources to review as well. Ok, so I admit that I never wrote a review. I enjoyed The Little Stranger for the strength of her writing, technically speaking. Waters can build an atmosphere, create distinct characters and force the reader to stumble through an intended confusion that seems unending (this is a compliment). However, her pacing, is another story. While The Little Stranger was creepy and perfectly haunted, it was really slow. The action is actually so slow in coming that you might miss it when it does because I'll admit that at times I zoned out while reading.

While the pacing is certainly a lot faster in Fingersmith, there are pieces that could probably have been edited and removed. There seems to be lulls in actions for 30 or more pages in order to let all the little details fall into place so that the whole story moves like one well-oiled machine. Basically, if you dig Wilkie Collins and his unending internal dialogue about watching a pin drop, you're going to love Fingersmith.

Ok, so that last bit sounded snarky and insincere. But I love Wilkie Collins and I loved Fingersmith. If you've read The Woman in White, expect the beginning to be essentially the same TWiW plot, but make it two ladies and a whole lot more deception.

It's after this point that things become really exciting. However, it's also the point where it seems a little dull even though it's imperative to the whole cohesion requisite. I want to talk about it so much more but don't want to spoil it because there are so many surprises that really make the novel stand out. I'll say, without giving it away, that I enjoyed the difference in romantic perspective, the questions raised about the ways in which women could live during this period, and the inability to determine the outcome until it was staring me in the face. My only issue was that some of the characters seemed to have the same voices. This irked me a bit, but didn't really take anything from the story in the long run.

The entire novel was a joy to read. I highly recommend it to anyone not afraid to tackle a real door stopper that's full of detail and big story. Waters is such a talented storyteller and I can't wait to read more of her work.

Read Fingersmith? Let me know what you think (please note spoilers for other readers)! Thinking about picking it up? Do it!!!

19 comments:

  1. Just added this to my To-Read list...thanks for the rec!

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    1. Awesome! Let me know what you think if you do!

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  2. I loved this book so I'm quite glad to see your review of it :)

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    1. Yes! It's really great - we are spreading the word!

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  3. I dread to think of all the amazing books in the world I will never read!
    Sarah Waters has never really appealed to me but I LOVE Wilkie Collins so I might have to reassess!

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    1. Sam, For some reason I would've though you would really like her work. Let me know if you give it a try. I would recommend this over The Little Stranger. A great book, but the pacing is slooooow.

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  4. I love, love, love Fingersmith! I read it several years ago and have since read all of Waters's other novels (Fingersmith is still my favorite, but I also really enjoyed Affinity and The Night Watch). I love her writing style, her skill at creating settings, and all the twists and turns. As soon as I reached Part II of Fingersmith, I knew it was going to be one of my favorites. My one issue with it is the ending, which felt a little too clean and romantic. But obviously that didn't flaw the book very much for me :)

    Sorry for all the rambling but I just love when I see someone else has read Fingersmith :-) I should read it again soon (it's been over 5 years now, I think).

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    1. Renee,
      Glad to see your enthusiasm! I love when I stumble upon reviews of books I've gushed about. I have to read all of her novels now because she really is so great. I kept trying to guess what would happen next but just couldn't even put my finger on it. She's great at building the suspense and leading you in the wrong direction. Love it! The ending was DEFINITELY too calm and very abrupt. I kind of expected it - the only bit I could guess. I wanted more confrontation because HELLO! they both tried to ruin the other, but I guess I might be missing some other piece of the puzzle and it was all intentional? Give it a reread - it's the perfect gray day read.

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  5. I've seen so many reviews of this lately (probably a lot of the same ones as you!) and I'm really excited to read it! I was not at all a fan of The Little Stranger, and I thought that Tipping the Velvet could have been better, but I own this, so I'm definitely going to read it. Probably sooon :)

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    1. Yeah, The Little Stranger was good until the middle and very end. I didn't think it was ever going to end but she really had a way of keeping me hooked on the book. I guess I just had to know what the house held. I've heard rave reviews of Tipping the Velvet so I'll probably pick that one up next and then move onto The Night Watch. Let me know what you think of this one if you get around to it!

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  6. I didn't read The Little Stranger because spooky and I are not really friends. But I'm glad to know that Waters has other books so I can experience her writing without sitting up at night! Thanks for a balanced review. :)

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    1. The Little Stranger was spooky but probably not as much as you would imagine. However, I can understand staying away from those type of reads; I'm the same way about scary movies!

      This is a suspense novel with some great twists and turns and just a great story, in general. Let me know if you decide to check it out!

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  7. I'd never even heard of this until you mentioned it on Twitter a while back, and your review only has me more convinced. I haven't read The Woman in White (I got a copy for Christmas, though, so it is definitely on my list!), but I loved The Moonstone so hopefully that will carry over into enjoying these, even the slow bits.

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    1. Kerry,
      Sarah Waters is quite the storyteller. She's quickly becoming one of my go-to writers! The storyline is very similar to The Woman in White. I haven't read The Moonstone (hoping to remedy that soon), but have heard that you should love TWIW if you enjoyed it. Let me know if you decide to read this! I think you'd really enjoy it!

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  8. I love Wilkie Collins but I've never heard of Sarah Waters. I think there is such a gap between American and European books, even if they are bestsellers! Thanks for pointing this out :)

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    1. I believe that Sarah Waters is a writer from the UK and actually learned about her through the blogging community. I think these were released quite some time ago so it could be the time too. Please let me know if you do!

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  9. I enjoyed The Little Stranger when I first read it a year or two ago. I also have Tipping the Velvet and Affinity on my shelves. I need to add Fingersmith as well!

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  10. And I added Fingersmith to my shelves already. Went to sell a box of books back to my UBS and picked this one up while I was there. :D

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    1. Andi, I'd love to see what you think! I have a feeling you'll really enjoy it. I enjoyed The Little Stranger BUT loved Fingersmith. I can't wait to read more of her work.

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