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!!!