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Fingersmith Paperback – October 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews Review

Fingersmith is the third slice of engrossing lesbian Victoriana from Sarah Waters. Although lighter and more melodramatic in tone than its predecessor, Affinity, this hypnotic suspense novel is awash with all manner of gloomy Dickensian leitmotifs: pickpockets, orphans, grim prisons, lunatic asylums, "laughing villains," and, of course, "stolen fortunes and girls made out to be mad." Divided into three parts, the tale is narrated by two orphaned girls whose lives are inextricably linked. Waters's penchant for byzantine plotting can get a bit exhausting, but even at its densest moments--and remember, this is smoggy London circa 1862--it remains mesmerizing. A damning critique of Victorian moral and sexual hypocrisy, a gripping melodrama, and a love story to boot, this book ingeniously reworks some truly classic themes. --Travis Elborough, --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

In Victorian London, the orphaned Sue Trinder is raised by Mrs. Sucksby, den mother to a family of thieves, or "fingersmiths." To repay Mrs. Sucksby's kindness, Sue gets involved in a scam but soon regrets it. From the award-winning author of Tipping the Velvet.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 582 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1st edition (October 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1573229725
  • ISBN-13: 978-1573229722
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1.3 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (506 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Waters is the bestselling author of Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch. Winner of many literary awards, she has been shortlisted for both the Man Booker and Orange Prizes. She lives in London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

172 of 178 people found the following review helpful By Eric Anderson on October 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sarah Waters' third novel begins simply enough. Sue Trinder is a teenage orphan who lives amongst a group of confidence men, thieves, baby farmers and fingersmiths (a 19th-century term for a pickpockets). An unscrupulous man commonly and ironically known as Gentleman compels Sue to join in his plot to win the heart of an elderly bookish man's niece named Maud. Maud is heiress to a fortune, but she can only claim it if she marries. The plan is: win the lady, ditch the wife in an insane asylum and split the fortune. Sue becomes Maud's maid and when the plot is reaching its timely conclusion is the exact point where it is fractured and split like a forest path into numerous twisting paths revealing long held secrets and hidden strife. Sue and Maud are made to endure separate trials in their journey including the incarceration in a mad house, the subjection of reading and transcribing appalling pornography to a perverted old man and a dangerous journey through treacherous London in search of a friend in order for them to discover what their true pasts consist of and what predestined traits may tweak their futures.
It is fitting that at the beginning of this novel a reference is made to Dickens' Oliver Twist. Fingersmith is a novel descended from Dickens voluminous library as well as much 19th century sensualist fiction. Waters skilled use of language to evoke characters and a sense of place through physical detail and psychological mapping of experience is a distinct characteristic of this descent. She also has a tremendous ability to use fabulous names such as (Mrs Sucksby and Miss Bacon) as Dickens did to mark poignant traits of her characters.
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86 of 92 people found the following review helpful By Dianna Setterfield on June 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
After reading and enjoying Sarah Waters's previous novels, I knew Fingersmith would meet my expectations. However, I had no idea! Fingersmith, as usual, had the gorgeous, atmospheric qualities that I think is Sarah Waters's trademark. And of course, the writing is simply genius. But more than that, Fingersmith is fantastic -- this novel told a darn good story.
Set again in 19th century London, Fingersmith begins with Sue Trinder's tale as an orphan and a thief. She lives in a house filled with other orphaned babies and an assortment of pickpockets, or "fingersmiths," along with the lady of the house, Mrs. Sucksby, who took care of Sue since she was an infant. Now 17, Sue's opportunity to show her appreciation to Mrs. Sucksby finally comes -- in the form of Gentleman, a seedy con man and friend of the household. Gentleman is armed with a plan to make them all rich and enlists Sue as his helper. But things aren't always what they seem, and as the plan unfolds, all sorts of secrets and twists come unraveled.
Fingersmith is everything I had hoped it would be -- beautiful writing, a stunning cast of characters, and a riveting, compelling storyline. I was helplessly drawn into the slums of London as well as the drab, solemn English countryside where Sue and Gentleman spend their days spinning their treacherous web. I will admit that there weren't as many shocking surprises (for me, anyway) like Affinity, but this novel was much like Tipping the Velvet in how it pulls in the reader from the beginning with a rousing good story. I can't enough good things about Sarah Waters, her novels, and her talent. She's exceptional, and Fingersmith is nothing less than stellar.
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33 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
Sarah Waters' third novel "Fingersmith" is both a critical and popular favourite. It has been shortlisted for several book awards including the Booker Prize. Waters herself has attracted much attention from literary circles since the publication of her first two novels "Tipping The Velvet" and "Affinity", both of which have won her many accolades. The former has even been made into a TV movie by the BBC. So what's the fuss about ? I'd say it's down to the fact that Waters has created a niche for herself writing fiction the way the old masters used to. Her style cannot be further away from the rabid excesses of many contemporary writers who try to pass off bad for inventive writing. Waters' eloquent and long flowing sentences recall the style of classical writers like Charles Dickens. Her craft lies in pure storytelling - about petty criminals, thiefs, pickpockets, damsels in distress, etc all in a Victorian setting - but with a strong dash of the new feminist sensibility that brings her story bang up-to-date.....and it works !
"Fingersmith" at more than 500 pages long may be overwritten but it is superbly crafted and a truly compelling read. Sure, there's drama, mystery, suspense and great characterisation but it isn't the fearsome mindbender the blurbs make it out to be. After you have recovered from the jaw dropping shock that Waters has laid in store for you at the close of the first segment, the other twists and turns that ensue aren't that difficult to follow. In fact, they're fairly predictable but that's a compliment, not a criticism, because it shows Waters cares more about her story's integrity than delivering cheap shocks.
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