Susan Trinder has grown up in a house of thieves, raised by Mrs Sucksby. She has been well-loved and cared for so, when the mysterious Gentleman shows up on their doorstep with an intriguing plot, she agrees to help in order to earn her fortune and repay them. Sue is to go as a maid to the heiress, Maud Lilly, and help Gentleman win her hand and, therefore, her fortune. It seems a simple enough con, but the more time Sue spends with Maud, the more she likes her. Loves her. And she finds that it isn't so simple, after all.
That is a general, bland plot summary of Fingersmith
, but it barely covers it. It is better to go into Fingersmith
with as little knowledge as possible. It is better to come at it blind, and discover for yourself.
As I read, I kept trying to guess how it would end, what would happen next, but Sarah Waters surprised me at every turn. When I was reading, I couldn't shake this ominous, horrible feeling, but my guess as to the cause of that feeling was completely wrong. I was shocked, saddened, and angered in turn (but, in the way you want a novel to shock, sadden and anger you). I stayed up until twenty to four in the morning because I had to know how it ended. When I finished, I could barely sleep.
It's hard to describe Fingersmith
without giving too much away, but the theme of the novel is deception, and how the truth will find a way to come out.
Yes, it has lesbians, but that's only a very small part of the story. It strengthens the drama, perhaps, but the novel would still have been just as powerful if Susan and Maud were only friends.
Sarah Waters is an excellent craftswoman. Her characters are a big strength, but in Fingersmith
the plot almost outshines them. Almost. To be honest, I struggled with myself. Every time I found myself sympathising, I was suddenly reminded of the bad things they had done. This is a great feature of Fingersmith
: even though most of the characters have done awful things, you still can't help but want them to succeed.
I also love the language. It's almost like reading a classic Victorian-era novel, except that (for me at least) it is a lot more accessible. Her descriptions are spot on and her speech, capturing different dialogues and accents, is impeccable.
If you're hesitating, just give Fingersmith
a try. It is much more than it first will seem.