Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Look about you, Maud. Step to the window, look into the street. There is life, not fiction. It is hard, it is wretched. ~ Sarah Waters, Fingersmith
Fingersmith by award winning author Sarah Waters is a shrewd thriller set in England during the Victorian era. This novel is packed full of mystery and deception with a dash of lesbian love affair. Waters explores the dark and dirty deeds carried out by London opportunists. Some are so appalling I couldn't possibly mention them in this post. Which is a reason why so many adore Waters work. She isn't afraid to go beyond the conscionable, but she has the unique ability to present the dirty with class, rendering it appropriate for reading.
It's hard to sum up a historical fiction novel such as this, without spoilers. Fingersmith is composed of many plot twists and deception. Essentially everyone is trying to swindle everyone, but they all trust each other for reasons unknown to me. The story begins with a young orphaned woman, Sue Trinder, who is persuaded by a swindler nicknamed Gentlemen, to become handmaiden to Maud Lilly, a naive orphaned heiress who's confined to her Uncle's dilapidated estate in the London countryside. The plan is to convince Maud to marry Gentleman, and upon receiving her inheritance, dispose of Maud in a lunatic asylum.
The characters are done well. Waters has brought out the depth of their souls, and isn't afraid to create the worst sort of people. Sarah Waters has an excellent grasp of Victorian era England which shines throughout this sordid story. However, there were many parts I found offensive. I'm not by any means a puritan or ignorant to the woes of the world, but Waters definitely pushes the bounds. There were also many parts of this story that drug on. The book is a hefty 592 pages and most certainly could be condensed for better flow. Despite it's length though, Fingersmith is thrilling and I had a hard time putting the book down. Even though I didn't understand the overlying scheme nor the characters reasons for agreeing to the con. I felt the plot had many holes and maybe Waters was attempting to be overly crafty.
Waters research into the lunatic asylums during the Victorian Era is impressive. She not only details the atrocities of them, but notes how they were filled mostly with women. A fact I had not considered until reading this novel and I do plan to research these asylums more and their impact.
I recommend this book for fans of Sarah Waters and people who enjoy the dank alleys of London. If you love intrigue and plot twits and don't mind trudging through an overwritten book to reach the conclusion, then Fingersmith is for you.
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