Monday, March 10, 2014

Sarah Waters, 2002

Premise: Susan Trinder was raised a thief, in a family of thieves. An older male friend convinces her to go in on a scheme to swindle a young gentlewoman out of her fortune, by posing as a maid. Think you know how this story goes? You’re wrong.

“When I try now to sort out who knew what and who knew nothing, who knew everything and who was a fraud, I have to stop and give it up, it makes my head spin.” - Susan, page 117

Fingersmith is a maze of lies, tangled history, pornography, madhouses, jails, thieves, murderers, and passion. Susan tells her story in the first person, but doesn’t give away much of what’s to come, just enough to darken her story with a great deal of foreboding. It’s an uncomfortable story in many ways, full of unhappy people acting out their unhappiness in desperate acts and hurting everyone around them. It’s completely compelling from first to last, though.

Sue and Maud (the aforementioned young lady) are the main characters. They are completely different in temperament and history, but are consistently drawn together.

Sue is determined to live up to (or down to) her mother: a burglar hung as a murderess. Maud has a complicated relationship with hers, a woman who died young, but visits her grave often. Sue has a substitute mother in Mrs. Sucksby, a woman who consorts with thieves and fosters and sells infants, who raised Sue from a child. Maud is raised by her uncle, an off-putting eccentric, obsessed with his books and studies.

Gentleman, a man of many names, is the catalyst for the story, but the women are always the heart of it. Sue is simple in ways, but good-hearted, clever and determined. Maud is emotionally cold, but brilliant, strong and focused. Neither of them are characters I might want to know personally, but both are characters I wanted to see happy, despite them often being at odds.

This book takes turns being a slow-burning mystery, a thriller, a drama, and a passionate romance. I’ve been reading a lot of books recently that I don’t want to tell you much about, and this is another. The first person account means that secrets and plots are revealed only slowly over the story. However, I will tell you what sold me on reading this one was knowing that it is a (small spoiler:) lesbian romance-thriller, plus it just sounded amazing.

5 Stars - An Awesome Book

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