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New York Times Book Review: 6/40
New Yorker: 0/36
New York Review of Books: 0/20
Vogue: 1/16
Email: 841/1373

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

Title: Fingersmith

Author: Sarah Waters

Publication Date: 2002

No. of Pages: 592

Synopsis (from B&N) : "A spellbinding, twisting tale of a great swindle, of fortunes and hearts won and lost, set in Victorian London among a family of thieves.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby's household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves-fingersmiths-for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives-Gentleman, a somewhat elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud's vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be left to live out her days in a mental hospital. With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways . . . . But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and surprises."

Fiction or Nonfiction: Fiction

Comments and Critique: I love suspense stories and this one is a great modern example. There were a number of times throughout the book when it took a turn or twist that I hadn't seen coming, and it really kept the story moving along. For other comments, see my responses to the Weekly Geeks questions below.

Would You Recommend This Book to Others: Absolutely.

Challenges: 10 Out of 100 Out of 1001 Challenge; Complete Booker; Man Booker Challenge; Orbis Terrarum Challenge

Weekly Geeks questions:

Joy Renee asked about the technique and art of storytelling. Some of her questions included:

How was Point-of-View handled? Was there a single POV character or did it alternate among two or more. Was it always clear whose eyes and mind were filtering?

The author alternated POV between characters and this use added to overall feeling of the book. The alternation only happened a couple of times and so it wasn't difficult to keep up with who was telling the story. I wonder if it wouldn't have been more effective to switch POV more often, but maybe the author considered that and discarded it.

How was language used to set tone and mood? Was the prose dense or spare? Were sentences generally simple or complex?

Sentences were generally simple -- there was never a time when I found myself wondering what the author meant or feeling that I had missed something. Given that the story is set in Victorian times, I do think the author didn't quite get the conversational tones just right. At times, it seemed that the characters spoke in too modern a tone, using terms that we use now but people probably didn't then.

How does the title relate to the story? Was it fitting?

From what I can gather, a "fingersmith" is a thief, so I'd say that the title was fitting. The term doesn't show up in either the OED or the American Heritage Dictionary and I'd never heard it before, so I wonder if it's slang that Americans had never been exposed to?


Tricia said...

I've heard great things about Sarah Waters but I haven't read anything by her yet. Thanks for your review!