Fingersmith – Sarah Waters

September 22, 2016 § 2 Comments

First published in the English in 2002


It’s been such a long time since I’ve read a book that got me so completely immersed in the story, the telling of it, that it felt like I had dove into the deep end of a pool with dark water and no light. It was uneasy at first, to feel like I had so little power over my own emotions (I was feeling rather desperate and nervous, as if I was Sue Trinder herself). Going deeper into the story, though, I had thought the mood would lighten up, or that I would stop feeling so dreadful, and start enjoying it for the book that it is. But that didn’t happen. Just as the desperation escalates to a high point, I found myself yelling, in my head, and my heart, “Oh, shit!”

I did not see that coming. Sue Trinder did not see that coming.

The book I have includes this one-liner from A.N. Wilson:

Such a brilliant writer… her readers would believe anything she told them.

How true that is. But for me, it was not only believable. It was the truth. It was THE truth. It was real. It was there, and it happened the way she told it.

She has a way of storytelling that just leads you in and, as if on drugs, you simply cannot pull away. She’s telling you something, and there’s no other reality but hers.

It was painful to be Sue Trinder.

She grows up with a gang of thieves, fingersmiths, in a dark part of London in the 1860s. One day, she’s presented with an opportunity to make her fortune, to repay the kindness of Mrs Sucksby, who’s been so nice to her all these years. And to do that, she goes to a big house, a mansion further north from London, to cheat a woman. She’s there to be a lady’s maid, to lead the lady on and push her into a marriage with a swindler, and she’s to be rewarded for her efforts. She  goes with a steely resolve to destroy this lady’s future. She doesn’t know just how easily that resolve will be melted, like snow in the middle of summer.

It was also painful to be Maud Lilly.

Maud Lilly, the lady of the house in Briar. Maud Lilly, the lady who accepts Sue Trinder as her maid. Maud Lilly, the quiet, unassuming girl—she’s still a girl!—with a sad past behind her, and a sadder future yet to unfold.

How does Sarah Waters do this?


§ 2 Responses to Fingersmith – Sarah Waters

  • michelle says:

    This is really one superb piece of storytelling, isn’t it? I can still recall the roller coaster ride of an experience back then when I read it too, and that’s almost 10 years ago! Now that you’ve read the book, you might want to consider watching the BBC adaptation of it too (it’s available on youtube, btw). Safe to say, it does the book justice. And did you know, recently there’s also a Korean film version of it? It’s called The Handmaiden. 🙂
    Yes, I wonder how she does it too. Whenever I thought it couldn’t get any better, she just pulls it off again. The Paying Guests is yet another heart-stopping read, I found. Have you read it?

    • Michelle says:

      Yes. Simply exceptional.

      I was considering watching the BBC adaptation, but was worried about watching it so soon after the book, and didn’t know if it was any good. Glad to know you found that it does the book justice. Maybe I should watch it soon after all.

      And no, I haven’t read The Paying Guests yet. It’s there on my shelves. Biding time. =)

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