Sarah Waters – Fingersmith
Read By: Juanita McMahon
Length: 23 h 39 min (582 pages)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 16 June 2010
Finished: 11 July 2010
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? Nymeth’s fault.
scams, lesbians, madhouses:
just another day.
Summary: Susan Trinder is an orphan in Victorian London, but she is an orphan raised in a house of thieves. When Richard Rivers, a down-on-his-luck son of a high-born family and an inveterate schemer, comes to Sue with a proposal that will make them both rich, she can’t help but listen. Sue is to become the maid of one Miss Maud Lilly, a young lady who has spent her life cloistered with an eccentric and hermetic uncle, a young lady with a fortune entailed upon her… but one that she will only receive once she marries. Sue is to help Richard to woo Maud, and then once she and Richard have eloped and been legally wed, they will leave her in the madhouse, and divide her fortune between them. Susan agrees, but as the days pass, she begins to have second thoughts: can she really betray someone that she’s grown to care about? Or will she change her mind before it’s too late… for all of them?
Review: Argh, this is one of those book reviews that I hate to write. And I hate to write it because this is one of those books that everyone absolutely loved. It’s won awards. It’s on people’s “best of the year” lists. People whose literary opinions I trust and value have strongly recommended it to me. It is, in short, a book that is beloved of everyone… except me.
So, where to start? We’ll start with the good points. And don’t get me wrong, this book has a lot of good points. It is a Victorian Gothic, which is a sub-genre I love, particularly when said Victoriana includes the poor, disenfranchised, and underworld-y side of London. Waters is undeniably skilled at evoking her setting and conveying a tone: I spent the entire book with not only a sense of suspense, but also with that horrible claustrophobia that comes from reading about people trapped in a situation from which they are powerless to escape. Her characterizations are well-done – both Susan and Maud felt real and layered, and their relationship was very subtly done and emotionally true without taking the “OMG, lesbians!” path it could have. Waters also handles her themes very well, particularly the powerlessness of women to affect their own fates during that time (which certainly added to the claustrophobia I mentioned above.) The plot was also insanely well-put-together, with twists that I never, ever saw coming, yet that interwove in such a way that everything came together in the end.
In short, this book had a lot of things going for it. So what was my problem? My problem was that I thought it dragged. Maybe it was the claustrophobia talking, but there were certain sections that just seemed to go on and on and on. I mean, why describe how stifling Maud’s uncle’s house was, when you can describe it three ways? Why give us one scene that shows that Sue’s having second thoughts when you can write four or five? Maybe it’s because I listened to the audio version (which was very well done, by the way) rather than reading it, and thus I had to hear each section without being able to skim when things got repetitive. I wanted to keep listening, because the twists and turns had hooked me in enough that I wanted to see how it all came out in the end, but I think this book could have been shortened by 30-40% without losing a single ounce of the things that made it good. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: Although I didn’t love it as much as most people, it’s got more than enough redeeming qualities that if Victoriana and/or con-man stories are your thing, then I’d say it’s worth a read.
Other Reviews: Books I Done Read, Farm Lane Books Blog, A Guy’s Moleskine Notebook, Jenny’s Books, My Fluttering Heart, Rhapsody in Books Weblog, S. Krishna’s Books, Shelf Love, Stuff as Dreams Are Made On, Things Mean a Lot, Valentina’s Room, Vulpes Libris, The Written World, The Zen Leaf
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.
First Line: My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder.
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