2002, 582 pages
Sue Trinder is an orphan who is approached by a man known to her as Gentleman to help him in a plot to marry and steal the fortune from Maud Lilly, a supposedly simple girl living with her uncle in the country. Sue agrees, taking a position as Maud's maid, and the plot twists and turns many times from there.
I have been hearing a lot of good things about Sarah Waters lately, so I was so excited to finally get around to reading one of her books! I definitely wasn't disappointed - Fingersmith was full of intriguing plot twists and great characters for me to devour. Waters' writing is also a pleasure to read, for example:
I remember lying, and hearing the sound of knives and forks and china, Mrs Sucksby's sighs, the creaking of her chair, the beat of her slipper on the floor. And I remember seeing--what I had never seen before--how the world was made up: that it had bad Bill Sykes in it, and good Mr Ibbses; and Nancys, that might go either way. (p7)
I think the biggest strength of this book is the plot - the many twists kept me invested until the end. One word of warning: avoid reading the back cover! I was able to guess a couple of the plot twists based on what I read there, and think I would have been more surprised by some of the twists if I hadn't read the back cover. I'll also admit that there were some elements of the plot that I found really disturbing, but I guess that's the point.
The characters were also great - I enjoyed reading about both Sue and Maud, although Sue was my favorite character by far. I loved her spirit and cunning. The minor characters were also interesting - this may be weird, but I ended up even liking the character of Gentleman, who is the main villain throughout the book.
Despite all the good things to say, I find myself hesitating before completely recommending this book. I enjoyed it and was pulled in by the plot, but I something kept me from loving it. It was long-ish, and I felt myself pushing through at times and getting impatient for the plot to start moving again. And despite the twisty plot and great characters, I don't see this as a book that I'll be rereading anytime soon. Still, it was definitely worth the read, as long as you know what you're getting into beforehand. This last quote is kind of long, but I love it so I had to include it in my review:
The night had been cold as winter, but the hill was a steep one and we grew warm as we climbed. When we got to the top, the sun was higher in the sky and the day was lightening up. I thought, The morning has broken.--I thought of the morning like an egg, that had split with a crack and was spreading. Before us lay all the green country of England, with its rivers and its roads and its hedges, its churchs, its chimneys, its rising threads of smoke. The chimneys grew taller, and the roads and rivers wider, the threads of smoke more thick, the further off the country spread; until at last, at the furthest point of all, they made a smudge, a stain, a darkness--a darkness, like the darkness of coal in a fire--a darkness that was broken, here and there, where the sun caught panes of glass and the golden tips of domes and steeples, with glittering points of light.
'London,' I said. 'Oh, London!' (p 496)