Friday, April 29, 2011

Review of Fingersmith - A novel about crime and passion

Author: Sarah Waters
First published in 2002
Thickness: 556 pages (Dutch edition)
Dutch title: Vingervlug
Personal rating: 4 stars

Fingersmith sets about in Englands 19th century underground crime scene. We follow the story of a girl, Susan Trinder, coming of age on her first real experience with crime after having been sheltered and merely a bystander of various petty crimes going on around her.

A man of questionable background, "Gentleman",  comes in and sweeps her away on a breathtaking scheme. He needs her to be the maid of a wealthy young girl and be her confidante while he moves in and tries to marry the rich girl and when they are married, ship her off to an asylum in order to get the money.
Susan agrees and travels to the remote estate. She becomes friends with the young heiress, Maud, even more than friends which complicates the scheme beyond imagination.
Torn apart by her own feelings and under the influence of Gentleman, she makes her choices ill-informed and lands in a whirlpool of emotions and becomes more a victim than a perpetrator.

The story takes us from a London dirty and foggy to a countryside gloom and grey, where blossoms still grow and where love finds a way, although not conventionally. The story delivers a few amazing plot turns that will stop your heart.

I liked reading this novel, even when it took me quite a while to finish it. Mainly because it's quite a thick novel, with over 500 pages I had to get through. In some places the pace lingers and I wondered if it would ever pick up again, only to be amazed that I hadn't seen it coming when it did.
I do recommend this novel. Sarah Waters has a reputation of writing gay fiction, but in being straight myself I found that label to be generic. It's the same in calling Stephen King chiefly a horror writer. There are more layers to her than you first would think. She can create a 19th century London that lives and breathes.
With only one Sarah Waters novels left for me to read, I do include her in my list of favourite authors.