Thursday, July 29, 2010

"My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder."

I don't know why I was so tentative about picking up a book by Sarah Waters.  I think it was because I'm very picky about this genre of book -- modern novels with Victorian settings and sensational topics.  When I read a bad one, it almost makes me angry.  After all, there are fantastic actual Victorian sensational novels out there already as examples.  But I had heard enough good things about Sarah Waters that I felt safe finally trying one of her books.  I asked around for suggestions on where to start and ended up pulling Fingersmith from my TBR pile.

As a novel with many twists and turns, it's hard to summarize without giving anything away so this is very vague.  Susan Trinder is a young woman raised in London in a less than wholesome household -- a place where goods are fenced and babies are raised for sale.  However, the owner of the house, Mrs. Sucksby has always done her best to keep Susan innocent.  And yet the time comes for Susan to help the household and give them all a chance to live the good life.  But, of course, things are not as straightforward as they seem and the good life may be out of everyone's reach.

So if I had to give this one a grade , it would be between B+ and A-.  I liked it quite a bit but didn't absolutely love it.  After an extremely complex plot, I found the ending to be just a bit too neat.  Also, some of the characters and relationships weren't as well defined as they could have been.  However, since I've already admitted that this is exactly the genre of book that I'm most picky about, you can take my complaints with a large grain of salt.  This is a good book.

Smoothing my petticoats,

Support our site and buy Fingersmith on Amazon or find it at your local library.  We bought our own copy.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your review and if I remember rightly I did enjoy this book although I do not think that it is Waters' best - My absolute favourite is Affinity which I give a straight A!

    Thanks for sharing


  2. I've read Waters' first 3 books, all set in Victorian times, and my favourite is Tipping the Velvet. But I just love her to death! :D

  3. I'm glad you read this one Kristen - I really like this one, I agree with you about the ending being a bit too neat, and the Queen of Diamonds really was playing a very long and not very plausible game. But then, I'm not familiar with Dickens at all, I'm sure some of his plots verge on the far-fetched, too.

    But I felt that the twists were very well done, deep and dark like the River Thames flowing through it. I chose this one as a book club book a few years ago, but none of my bookclub friends liked it, especially, which suprised me but I think it was the lesbian subplot that they really didn't care for.

    I can also recommend Affinity - not as complex, but very atmospheric.

  4. I'm picky about my Victorian-setting historical novels too. I always think I'm going to love them, and they frequently let me down. Proper Victorian novels are best.

    I will just say for Fingersmith (not that I need to defend it, since you liked it!) that it's better on the reread. I liked it the first time through, and loved it the second.

  5. I'm also ridiculously picky about Victorian pastiches, so when one does work I'm so delighted I can hardly contain myself! That's pretty much how I felt about Fingersmith. Even if it wasn't perfect, it felt true to period, which is more than most novels of this type do.

  6. Hannah - I think Affinity was the first one that I wanted to read but I somehow don't have a copy of it yet. Maybe I will look for it today.

    Eva - I think she's going to be a favorite soon!

    Tracy - There are certainly long-suffering, plotting characters in Dickens -- Magwitch comes to mind immediately. I didn't mind the lesbian subplot except for its part in the tidy and highly coincidental ending.

    Jenny - I think Michael Cox is the only author that has even come close to the joy for me of Dickens or Collins. And I'll keep Fingersmith around for a re-read!

    Teresa - Agreed. I was absolutely comfortable with the setting.

  7. As someone who would avoid Victorian novels at any cost, I LOVED Fingersmith as it confounded all my expectations of what such a books might be like.

  8. Jenners - Now do you see why I love Victorian sensational novels? ;) Even the originals are twisty and dark and fun.

  9. I've read a lot of Dickens the past couple of years, and Fingersmith comes closer than any other neo-Victorian I've read. I'd seen the BBC miniseries, which is wonderful, and the book was even better. I could not put it down and now I want to read all of her books.

  10. Karen - I just got the miniseries from Netflix yesterday so I will be watching it soon (and posting about it, I'm sure!). I like Michael Cox's books the best for Neo-Victorian but Waters may be a close second.