I finished Fingersmith a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve had a hard time putting together my thoughts on it. I mean: I liked it. A lot.
Sarah Waters is a new-to-me author, whose backlist I’m certainly going to be checking out, because Damn, can that lady craft a story. I have a lot of kudos to give the book, and I’m going to try to get to them all in this review. Where I’m conflicted though, is… the twisty-turny nature of the plot. Even just saying that the plot is complex and takes many unexpected turns feels like I’m giving things away, and so much of my enjoyment of this novel came from being completely surprised by what was going on that I don’t want to ruin it for anybody else.
At the same time, I really think you should read this, so I’ve got to figure out how to tempt you into to doing that without spilling all the beans. Hence the weeks of trying to come up with a logical, legible review.
Let’s start here – this book reads much faster than a book set in the Dickensian past ought to. Usually, if you’re wandering through the Victorian age with an author, you have plenty of time for dallying and dithering, to catch scenes of pastoral beauty nor the cluttered, smoke-choked air of olde-time London’s sinners’ dens & paupers’ streets. But Waters gives neither her characters or her readers the opportunity to settle in and get comfortable – right from the beginning, there is action and reaction, an unending pace and patter, so much happening that you have to be paying such close attention at all times, lest you find yourself left behind.
There’s such an urgency to the book, to everything that’s happening and who it’s happening to, that I will admit to being left behind more than once: but I was in good company, as most of the characters often seemed as perplexed by their situations as I was.
I came up with lots of ways to describe the action in this book, but all of them give away too much, gives a new reader too much of a head start, and I think part of the joy of the book is trying to catch up, trying to figure it out, so I’m not going to tell you all those things. I’m just going to tell you that there are some amazing characters in here – well-drawn, intricate, portraits of people that seem so real, and then, when the plot starts twisting, somehow manages to make you question all you thought you knew about them; and that there is so much substance to the story – beyond just the plot twists, the depth of the stories that are told, the women we meet, the lives that are lived over the course of this book – that it’s the kind of book that sticks with you, after you’ve put it down.
That’s really all I can say without giving too much away! Can’t you just trust me when I tell you, this is a really good book?
(I also want to make note that if you have issues surrounding mental health/illness and mistreatment, there are some disturbing (but unfortunately true to the period) scenes in an asylum that may be triggering. Just a heads up.)
ALSO: While looking for the link on Amazon, I found out that the BBC made a 3-part mini-series out of this book, which I will immediately be requesting from Netflix: the things you learn!