Riverhead Trade, 2002
My rating: 4.5 stars
If you read a lot of book blogs, I’m sure you’ve come across a few reviews of Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. And I bet they all have one thing in common: the reviewer laments the fact that they can’t really tell you any more than the bare bones of the plot because then it would spoil the book for you. Then they go on to praise the book and tell you “Just read it. Trust me. It is that good.”
So who am I to attempt to do the impossible? You truly cannot write too much about Fingersmith without spoiling everything that makes Fingersmith such a dizzying, delightful read. I saw a comment by Nymeth from Things Means A Lot (who wrote one of the best reviews of this book I’ve come across — you should probably just read that instead of my ramblings here, in fact) on another blogger’s review of Fingersmith that said:
The first rule of Fingersmith is that you don’t talk about Fingersmith.
Of course, this is a reference to Fight Club (of which I’ve only seen the movie and not read the book), but, when I thought about it, there are definite parallels between Fight Club and Fingersmith (aside from the need to be close-mouthed about plot points). And so I felt I must respect the code and not talk too much about this book. But here is what I can tell you.
- Reading this book is like looking into a kaleidoscope. You see things fitting together in an intricate pattern but then you turn it and all the pieces align in a new pattern. And then you turn it again …
- Reading this book is like boarding those Wild Mouse rides you see at amusement parks where you get whipped around on these crazy sharp turns that make your head spin.
- Reading this book is like watching Mission Impossible where the … WAIT … I can’t continue with that one. It might give too much away.
Let’s just say that if Fingersmith was a food, it would be a pretzel. (Because of the twists). I think the true brilliance and fun of Fingersmith is the plot twists that leave you feeling dizzy, invigorated, duped, nodding, shaking, and wanting to leap ahead to find out where Waters is going to take you next. (But don’t think the plot twists are all the book has going for it. It is also amazingly well-written; provides a brilliant sense of atmosphere; and creates memorable, indelible characters that will stay with you.)
So, what else can I tell you?
- The book is set in Victorian England. Now usually this is a turn-off for me. I associate “Victorian” with “dead boring.” (Unfairly, I suppose, as I haven’t read all that much of it.) I always think books set in the Victorian era will focus too much on virtue and being good and social niceties and the big scandal would be if someone used the wrong spoon to stir their tea. (I’m totally speaking out of my ass here, by the way. I don’t know ANYTHING about Victorian novels … just a vague sense of what I think Victorian novels are or would be like. I’m sure many of you will try to convert me now.) So, if you have an unfair prejudice against books from the Victorian era like I did, discard them. This book is ANYTHING but boring and stuffy.
- Fingersmith is a term that means “petty thief,” which is how one of the main characters, Sue Trinder, earns her living in London. Fingersmith might also refer to someone who has mastered a skill involving the use of his or her fingers. It could also have another connotation that makes more sense after you read the book but I’m not going to tell you about it. OK … I will … let’s just say the book has been called “lesbian Victoriana.” So now you figure it out yourself. (And that is your only “warning” that this book deals with the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name.)
- The book is 582 pages but once you hit the end of the first part, you will want to read the book at every available opportunity so make sure you have the time available. Once you board the crazy ride that is Fingersmith, you won’t want to get off!
- You will never look at a pair of white gloves in quite the same way.
Oh … enough already. Just read it!!! Trust me!!!! You’ll love it!! (Unless you really don’t care for suspenseful, twist-filled, well-written, unforgettable, kick-ass, Gothic, big themed, psychologically thrilling, heart-in-your-mouth historical fiction. If that isn’t your type of book, then by all means skip it.)
I hereby award Fingersmith 4.5 stars and pretty much guarantee it is going to be one of my Top 10 reads of the year.
The Whys and Wheres: Well, after reading so many mysterious reviews on book blogs about this book, I pretty much HAD to read it and I did … on my Kindle (which, sadly, means no giveaway).
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