Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

After I read Tipping the Velvet, the debut novel by Sarah Waters, I was hooked on her writing. Fingersmith, her third novel, is also on my 1001 books you must read list. I should admit that I finished this book last November but haven’t found the time to post my review. A goal in 2013 will be to have more timely reviews. I know I’m setting myself up for failure on this one; however it doesn’t hurt to try.

She published Fingersmith in 2002 and it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize. It won the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger award for Historical Crime Fiction.

The descriptions in Tipping the Velvet wowed me. What dazzled me in Fingersmith was her ability to keep me guessing. At times I started to get angry. Every time I thought I had it figured it out I realized I was completely wrong. I started to feel stupid. This sounds like a complaint, but it isn’t  And to be honest, I feel stupid on a daily basis. Ask my cat, I’m an idiot. He’s giving me that look right now.

Maybe he's plotting my death

Or maybe he’s plotting my death

The novel chronicles Sue Trinder’s life. Sue is an orphan under the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a “baby farmer” living in Victorian England. Mrs. Sucksby raises Sue as if she were her own. The house is always full of babies doused with gin to keep them quiet. Also, they share a home in the slums with fingersmiths, petty thieves.

Sue’s life changes drastically when Gentleman, a con man, enlists her help to swindle a rich heiress, Maud Lilly. Maud will inherit a large sum of money when she marries. The plan is insert Sue into Maud’s home as the heiress’s maid and Gentleman will seduce Maud and marry her. Once the money is safe and sound, they’ll ditch Maud in a lunatic asylum. What could go wrong with this plan? Trust me, you have to read it to believe it. I read this book after a friend recommended it. Each twist caused me to gasp. This novel kept me on the edge of my seat and I stayed up past my bedtime several nights in a row.

Not only did the reversals shock the heck out of me, but the subject matter in this novel angered me. The treatment of women in the lunatic asylum hopefully will make you shudder. My friend who recommended this novel calls Waters a social historian. I readily agree. Not only does she know how to spin a fantastic yarn, but I learn so much from her stories.

There are three more novels by Waters that I haven’t read yet. Which do you suggest: Affinity, The Night Watch, or The Little Stranger.

Now I have a few more reviews to post on novels that I read in 2012. And then I’ll do my best to stay current—seriously I’ll do my best.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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29 Responses to Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

  1. Good grief girl–do not be so hard on yourself–this was an excellent review –so much so that I am immediately going to my libray website and ordering the book–it sounds beyond intriguing.

  2. IsobelandCat says:

    This brought back the thrill I felt when I read this book. The asylum section is unremittingly grim, one feels enormous pity for the poor souls who were kept there, as well as a sense of shame that our society in the past allowed such treatment.
    I understand she is writing a collection of short stories now.
    I liked The Little Stranger least. If you want to stay with the Victorians, read Affinity, but Night Watch will give you a great understanding of the dislocation suffered by Londoners during the Blitz, where each night the landscape was reconfigured by falling bomb.

  3. petit4chocolatier says:

    Great review!! I have a list of to reads and then I go ahead and read something that wasn’t on my list. This is one that sounds intriguing.

  4. Brilliant review, didn´t see the ending coming either. Also saw the tv adaptation which I was quite impressed with. The Night Watch is good, mind you, so is Affinity. Haven´t read The Little Stranger. Night Watch is quite dark and different from some of her others…let me know what you think if you read it!

    • TBM says:

      I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who was fooled. Ah, I did love all the twists and turns. I have Night Watch on my shelf so maybe I’ll dip into that one soon. World War II was my specialty in college so it seems fitting.

  5. Beth Ann says:

    Ooh that one sounds good!!! I may have to try to find this one!!!

  6. AussyDog says:

    Sounds very interesting. Thanks for the recommendation. =)

  7. Pogue says:

    I read Little Stranger last year this year I am going to read Affinity. The first book of hers that I read was Little Stranger, and I loved it .

  8. Jo Bryant says:

    I think this is one I am going to have to find now…Atticus looks gorgeous.

    • TBM says:

      Attie says thanks! It’s so hard for me to get decent photos of him, but I’ve been practicing. Let me tell you, he does not like this project

  9. Lucid Gypsy says:

    One of these was serialised on TV but I can’t remember which and I know I read one too, she’s a great writer.

  10. Caroline says:

    I weird, I never try to figure out books, only wehn looking back I see that I had expected it to end this or that way.
    I need to try her. I^ve got three of her novels here which comes in handy as I want to stop buying so many books. No New Years reoslution though, just something I have been working on for a while.
    I might start with The Little Stranger.

    • TBM says:

      I always try to guess what’s going to happen. Maybe I should train myself not to and just enjoy the ride. Since I’ve been in the Victorian mood lately, I may begin with Affinity. I think that was her second book. I also like to see how a writer develops their craft. But I messed up the order with this one, since Fingersmith is her third novel. And four days I haven’t bought any books. I have been to the library twice though 😉

  11. Oh, you have piqued my curiosity now. Have never read any of her books, but will have to give this one a go, as I love that time period. Hope it’s in the library because I’m really trying to not buy any more books for a while.

  12. Novroz says:

    a book with a lot of twists…you really intrigued me TBM.
    Fortunately the book is still new, it’ll b easier to find.
    This writer has quite an imagination… the doused babies is an unthinkable idea for a story and that makrs me intrigued.
    thanks for the review TBM

    • TBM says:

      The treatment of the babies and women in this novel are sad reminders of how things used to be. That’s one of the things I love about her writing–the honesty of how it used to be.

  13. I have The Night Watch on my shelf but still haven’t got round to reading it (maybe this year!) so I’m afraid I can’t advise you of what to read next!

    My friend was telling me how good the adaptation for Fingersmith was, which of course made me consider reading the book! After your review I’m thinking it may have to be another one for my wish list!

    • TBM says:

      I need to track down the adaptation. Several people have suggested it now. I hear Night Watch is quite good. Whichever one you read, I think you’ll like her writing.

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