Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

It is a delightful and convincing neo-Victorian novel. The book is well-researched both historically and culturally, and an accurate and attentive reader will not fail to notice all those original quotes from the so-called ‘prohibited books’, which are masterfully used by Waters to give an extra saucy tang of authenticity.
The Victorian England, its people, its underworld of thieves and sexually obsessive aristocrats, madhouses, illegal publishing houses, London slums, and even establishments for the ‘unlucky’ women – every one of those gets a fair share of Waters’ attention. In general, I have a feeling that the book is very much about buildings and their ambiance as well as the people who populate these places.
The book is long, and it is not surprising that sometimes the plot bogs in its own trap of complicity. But it does have its redeeming features – every time you feel the book starts dragging, the new twist is imminent. The plot twists and turns and then turns again, but eventually it all contributes to something I usually call ‘a rewarding read’.
Waters’ narrators are not endearing and innocent, but they are likable and listening to their two very distinct voices you start taking the side of both heroines.
It is also a very Dickensian novel not only in its direct allusion to Oliver Twist, but also in the themes and motifs explored by Dickens in his other later novels, namely false identities, questions of inheritance, family mysteries, lost and stranded souls, and bizarre geeks.
‘A wife in the madhouse’ is my favorite part in the novel not because I enjoyed and ravished those gruesome scenes, but because it was a symbol of everything macabre in the Victorian literature. In this book readers have a chance to see this world from within and unearth some unpleasant facts about the ‘medical treatment’ of mental disorders and the ‘therapeutic practices’ in the nineteenth century.
The ending with the lesbian intimate scenes is not Dickensian at all, but the exploration of guilt and redemption of two loving souls is very convincing and eventually rewarding. Finally, quoting Waters herself, it was ‘the pearl’ of the story with very intriguing plot twists.

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1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Historical Mystery, Literary Fiction

One response to “Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

  1. Pingback: Link Round Up « The Lesbrary

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