Sue Trinder has been raised among thieves - an orphan who has never met her mother. The woman who has cared for her is Mrs. Suksby who takes babies from their mothers for a fee. The house on Lant Street where they live teems with characters such as Dainty, a girl with her own questionable past and Mr. Ibbs who buys stolen goods. Then one dark, rainy night a man arrives with a proposition to make them all rich.
In the passage stood a man, dressed dark, wet through and dripping, and with a leather bag at his feet. The dim light showed his pale cheeks, his whiskers, but his eyes were quite hidden in the shadow of his hat. I should not have known him if he had not spoken. - from Fingersmith, page 19 -
The man - known as Gentleman - hatches a scheme to send Sue, disguised as a maid, to the home of Maud Lilly and befriend her. A large sum of money is at stake, and the plot to get it means tricking Maud into marrying Gentlemen and then confining her to a mental hospital. From this point forward, the novel moves steadily forward with unexpected twists and turns which kept me reading long into the night.
Sarah Waters has written a gothic novel filled with evil villains, betrayal, lies, love, debauchery and shocking revelations. Set first on the dirty backstreets of the London Borroughs, the novel then moves to the dark and eerie rooms of Briar - a dilapidated mansion where Maud is being raised by her cruel uncle. The writing is provocative and rich, creating the atmosphere of a period Gothic setting filled with suspense and things that creep in the night. The dialogue is pitch perfect, the characters convincingly wrought. But it is the plot - unnerving and constantly shifting - which reels the reader into the story and keeps the pages turning.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel which uncovers the sinister underbelly of the human soul. Gentleman is the perfect villain - handsome, mysterious and evil. Just when the reader thinks she knows where the story is taking her, there is a twist and it goes in another direction. No one is as they seem.
Waters has written a book rich in period details and lush with complex characters. Ingeniously plotted and sexually charged, this is a novel you do not want to miss.