Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

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“Oliver Twist with a twist…Waters spins an absorbing tale that withholds as much as it discloses. A pulsating story.”—The New York Times Book Review

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby’s household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves—fingersmiths—for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives—Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud’s vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of—passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.


About Sarah Waters

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A native of Wales, Sarah Waters is the award-winning author of Affinity and Tipping the Velvet.
Published January 1, 2002 by Riverhead Books. 596 pages
Genres: History, Gay & Lesbian, Literature & Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Fingersmith

Kirkus Reviews

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Imagine a university-educated lesbian Charles Dickens with a similarly keen eye for mendacity and melodrama, and you'll have some idea of the pleasures lurking in Waters's impudent revisionist historicals: Tipping the Velvet (1999), Affinity (2000), and now this richly woven tale of duplicity, pa...

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

The Guardian

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Fingersmith Sarah Waters Virago £15.99, pp549 Sarah Waters dusts off Victorian melodrama and shows that there's life in the old props yet.

Jan 27 2002 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

The Guardian

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Sue - good-hearted but crooked, with an eye on the main chance - doesn't think twice.

Feb 02 2002 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith


The novel is divided into three parts: the first tells the story from Sue Trinder's perspective, the second tells the story from Maud Lilly''s perspective and the third finishes out the tale, moving forward from where their stories merge...

Jun 03 2010 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

RT Book Reviews

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Entertainment Weekly

Originally posted Mar 22, 2002 Published in issue #645 Mar 22, 2002 Order article reprints

Mar 22 2002 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

The Book Smugglers

I believe that around the time the book takes place (late Victorian era), advancement had been made in the provision and supervision of institutions such as these which gave a false tone to this particular part of the book – which unfortunately also happened to be its most unnecessarily prolonged...

Jan 24 2014 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

London Review of Books

Magnificent because it can only be called a great novel, a tour de force, a novel that truly stands beside the Victorian classics.’ Admirers of Fingersmith might contest these superlatives.

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After Ellen

Gentleman is more of a caricature than an actual character, but Evans plays his role to the hilt: lecherous, innuendo-filled remarks slide off his tongue as though commonplace, and his physical frustration at Sue's lack of progress with ...

Apr 12 2005 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

After Ellen

The slower pace allows viewers to feast on the setting, costumes and acting, and also contributes wonderfully to the mounting tension between Sue and Maud that begins when Sue suggestively rubs Maud's tooth with a thimble, and culminates in a bedroom scene which first seems to veer towards the co...

Apr 12 2005 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

After Ellen

Before you watch the BBC adaptation of Fingersmith, read the original novel.

Apr 12 2005 | Read Full Review of Fingersmith

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