Books · Literature · Novels · Opinion · Reviews


By Sarah Waters

Susan Trinder is a petty thief, the eponymous Fingersmith of Sarah Waters’ book of the same title set in 1862 during Queen Victoria’s reign.

Susan is an orphan, brought up by Mrs Sucksby in her ‘baby farm’, with locksmith Mr Ibbs. She is a bright, observant girl. Sharp of wit but illiterate, unable to read or write. Maybe her life would have been very different if she could have.

Life in Lant Street, London was hard and rough. Petty criminality was a way of life for many of the residents, and no different for Sue. But one day that petty crime got bigger. Much bigger. A down on his luck gentleman persuades Susan to join him in a swindle that would, if successful, be worth tens of thousands of pounds. A fortune that could set someone up for life in that era. The plan starts well and Susan plays her part exactly as instructed but then, it all goes horribly wrong.

Sarah Waters’ other works include possibly her best known work Tipping The Velvet, made into a successful television mini series in 2002

Fingersmith is a long book, five and a half hundred pages. The story could be condensed to, probably, a third of the length and yet the book is not too long or padded out. Shortening would take away so much of the atmosphere of the age and render the characters pale and bland. In all the length there are no wasted, extraneous words.

Sarah has brought us an absorbing, atmospheric story with some unexpected plot twists, that can make the reader say to themselves ‘wow, I didn’t see that coming.’ The eagle eyed might spot a clue here and there. I didn’t.

“the awfulness of having said nothing but the truth”


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