Book of the Week: Fingersmith

FingersmithcoverBook of the Week has become Book of the Six Weeks. Been immersed in writing my own book and only now am coming up for air.

As I wrap up my own crime novel (formerly entitled SALT, now I’m not totally sure what the title is going to be), I’ve been reading a bunch of crime novels. One completely sticks out for me: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters.

I’ll start by saying that I really love Charles Dickens. Like pretty much everyone, I was forced to read A Tale of Two Cities in high school. Didn’t like that experience so much (didn’t like reading any books for class in high school). But I re-discovered Charles Dickens about 10 years ago by reading David Copperfield, a fantastic book. Then read Nicholas Nickleby, which I liked even better. Then read A Tale of Two Cities, which made me cry in the end. Then read Great Expectations, which became one of my all-time favorites by any writer.

Fingersmith owes a big debt to Dickens. And the book acknowledges as much in the very first scene, when its protagonist, a young pickpocket, goes to see a play version of Oliver Twist. Waters sets her book in Dickensian England and you really get a sense of the grossness of London at that time for sure. But this is a crime novel, not a serialized melodrama, so here’s where Fingersmith really stands out.

The plotting in this book is simply incredible. I’m going to say pretty much nothing about the plot because to say much would give too much away. But the setup is that this young fingersmith, Susan Trinder, takes part in a plot to steal the inheritance from a young woman who lives in the country. And that setup forms the basis for the crime of this novel. But the plot–yikes!–it’s just fantastic. You have to trust me on this.

More than the plot, though, are the characters. The book is told in first-person narrative and Waters does an amazing job of getting into Susan Trinder’s head. The ingenious construction of the book sets up some pretty great dramatic irony (where the reader knows more than the characters) for a totally on-the-edge-of-your-seat effect.

Bottom line, this book delivers to the very, very end.

If you’re looking for something unusual to read and you like that queasy feeling of great suspense, then you’ll really like this book. If you’re also a fan of being immersed another place and time, you’re going to love this book. If, on top of that, you dig surprises, well, my friend, this book will blow you away.

Fingersmith was published in 2002. It was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize. I had never heard of it, stumbled upon it when I was doing a google search for crime novels. So glad I did. And if you read it now, you’ll be glad I did, too.

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