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 thievesfingersmithsfor whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.
One day, the most beloved thief of all arrivesGentleman, 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 ofpassed 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.
The New York Times Book Review has called Sarah Waters a writer of ""startling power"" and The Seattle Times has praised her work as ""gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and the senses."" Fingersmith marks a major leap forward in this young and brilliant career.
“Superb storytelling. Fingersmith is gripping; so suspenseful and twisting is the plot that for the last 250 pages, I read at breakneck speed.”—USA Today
“A deftly plotted thriller with two equally compelling heroines, orphans Sue Trinder and Maud Lilly. Manipulated by someone she knows only as Gentleman, Sue is sent to a country estate to work as Maud’s maid and help him woo the simple heiress. The plot twists—then again and again—until one girl is in a terrifying insane asylum and another held captive. An absorbing and elegant story that’s old-fashioned in the best way.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Oliver Twist with a twist: female and sexually aware...This is a Victorian novel the Victorians never dreamed of writing...Waters spins an absorbing tale that withholds as much as it discloses...She writes great Gothic, her descriptive skill augmented by an acute ear for dialogue...Dickens...would surely have blushed to read it.”—The New York Times Book Review
“A marvelous pleasure...Waters’s noted attention to historical detail and her beautifully sensitive dialogue help to anchor the force-five plot twisters.”—The Washington Post
“What a deliciously brazen stunt Sarah Waters pulls off in this romantic thriller set in Victorian times...[A] first-rate pastiche of betrayed maidens and dastardly smiling villains...The erotic charge between Maud and Sue and the psychological games they play make Fingersmith a sophisticated treat.”—Los Angeles Times
“Addicted to its atmosphere and hung up on its plot, I’ve gulped it exhaustedly until 3am, only to sleep and dream that I was still caught among its urgent, unnerving characters...There are always novels that you envy people for not yet having read, for the pleasures they still have to come. Well, this is one. Long, dark, twisted and satisfying, it’s a fabulous piece of writing, but Waters’s most impressive achievement is that she also makes it feel less like reading, more like living: an unforgettable experience.”—The Guardian
“A novel that through slyness and inexhaustible sleights-of-hand more than lives up to its nimble title.”—New York
“[The] energetic plot bristles with scheming villains and lurid details...Calls to mind the feverishly gloomy haunts of Charlotte and Emily Bronte...Elaborate and satisfying.”—The Seattle Times
“There are baby smugglers, pornographers and spiteful servants, an eerie country estate and a women’s asylum with cruel matrons and bone-chilling punishments...[A] sinister brew.”—Newsday
“Waters demonstrates great skill with narrative technicalities, masterfully evoking the antique atmosphere, strict class boundaries and sexual mores of 19th-century England... While toying with the conventions of the bodice-ripper, Fingersmith ultimately pulls off a far greater trick, delivering a revisionist romance with enough plot gyrations to keep the pages turning.”—Boston Herald
“A marvelous novel.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Sarah Waters is one of the best storytellers alive today...Dickens is a shade that most brilliant storytellers have to tangle with at some point, and Waters does so ingeniously...A reading experience that is exquisitely enjoyable.”—Independent on Sunday (London)
“A doorstopper of a book that manages to be both Victorian and modern all at once... Full of enough sinewy twists and turns to make Wilkie Collins—the Charles Dickens contemporary—put down his quill in awe.”—Vancouver Sun
“A sweeping read.”—The Boston Globe
“Waters writes convincingly of Victorian life, evoking Dickens in her rhythms, Henry James in her examination of social order...An intriguing and entertaining read full of twists and turns, reversals and revelations...A haunting, disturbing and lovely ode to the universal frailties of the human condition.”—Rocky Mountain News
“The most breathtaking twist I’ve read in recent months. Fingersmith is everything a really good historical thriller should be: convincing, engaging and surprising.”—Toronto Star
“A modern Wilkie Collins...Brutal, daring and refreshing...It’s a thriller, yes, but it’s also a love story—a sexy, passionate and startling one...Erotic and unnerving in all the right ways.”—The Guardian
“Waters slowly and inexorably builds the tension in this hard-to-put-down novel, which is full of atmospheric details about grand houses, petty slums and Victorian madhouses. Readers will turn the pages with delighted dread.”—Library Journal
“[An] extraordinary novel... A tale of sexual obsession and studied corruption ... It is a rare pleasure to discover a writer as startlingly assured and original as Waters’s third novel proves her to be.”—The Sunday Times (UK)
“One powerhouse of a third book. This newest immersion into Victorian times feels as pitch-perfect—authentic as though Waters had time-traveled to traverse the mean streets of London with Dickens himself...Vastly entertaining.”—Lambda Book Report
“A densely plotted gothic thriller that is equal parts saucy melodrama and women’s history.”—The Village Voice
“Brilliant and chilling storytelling...Vivid...Unforgettable.”—The Sunday Telegraph
“Sarah Waters unveils enough secrets, reversals and revelations to keep the most demanding fans of Victorian fiction happy and enthralled, bowing to the great novels of Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens in ways that are both fanciful and intelligent...Skillful plotting and plenty of surprises.”—New Statesman