Reader review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

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Now 11 years since its first publication, Fingersmith has claims to be the deepest and most atmospheric novel within Sarah Waters’ impressive continuing output.

The complex, secretive narrative revolving around the two major characters draws the reader into authentic, claustrophobic Victorian worlds. Nowhere is this more memorably expressed than in Susan or Maud’s enclosure in a women’s mad-house, in the sinister isolated country house and in a criminals’ house in the back streets of London.

Within each is conveyed an overpowering sense of unjust persecution, of lives blighted by hypocrisy or fate, of the near impossibility of escape.

Nonetheless, the novel reveals how good and evil can be mixed in subtle ways within the major and minor characters who populate this memorable book. Their true motives are often hidden behind Victorian conventions, to be revealed or hinted at through the two main narratives.

More a work of atmosphere than events, and yet the story line keeps us gripped right to the end.

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