I just finished reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters this evening. This is one of the most engrossing and amazing books I have read in a very long time. Despite running to almost 600 pages in the version I have, I could hardly put it down. I could scarcely turn the pages fast enough to feed my need to know what happened to the two captivating heroines in this story.
The story is set in Victorian England and could best be described as rather gothic fiction. The settings are dark and depressing, but they spring to life in the author’s descriptions in a way that I suspect are true to the times.
Most of the characters are not very nice people in various ways. Even the two heroines of the story, Susan and Maud, have their own dark secrets that they are hiding. The many secrets in this story lead to a multitude of plot twists and turns as the reader (and most of the characters) discovers that nothing and no one are really who they seem to be. The complexity of the story and the way that it is presented is nothing short of brilliant.
I found the story and the characters to be deeply engaging, and the plot was fast-paced enough to keep me turning the pages late into the night. However, one of the most powerful things I found in the story is the way that it explores how our expectations set us up to see our reality only within the context of what we expect to see. This is particularly well shown in a section of the story where the only character that is telling the truth is completely disbelieved by outsiders because they have been conditioned to believe that she is insane. It is actually quite frightening to see how easily this is accomplished.
This story is also an illustration of how easily we are capable of betraying those we love. It also shows love can motivate us to do the right thing, including forgiveness and sacrifice. Everyone one of us has the power of both betrayal and true love inside, and we constantly face the decision of which of these sides of ourselves we will choose to nurture.
I don’t want to give away any of the many secrets of the story, so I have stayed away from as many plot details as I possibly can, but I highly recommend reading this book. I know I will be looking for the rest of the books on her backlist as soon as I can get my hands on them. This is truly an amazing author that is not to be missed!
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