MOTIVATION to READ: As adhoc volunteer librarian at the nursing home, I am charged with the ‘disposing’ of books that are not Large Print. I found this book and ‘rescued’ it by taking it home with me. SCORE! I had seen it on many favorites lists and was aware that it was a finalist for the Orange Prize for Fiction.
FIRST SENTENCE: “My name, in those days, was Susan Trinder.”
WHAT’s it ABOUT: Young Sue, an orphan, has been brought up in a family of thieves in Victorian London. She has been invited to scam a young lady named Maud who will inherit a fortune upon marrying. The scheme involves a scoundrel to be the groom, Sue to be the lady’s maid and help further the affections of Maud so she will agree to elope, and a subsequent dumping of the poor bride into a madhouse soon thereafter. Sue and her family of thieves will get a slice of the fortune for helping but once she meets Maud, begins to have doubts and misgivings.
WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so GOOD: I really meant to take good notes but was so enthralled and swept along that I could only manage turning down the pages that had great quotes or hinted that a refer-back might be necessary. The book essentially has three parts – the first is Sue’s telling and features many, almost TOO many – points (?) of foreshadowing. She was endearing but I was wondering if knowing that plot twists were ahead AND that Sue was hinting that the players were NOT what they seemed made me wonder if it was too heavy-handed and this thinking I was doing was tedious – only perhaps because I wasn’t sure of what was going on but knew I was supposed to be wondering what the heck was up! OF COURSE, we can’t trust the scoundrel! Of course, Maud’s upbringing was bizarre…
The second part was Maud’s version of the same events. I was really captivated and my own guesses were all over the map about who and what she was. I really enjoyed seeing the same actions through another character’s eyes and was delighted by this part tremendously.
The third part is the fast-paced race to the conclusion. I enjoyed the ride; especially when I told myself to stop analyzing and guessing and just get carried away. I was conflicted with my tendency to question how Ms. Waters had structured the whole thing and wanting to be analytical for the sake of this COBC but also not wanting to stop so I could wallow in the WHAT-is-HAPPENING madness!
The gloves. Let’s discuss the gloves, shall we? They are on the cover so we know they mean something. OK, maybe that’s not true but once they were mentioned, I knew I had to pay attention. Honestly, they bugged me a lot. I’m going to go out on a shaky limb and say, for me being all uneducated to literary devices (etc ad nauseam) but fascinated nonetheless, the glove theme represents how we can try as we might to not get involved and keep our hands somewhat clean; but once immersed, we can’t help but get a little dirty. Especially considering how Maud is educated and thus required to help her uncle. Once you’ve got your hand into the mischief, you’re in it all the way? And yet, how knowledgeable she was about certain topics and yet ignorant to the big picture? I think the gloves can also represent the fallacy of class – people are people? Born to it or not, once things get all mixed up, you can’t just take a blood test and find out you are ‘better’ than the common street urchin. The themes of class and gender/sexuality get turned upside down; at least expectations and reality get a bit jumbled.
FINAL THOUGHTS: I do think Waters wrote a masterful story – exciting, great characters, dark settings. For more thoughts of mine, click over here to my Spoilerful Fingersmith post.
RATING: Four slices of pie. What flavor? MINCEMEAT.
OTHER REVIEWS: See my previous post for links of participant reviews of Fingersmith: COBC DAY!