FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters

fingersmithA band of Victorian-era London thieves, (pickpockets, house robbers, you know that kind of Dickens thief,) the London underbelly, and a wild plot to make a pile by marrying somebody.  Make money by marrying somebody you say?  Pffft, you say?  What’s so unique about that?  Happens all the time.  Yeah, you remember Anna Nicole Smith and whatshisface, the old guy, J. Howard Marshall.     Suuuuure she married him for love.   Suuuuure she did.  Well, as my blessed mother used to tell me, you can love a rich one as easily as you can love a poor one.   So true.  Funny how when they’re rich their glaring faults become small niggling little concerns.  But I digress.

Sue, 17 years old, the daughter of a woman hanged for …. well, I forget for what, but Sue could see the gallows and the hanging from her window.  Egad, but those were tough times.

She has been brought up by a woman who runs a baby farm.  She takes in orphan infants and sells them to couples wanting a child.  There is never a lack of these babies.  Also part of the ‘family’ is Mr. Ibbs, who is a receiver of stolen goods, who then removes identifying emblems, initials, etc. from metals, and the stitching from fine ladies handkerchiefs before passing on the goods along the chain of the underground economy.

The family friend, Gentleman, who claims to be of high birth but can’t stand the restraints imposed by such a life, comes to them with a plot, and what a plot it is.  Forty miles out into the countryside, in an old, isolated gloomy house, lives a man, who is a book collector of a specialized nature, who needs help with his index he is compiling.  Once there, Gentleman discovers the man has a niece, heir to a huge fortune, which she will only receive when she marries.  But she is underage, and the uncle will never agree to her marrying.   So he plots to have her fall in love with him, so he can spirit her away, get married on the Q.T., then after a week, claim she is mad, have some tame doctors look her over and then have her committed to a madhouse.  Whereupon he would then get all her money.

But he needs help, which is where Sue comes in.  She is to go there to be a lady’s maid to the young woman and help the plot along, for which she will receive 3,000, a princely sum to her.

Seems straight forward enough, no?  No.  It is not.  It is twisty, and complicated, and who lands up in the madhouse, and who suffers further at the hands of the London woman, and who gets murdered, who gets hung, and oh my goodness, the surprises that keep on coming.

The first section is told in the first person by Sue.  The second section is told in first person by the young lady of the manor, and I admit to finding some of it a bit dull because it basically is everything from the first section but told from her viewpoint.  The third section is all about life in the madhouse, and frankly, I could have done without all that nastiness and cruelty, what with my sensitive nature and all.

There is no honor among thieves.  So it would seem.  Or among pretty much anyone else, for that matter.  Let me tell you, you think you know somebody.  Well.  I swan.  I don’t think so.

I will leave you with just one word:  the love that dares not speak it’s name.   That’s all.  My lips are sealed.




One comment on “FINGERSMITH by Sarah Waters

  1. Deb Atwood says:

    Ah, the joys of patriarchy, the good old days when a married woman had no claim to her own property. I find the older I get, the harder it is to read stories like this one.

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