Susan Trinder is an orphan who grew up in late 19th-century London under the care of Mrs. Sucksby and amongst thieves (fingersmiths) who educated her in their craft. When she is seventeen, Gentleman, a dark and attractive villain, exposes a diabolic plan to Mrs. Sucksby and Sue, who will be directly involved in it…

Sue must pretend to be a maid for Maud Lilly, another orphan living with her uncle in a mansion in the country. Meanwhile, Gentleman, who has managed to find employment with the girl’s uncle, a scholar who wants to make a catalog of his huge collection of books, will continue his courtship of Maud (which seems already in encouraging progress), and with Sue’s complicity, eventually convince her to escape her uncle and marry him. If he succeeds, he will secure Maud’s important inheritance from her mother, and Sue will earn her share…

But of course, from there, things will turn out quite differently, and the less told the best… Fingersmith is a very entertaining novel, full of intrigue, suspense and twist-and-turns. Often described by the critics as Dickensian, with its gloomy mansions and menacing villains, it also has resonances of the nineteenth-century gothic novel, such as Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolfo (though there is no supernatural element in Fingersmith, the atmosphere of the gothic novel is definitely felt). Sarah Waters captures the Victorian era very convincingly but with a modern perspective, and in that respect, Fingersmith also reminded me of Charles Palliser’s The Unburied. Both authors play with the fact that if sex is a taboo subject for the Victorians, writing from a 21st century perspective allows them to reveal what would have remained out any respectable Victorian novel. Thus Sarah Waters denounces the hypocrisy of the Victorians by evoking themes such as homosexuality, the presence of pornography in the "good society", or the (unthinkable!) use of foul, sex-related language (such as the f-word) by Victorian people…

Rating: 4/5