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by Sarah Waters

A novel set in the 1840s - "hurrah!" I cried. There's nothing I enjoy more than a bit of Victorian melodrama especially when the location is Old London Town. But nothing could have prepared me for such a ripping yarn.
Fingersmith, Sarah Water's third novel is a roller coaster ride of a book. It traces the parallel lives of Sue Trinder and Maud Lilly, both orphans, who become linked by strange quirks of fate.
Sue lives on Lant Street at the home of the aptly named Mrs Sucksby, a female Fagin, who 'deals' in babies. This is a true den of thieves and miscreants and although she picks a pocket or two like the rest, Ma Sucksby jealously guards Sue.
Maud lives on the other side of the tracks with a rich and eccentric uncle - a pornographer by trade - where her strange confined existence is as protected as Sue's.
When a scheme is hatched in Lant Street by the conman toff known as "Gentleman" the two will be brought together in a most intriguing way.
The plot is so intricate I don't want to give anything away so that is all that I feel I can say. But be prepared for a labyrinth of twists, turns and surprises (one of which actually made me gasp out loud). What I can say is that there is no honour among the thieves written about here.

Water's depiction of Victorian London weaves a rich tapestry of the criminal underworld, the cruelty and degradation of the madhouse and the tender intimacy between two girls. The inevitable comparisons have been made with Dickens, Wilkie Collins etc. and while this is fair, Water's style is most definitely her own. She truly has the gift of storytelling.

Read our interview with Sarah Waters.


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