Book - 2002
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"Oliver Twist with a twist...Waters spins an absorbing tale that withholds as much as it discloses. A pulsating story."-- The New York Times Book Review

The Handmaiden , a film adaptation of Fingersmith , directed by Park Chan-wook and starring Kim Tae-Ri, is now available.

Sue Trinder is an orphan, left as an infant in the care of Mrs. Sucksby, a "baby farmer," who raised her with unusual tenderness, as if Sue were her own. Mrs. Sucksby's household, with its fussy babies calmed with doses of gin, also hosts a transient family of petty thieves--fingersmiths--for whom this house in the heart of a mean London slum is home.

One day, the most beloved thief of all arrives--Gentleman, an elegant con man, who carries with him an enticing proposition for Sue: If she wins a position as the maid to Maud Lilly, a naïve gentlewoman, and aids Gentleman in her seduction, then they will all share in Maud's vast inheritance. Once the inheritance is secured, Maud will be disposed of--passed off as mad, and made to live out the rest of her days in a lunatic asylum.

With dreams of paying back the kindness of her adopted family, Sue agrees to the plan. Once in, however, Sue begins to pity her helpless mark and care for Maud Lilly in unexpected ways...But no one and nothing is as it seems in this Dickensian novel of thrills and reversals.

Publisher: New York : Riverhead Books, 2002.
ISBN: 9781573229722
Branch Call Number: FICTION Waters Sarah 2002
Characteristics: 511 p. ;,24 cm.


From Library Staff

Sue is taken in by a conman, Gentleman, who wants to persuade an heiress Maud to marry him so he can steal all of her money. As part of the grand scheme, Sue goes to work for Maud only to fall in love with her. However, the extent of Gentleman's plan was never really revealed to Sue and she and M... Read More »

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Apr 19, 2021

This was all going merrily along until the plot went completely off the rails and characters began acting incessantly nonsensical. Such a pity. It seemed so promising for the first 200 pages.
. .
And then; TEDIUM. The book became so wearisome and bland for long stretches. So sad.
Seeing that this novel was shortlisted for a couple of big-name prizes makes me shake my head.
. .
I'm becoming disenchanted with the Oprah Bookclub selections.

Feb 03, 2021

Modern Mrs Darcy

Nov 19, 2020

Great read

HCL_staff_reviews Jan 15, 2020

Sue Trinder, a thief by birth, raised by thieves, goes to be maid to Maud Lilly as part of a scheme to steal Maud's money. However, nothing is as it seems. Neither Sue nor Maud knows the real story about her birth and the truth will be devastating for both. This book has it all: great plot with twists, turns and surprises; characters from Dickensian thieves to 19th century pornographers; and historical setting from falling down manor houses and madhouses to gritty, smelly London backstreets. The vivid detail is fantastic. — Laura P., System and Online Services

Aug 30, 2019

I would say “just NO!”. This is a very long book with much repetition. It makes light of making a living through crime and deception.

Aug 02, 2019

This story had so many unexpected twists that it really was a page turner, despite its length. These twists occur at every 1/3 way through the book and are labelled Part 1-3. The story starts with one person's perspective - a poor teenage girl who has a chance to become a lady's maid - in Part 1. Then, the same events are retold from another person's perspective in Part 2 - the lady also is a teen girl. Resolution to the problems encountered come in Part 3. The story has been set in Victorian times in the London area as the author likes to write historical fiction. Her depiction of the Victorian standards of living for the city's poor and the upper classes, their past time pleasures, their clothing, their transportation, their employment, their medical care, and especially their attitudes to females shows the results of her research. These Victorian details, however, are mainly the backdrop to the story which focuses on how each of the characters want to improve their situation in life. However, it is the secrets some hold about the others and the naivety of the young girls that shows the author's skill in plotting a story to make it a mesmerizing read.

Jul 14, 2019

Very enjoyable, very well-written, loved the twists and turns, and how involved/obsessed I was with both Maud and Sue. Only complaint: it could have been tightened up and a little shorter.

Feb 16, 2019

Completely lost myself in this book, displaced in time, aching for intrigue in my life. Mysteries, treacheries, swaying loyalties, etc. Just read it. You will be shocked, cradled, and romanced by this gothic story.
PS. I did not know there would be lesbian themes in this and may not have read it had I known. So many books to read and sometimes we shy away from unfamiliar (to me anyway) themes. I’m soooo glad I read it.

PimaLib_JessicaP Oct 30, 2018

If you're looking for a book during which the reading will leave you delightfully confused, woefully surprised and all around happy to hate everyone, this is the book for you.

I kid, but only slightly.

Sue Trinder is a girl who was brought up to be a fingersmith. She's quick with her hands and knows how to get by, even though she doesn't have to in the house of a dirty pawnbroker and a baby farmer. When a man they all call Gentleman comes with a scheme that can only be successful with Sue's help, she goes, destined to be set for life. She didn't expect to come to like her mark, though. The girl is sweet and endearing, and doesn't know what she's got coming to her, thinking Gentleman is in love with her. Sue wishes she could help her, but she's about to be set for life. There's no finding your goodness there. Until.

Until. Well. Any more would give it away, wouldn't it?

Aug 21, 2018

People have told me for years to read this - that I would love it. Well they were right. It is just a great story with a wonderful setting, memorable characters and some good twists and turns. Now I'm telling you - read it.

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Sep 09, 2015

Sarah Waters engages the reader in the same acts of defilement that consume her main characters, Sue and Maud. The opening pages are evocative of Oliver Twist, with Sue being presented as the beloved orphan being raised in a den of thieves. Her counterpart, the also-orphaned Maud, has been brought to live with her wealthy, reclusive, scholarly uncle after being raised by nurses in a madhouse. There are early portents of the uncle's unsavory literary interests. In contrast to the craven scheming and exploitation that surrounds them and of which they are both active participants and victims, the sexual attraction that sparks between Maud and Lilly seems like the one bright thing in their dark world. The ending is perhaps a happy one, but I emerged from these 511 pages feeling rather misled about the nature of the book I was getting into.

FavouriteFiction Sep 30, 2009

Orphan Sue Trinder is raised by pick-pocket "fingersmiths" and becomes involved in a scam to defraud Maud Lilly, a young heiress. Sue begins to have serious misgivings about the plan, when she discovers she has fallen in love with Maud.


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