Van has finished reading…Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

1 Oct

The more you read the more you get used to the idea – particularly with really good books – that nothing is included without purpose. The downside to this is that sometimes you see what’s coming all too early and so, while you might enjoy the particulars of the writing, that big moment where everything turns becomes an exercise in noting and appreciating the technicalities. Then a book comes along that so completely draws you in that you find yourself on a crowded train, grinning, punching the air, pointing at the page and telling the person next to you, ‘Oh yeah! I didn’t see that coming!’
What a joy this book is. It’s a truly skilful immersion in the characters, in the sense of time and place, in the building of sympathy as much as anything else – this I think Sarah Waters plays masterfully; our sympathies are turned again and again with the major characters – so that you’re really in the room, feeling that febrile energy, laughing along as Mrs Sucksby (what a Dickensian flourish that name is!) asks for someone to pass an infant as she needs something to squeeze.
The book’s structure is spot on too, leading in with Sue’s point of view, then switching to Miss Lilly’s and then back again gives us the optimum vantage point, not only for story’s dramatic course but that of each of the characters too. Both the gradual and the dramatic changes each person goes through feed into a measured pace that kept me turning page after page. I’m not sure what more you’d want really – a storyline that’s as lively as an eel, characters as real as your neighbours and language and pace that keeps you right there next to them. Perfect!


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