Hello! This is my first review for The Book Book so here goes...
I had never read Sarah Waters before and--I feel I must be honest--I've never read any Dickens. The friend who gave me Fingersmith seemed to think this might make it difficult for me to enjoy the book, but I had no such difficulty. As other reviews have noted, Waters does a wonderful job of sewing period details into the story without ever letting the seams show or making you feel that she is merely showing off.
The story revolves around two young women with highly unusual upbringings: Susan Trinder, an orphaned thief, and Maud Lilly, born in a madhouse and raised by her uncle in the requisite mildewing, creepy house we expect from Gothic novels such as this. Both women were interesting, complex, and likable characters.
As some of you may have already suspected, there is a lesbian romance in the book. As a Waters' novice, I wasn't looking for it, but early on I found myself hoping that the two women would end up together. I think this speaks to the genuine, natural development of their relationship. This provides the sweet and hopeful core of the story.
I will resist saying more because the back of the book sort of ruined some of the twists in the plot for me. Thankfully even if you have a tendency, as I do, to try and fish out the twists before they come, you can still enjoy the ride. One caveat: if you read too slowly, you may find the story drag at times. Devour it in a week, and you'll feel satisfied.
This book is a Gothic treat: there are madwomen, murderesses, creepy gloves, reedy walks, wicked plots, twisted caretakers, and one rotten house. Curl up on a rainy day and revel in it, knowing that the end will leave you feeling as warm as a cup of English tea.