Unknown - 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.
Edition: Riverhead trade paperback.
ISBN: 9781573229722
Branch Call Number: WATERS S
Characteristics: 582 pages ; 21 cm.


From Library Staff

"Growing up as a foster child among a family of thieves, orphan Sue Trinder hopes to pay back that kindness by playing a key role in a swindle scheme devised by their leader, Gentleman, who is planning to con a fortune out of the naive Maud Lily, but Sue's growing pity for their helpless vic... Read More »

Twisty, page-turning, stay-up-all-night-to-see-what-happens-next historical fiction.

From the critics

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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.

Jul 20, 2017

Very good. Extremely good twist near the end though. I absolutely loved the ending by the way.

Feb 09, 2017

WATCH The Handsmaiden, a Korean re-mix of Liaisons Dangereuses in 3 Parts. 1: Hitchcock: assumed identities, voyeurism and betrayal. 2: Greenaway/Rashomon/Sade: scenes heard in 1 are seen here, more twists: library of shunga (erotic manga), marionette sex, S&M (50 Shades are for kids). 3: End Game: Seven + Grifters + Thelma & Louise. Unlike many violent Korean movies, this one has the women on TOP! You all know this is an adaption of Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, eh?

Aug 24, 2016

Hated this book! you read the book and then read the exact same scenes from the other person's point of view. Definitely a Lesbian romance novel also.

MsMarple Jun 29, 2016

I couldn't put this down! It had so many twists and turns, such gripping characters and storyline, I was so engrossed in it at the bus-top that I got onto the wrong bus!

CMLReads_Kristin Apr 14, 2016

Historical stories with LGBTQ themes are rare. Lots of nice twists and turns in this Victorian thriller.

Jul 07, 2015

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.

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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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