By: Sarah Waters
Date Read: 6/15/13
Summary: 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. (From goodreads)
Review: As soon as Sue arrives at Briar, the foreshadowing begins with phrases such as “I thought I knew all about (Maude). Of course, I knew nothing” which leads us quickly to believe there will be a twist to this story at some point. And lo and behold there is! There are actually quite a few. Overall, I think the twists were pretty clever but that’s about all the good I have to say about this book. I think that may be because the first twist took the story completely off track from the reason I picked the book up in the first place. I enjoyed the idea of con men and thieves and deceit but the main character who was supposed to be doing all of that was relatively dumb and all of the characters that continued to be introduced were just as ignorant. I don’t think I found any character I actually enjoyed throughout the whole book other than maybe Charley Wag, the dog.
As far as writing style goes, I understand the author’s goal of creating a Victorian novel but she fell very short. There were long periods of lag time between the twists and instead of using these times for character development; they seemed more for passing time and filling up pages. I also hated the “love story.” I have read a lot of classics and Austen and Dickens do a great job of developing love stories set in this time period and while it is drier than more contemporary literature, you still understand how the relationship developed. There was none of that in this book. I don’t want to spoil anything but I feel like the love story in this book started out as shock value and the author just ran with it. This book was not what I thought it would be and not in a good way. I'm also aware that I'm in the minority with my rating/review of this book. Just don't get it...