Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Hot on the heels of having read Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, I recently found myself reading yet another modern take on the Victorian novel. Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith is a rip-roaring yarn set in 19th century England. Waters draws on the tradition of social realism, combining it with a good dose of the Gothic, to create a page-turner of a novel. The plot flies along, taking the reader on what is a pretty entertaining ride. This is a Victorian novel seen through a contemporary lens. Characters swear and have sex, something that doesn't happen much in Dickens.
Waters writes skillfully and entertainingly but at times this book stretched the bounds of believability for me. Somehow everything works out a little too neatly and the coincidences and connections are forced at times. I found the experience of reading Fingersmith very much like reading Waters' more recent novel Nightwatch. Both were great fun but neither really stayed me. Waters' writing seem to promise something that it doesn't quite deliver. Fingersmith plays around the edges of some really interesting ideas, such as the role of women and women's sexuality in Victorian England, but it never quite soars for me. I'm interested enough in Waters' writing though to want to read her novels in the future, just to see if they ever really fly.