Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Fingersmith, the anti-Lark Rise
While Lark Rise to Candleford had no plot (quite irritating if one was expecting one) it did have a point. Those of us who read it are discussing on e-mail exactly what we think that point was (hint to fellow readers who promised me your thoughts) but one idea is that Flora Thompson was trying to de-sensationalize Victorian England. I had the distinct impression that Thompson thought her contemporaries (as she was writing in the late 1930s) had a view of the past overly influenced by sensational novels (Dickens, Collins, Wilde, Stephenson, Bronte) and scences of dramatic, if pastoral, village life (Hardy, for instance, and how I envision Trollope and Elliot). So Thompson set out to write a book that sets people straight. Nothing seedy or unseemly happens in her hamlet in the 1880s. Nothing very good either. In fact, except that pennies are gathered for Victoria's jubilee and bicycles arrive, nothing happens at all. As you'll learn when I combine the conversation about Lark Rise into a cohesive post, despite early warnings, by the end of the third book, Marieke and I were both glad we had devoted some time to reading about nothing in the 1880s and 1890s. But afterward I needed a break from plotlessness. I devoured Fingersmith in a weekend. Sarah Waters' neo-Dickensonian 2002 masterpiece has thieves, orphans, pornagraphy, murder and plot twists galore. Not everybody's thing, but for those of you who like lots to happen, and don't mind if it happens in lots of pages with Victorian language, plenty of coincidences, a few lesbians and a dearth of "good" characters, (I know I'm looking at Beth here, and likely Irene, Jennifer, Janet and many of the rest of you), Fingersmith is a great read. Should you want to know more, Marieke posts about Sarah Waters here and raych reviews Fingersmith here and compares it to The Woman in White here. Oh, and contrary to what the Mister thinks the cover looks like, Fingersmith is not YA or about vampires.