Literature / Fingersmith

The third novel by British author Sarah Waters, Fingersmith tells the story of Victorian thief Sue Trinder, who agrees to help con sheltered heiress Maud Lilly out of her inheritance, but The Plan begins to go awry when she finds herself falling in love with the innocent and beautiful Maud.

The book was turned into a popular BBC miniseries in 2005. A South Korean movie re-envisioning in a pre-World War II setting called The Handmaiden debuted in 2016.

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Maud is described as having fair hair in the book, but is a brunette in the adaptation.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Maud, in the book. She enjoys hurting her servants, physically and emotionally, she has moments of what seems to be depersonalization, and also displays some symptoms of OCD. She's originally afraid it's her mother's madness, but it's actually likely this is how her circumstances shaped her. Also the drops, of course.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Gentleman. He's a well-dressed dandy who can effortlessly charm the ladies, but has no actual sexual interest in them. It's left rather unclear in the book, though, whether he's actually a Depraved Homosexual (Word of God confirmed that he is indeed gay).
    • Charles just really wants to be with Mr. Rivers despite knowing he's wicked and being Stupid Good himself.
  • Anti-Villain: Mrs. Sucksby is remarkably sympathetic for someone who condemned her adoptive daughter to a Fate Worse Than Death in order to get her biological daughter back, as well as a whole lot of money. It helps that she seems to feel regretful almost immediately, and that she takes the blame for the murder of Gentleman.
  • Battleaxe Nurse: Nurse Bacon and her coworkers certainly fit.
  • Becoming the Mask: Both Maud and Sue.
  • Bedlam House: Sue ends up here and Maud was raised here.
  • Break the Haughty: Mr Lilly and his staff do this to Maud, when she first comes to Briar.
  • Broken Bird: Maud... oh so much. Sue as well.
  • Broken Pedestal: Both Sue and Maud have this done to them numerous times.
  • Defecting for Love: Sue and Maud both consider it while The Plan is moving along, but decide against it.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Gentleman fits this trope surprisingly well for being written by a putatively gay-friendly author.
  • Double Entendre: The title.
  • The Dung Ages: London.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending
  • Evil Plan: It all starts with conmen trying to swindle an heiress....
  • Fake Mark: Maud
  • Gambit Pileup: What starts as an Evil Plan on the part of Gentleman and Sue turns out to be part of Gentleman and Maud's plan. Which, in the end, was all orchestrated by Mrs. Sucksby, unbeknownst to anyone.
  • Gene Hunting: Inverted and deconstructed. Mrs. Sucksby tries to exchange her adoptive daughter for her biological daughter who's been raised by a rich family (she thinks the girl will love her just by virtue of being her biological daughter — she's wrong).
  • Genre Savvy: Maud's read enough lesbian erotica to know how to pretend to be seduced.
  • Girls Love: Sue and Maud. Yes, they go all the way ...and survive.
  • Go Among Mad People
  • Incompatible Orientation: "Mr and Mrs Rivers", i.e. Gentleman and Maud. As both are homosexual, their "wedding night" consisted of Gentleman cutting his hand to put blood on the sheets, then sleeping in a chair because he didn't trust Maud not to strangle him in his sleep.
  • Kick the Dog: Despite being a story chalk-full of morally-grey people, most of them only do what they do for a reason, which generally involves profit. Gentleman, however, takes pleasure in small acts of pointless cruelty. It even gets him killed, as he died in a scuffle that began when Maud tried to get him to stop telling Sue the truth.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Mrs. Sucksby. Also, Gentleman, who understands other people very well and uses the insights against them.
  • Old Dark House
  • Ominous Fog
  • Smug Snake: Gentleman.
  • Switched at Birth: Maud and Sue.
  • Victorian London
  • Unwitting Pawn: Subverted with Maud and Sue.
  • Wham Line: That bitch knew everything. She was in it from the start.
    • My own dear girl.