Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
I'd originally read Affinity by Sarah Waters after a friend of mine recommended the author. Affinity was good but I didn't quite connect to the narrator. I figured I'd give this novel a shot as well before completely making my decision about Waters, and I'm glad I did.
It was a fun read: a dark gothic house, characters and settings in London that seemed very Dickensian like (if I actually read Dickens but he's a bit too preachy for my tastes) as well as set ups and intrigues. Susan Trinder narrates the first part of the novel. She grew up in the seedier part of London as an orphan, though she lives with Mrs. Sucksby, who makes her living by selling babies, and Mr. Ibbs, a man who sells stolen goods. When Sue is seventeen, the Gentleman, a con artist everyone knows, enlists her help in one of his ploys: she is supposed to go to the country to serve as the lady's maid of Maud Lilly, a heiress. Maud can't inherit unless she is married, so the Gentleman plans to marry her and then leave her in an insane asylum while he takes off with her money. Sue is supposed to help gently prod Maud to accept his proposal in exchange for a small part of the fortune.
Sue ends up falling for Maud but still goes through with the plan. Of course, there is a lot more going on than Sue originally recognizes, and as the novel progresses there are several revelations and double crosses.
Waters does a great job of bringing the seedy parts of London to life and describing the insides of a insane asylum of the 19th century. All the characters are incredibly colorful and lifelike, and nothing is as it seems. While Affinity was a good book, it was also darker; in comparison, this is much more fun and enjoyable.