FingersmitheBook - 2002
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Sarah Waters engages the reader in the same acts of defilement that consume her main characters, Sue and Maud. The opening pages are evocative of Oliver Twist, with Sue being presented as the beloved orphan being raised in a den of thieves. Her counterpart, the also-orphaned Maud, has been brought to live with her wealthy, reclusive, scholarly uncle after being raised by nurses in a madhouse. There are early portents of the uncle's unsavory literary interests. In contrast to the craven scheming and exploitation that surrounds them and of which they are both active participants and victims, the sexual attraction that sparks between Maud and Lilly seems like the one bright thing in their dark world. The ending is perhaps a happy one, but I emerged from these 511 pages feeling rather misled about the nature of the book I was getting into.
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