Sad fact – I’ve steadfastly avoided queer culture. Even once I came to terms with my sexuality, I still avoided things like queer movies and queer books. I can’t even explain why, really. I’d like to pretend it was because I didn’t want to see stereotypes thrown back at me in various mediums, but really, I was just too timid. Renting a queer movie would require going to Blockbuster (but now I have Netflix!), and no amount of persuasion could have ever convinced me to go into a bookstore and look the cashier in the eye while buying an anthology of lesbian erotica – even though I’d linger a bit longer than usual in that section. Luckily, that’s changed a bit. I recently took a trip to my girlfriend’s parents’ house, and got to see her childhood room. Being a bookworm I am, I pored over her bookshelves, and they were filled with things like Inga Muscio’s “Cunt” and Jessica Valenti’s “Full Frontal Feminism”. I think my girlfriend was amused by my fascination, and she offered me the full range of pickings. Needless to say, I grabbed an armful of books before we headed out. The first one I chose to read was Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, that bastion of lesbian fiction.
The book opens with Susan Trinder, our protagonist, living happily with her family of thieves in London. Her real mother, we learn, was put to death soon after Susan was born. And so she is raised in a ragtag family by a rough sort of woman who loves Susan as her own. One day, a man arrives and changes everything – he offers Susan the opportunity of a lifetime, swindling another young woman out of her fortune. Tempted by the chance of bringing forture to both herself and her family, she accepts, though it weighs on her conscience. And it is then that she meets Maud.
I can’t say much more without giving away the story, but oh man, this novel is full of plot twists. I spent my childhood with my nose buried in every Agatha Christie novel ever written, so there’s not much that slips past me – if Hercule Poirot could figure it out, so could I. Like 15 pages before Poirot figured it out. But Fingersmith definitely threw me for a loop, multiple times. The book was completely unpredictable, but that made it fun. I think the best part about it was that the lesbian sub-plot was handled delicately – not too overpowering, but just enough to get your heart racing a little. If you’re looking for a great read with a bit of queer flavoring, I would definitely recommend this.