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Re-reading: "Fingersmith" by Sarah Waters

I'm losing my mind over what I didn't see before...

By Annie KapurPublished 2 years ago • 3 min read

So a few days ago, I had an itch to re-read a great book I'd read a couple of years ago called Fingersmith by Sarah Waters. It is a great book and the problem I'm having this time is because I know the story, I'm seeing other things that I didn't see before and pretty much losing my mind over it. The main question I have is: what is the point of the body?

Image from GoodReads

There is so much talk about the body in this novel and not just the body of people, but of animals and of politics, everything is to do with a body of some sort and it has a deep and visceral meaning that I think I'm piecing together the more I read into the quotations. I first came across it when I started reading that part about serving up the goose at dinner and she analysises how the goose is presented and each man takes a piece of the bosy but she does not want any and passes on the offer. I know it's mundane but it really grabbed my attention far more than it did before.

Image from Amazon

The quotation is from page 208:

"We are served hare soup, this night; then, goose, crisp at the skin, pink at the bones, and with its innards devilled and passed about the table. Mr Hawtrey takes a dainty kidney, Mr Rivers has the heart. I shake my head at the plate he offers."

I noticed the quotation mainly because as I kept reading on, there was a quotation on the next few pages that linked up perfectly to this one and presented almost a contrasting view on the aspect of the body of women in comparison to the body of animals and how they are treated and physically and metphorically devoured through preservation. It's just like eating good food to them that has been preserved and kept 'dainty' for a long enough time to eat.

The quotation is from page 211:

"Have I not said so, many times? Girls' eyes should not be worn out with reading nor their small hands made hard through the gripping of pens."

This is just one example of the contrasts I have seen through my re-reading. Various small images of the body have come to light as the link between body and mind are shown quite drastically through the strangeness of character. For example: when she has a cut on her hand from the glass to when the man in the library asks her if she is mad like her mother - these are two ideas that are opposed as she is not the 'regular' and 'conventional' woman of the time.

Image from Blackwell's

When she watches Agnes through the cracks of the door, she focuses on the body and how it unnerves her, how she cannot sleep and how she cannot feel awake either. The pulses in her feet keep her up and she is completely racked with emotion. All of these things are presented through aspects of the body and turn the reader insane by the logic of physiognomy - the looks reflecting the character. This all links back to the thought that her mother was mad and therefore, so must she be. I honestly cannot believe I didn't see this before, it is amazing.


There are many, many questions about what a body is, where are bodies are and what our bodies mean when they are and are not our own and it is fascinating me so far. I really just wanted to share that with people and if you have read Fingersmith and have come across this as well, I would definitely like to know what you think of it. It comes across as there are direct contrasts between the way men treat other bodies and the way women treat other bodies. It is very fascinating indeed.


About the Creator

Annie Kapur

175K+ Reads on Vocal

Film and Writing (M.A)

My New Twitter: @AnnieWithBooks

đź“ŤBirmingham, UK

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