The English Country House in the Contemporary Novel
CHAPTER SIX: “Evil plots do not happen here”: Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith
Chapter Six“Evil plots do not happen here”: Sarah Waters’s Fingersmith
The two novels analysed hitherto in Part Two balance between the codes of the novel of manners and gothic fiction. In The Little Stranger, the mores and manners theme dominates the first part of the novel, while the gothic atmosphere creeps in hesitantly, held back first by the Ayreses’ urge to keep up the appearances and then by the narrator’s rationalizing voice. A Spell of Winter engages with gothic codes in a more unequivocal way and offers the whole spectrum of gothic themes: family mystery, burdensome heritage, madness, murder and incest. Both novels, however, preserve the element of country-house dreaming. In Waters the idealized visions of manorial reality are carried on by the nostalgic memories of Mrs Ayres and wishful thinking of Faraday, in Dunmore by the hopeful, if ultimately thwarted, dreams of the grandfather and George Bullivant. In Sarah Waters’s 2002 novel Fingersmith, as in A Spell of Winter, a gothic atmosphere suffuses the represented world yet the dark tale is undiluted either by memories of a harmonious past or by manorial dreaming.
Fingersmith is divided into three parts; the first and the last one are in the voice of Sue Trinder, an orphaned pickpocket, raised in the London Borough, the second in the voice of Maud Lilly, a young lady living in a grand country house. Sue Trinder, raised by the adoptive mother, Mrs. Sucksby, is convinced to help a handsome but penniless...
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