Sunday, 10 April 2011

On plot twists that make one's heart stop

One of the joys of the holiday that I am currently half way through is that it has enabled me to read some of the books that have been sitting on the to-read pile for far too long. After great deliberation - the kind where I stoke my chin thoughtfully while staring blankly at my bookcases - I decided to bring:
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Oman Ra by Victor Pelevin
Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

As of yet, I'm only three quarters of the way through Fingersmith but I couldn't resist blogging about it. BANG.

I was a Sarah Waters convert pretty much from the first page. As most readers already know, she is a stunning storyteller and her prose is thick and tactile; I cannot get enough of it. But what I wanted to blog about today is the amazing plot twist that takes place about 175 pages in. I confess, I had no idea whatsoever that it was coming. My heart stopped. Eyes rolled back. Sweat beaded on my forehead. All as though I'd downed a glass of whiskey. I put the book down and stared at a wall for five minutes trying to work out if what I thought had just happened actually had.

It had.

I cannot comprehend the skill it must have taken to build up subtly to that moment, dropping ambiguous hints that lead the reader down the wrong road, then hitting them full in the face in one short page. I can't think of another book that has so amazed me like that. The Quincunx by Charles Palliser does repeatedly, but none of the twists there quite so dramatically change the entire direction of the plot as this one does. The Man Who Was Thursday turns about heel at the end, but because it's so near the end there isn't the same time to ruminate on the change before it is over. Similarly, Never Let Me Go does, but the twist there is a gradual dawning of realisation rather than sudden mugging out of nowhere.

I am loving Fingersmith. And I suspect there may be another big twist or two to come before this wonderful journey comes to an end.


Dianne said...

OK FINE I'LL READ IT. You have sold this book to me in one short blog entry. Thank you SUR

Sam Ruddock said...

If this was Facebook, I'd like this. Since it's not, I still like it!