57 pages 1 hour read

Sarah Waters


Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2002

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Part 1, Chapters 1-6Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Part 1, Chapter 1 Summary

Susan Trinder, usually called Sue, narrates her story. She is an orphan living under the care of Mrs. Sucksby, who takes in abandoned infants, and Mr. Ibbs, who runs a locksmith shop next door. London, in the 1860s, is a vast and tumultuous place. Sue relates the “first time I remember thinking about the world and my place in it” (3). She is taken to see the theatrical version of Oliver Twist, becoming frightened when the villainous Bill Sykes strikes Nancy. Her cries cause her caretaker, Flora, to usher her out of the play and back to Mrs. Sucksby, who scolds the young girl for taking the impressionable Sue to the theater. Mrs. Sucksby also interrogates Flora about “your little rig” (4). It turns out that Mrs. Sucksby and Mr. Ibbs oversee a band of young thieves (fingersmiths) who pickpocket and lift “poke”—ill-gotten gains—at every opportunity: “We were all more or less thieves, at Lant Street” (7). Sue happens to be Mrs. Sucksby’s favorite because she is a sensitive and imaginative young girl of 17. Sue’s mother was hanged for murder after a robbery gone wrong, and it seems Mrs. Sucksby cannot bear to part with the girl—that is, until Gentleman comes along with a plan to make their fortunes.