When I’m in need of book comfort, I can never predict which one of my old favorites is going to do the trick. It might be my well-foxed copy of epic rabbit adventure, “Watership Down,” or I might prefer to escape to Elizabeth von Arnim’s acerbic and delight-filled story of four women discovering themselves in Italy, “The Enchanted April.” Or maybe I want something that gives voice to history with strength and courage: Julia Alvarez’s potent “In the Time of the Butterflies,” or the piercing, elegiac beauty of Julie Otsuka’s “The Buddha in the Attic.”
But after checking on friends and family, stocking up and canceling everything, I found myself someplace else entirely: in the sweat-seamed stews of Sarah Waters’s gripping Dickensian masterpiece “Fingersmith.” It’s such a twisty headlong story that I can tell you very little about it without running into spoilers, except to say that it has everything needed to distract you from constantly refreshing news updates: a sweep-you-off-your-feet narrative voice, outrageously effective suspense, Victorian horrors, erotic thrills, complicated characters, mysteries and double-crosses and triple-crosses, and even a hopeful ending. I know every one of its twists from previous reads, but the book never fails to ensnare me, and as a bonus, if isolation starts to chafe, the historically accurate asylum scenes will surely keep things in perspective. —Madeline Miller’s most recent novel is “Circe.”
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