Novelist out to Cause a Sensation; LITERATURE: Tale of Two Victorian Orphans Is Favourite to Win Orange Prize
Byline: HANNAH JONES Arts and Media Editor
IT IS her first attempt to write a "sensational" novel featuring, as always in her work, passionate, transgressive female characters.
In this respect, Sarah Waters' women are very unlike what we tend to think of as the typical Victorian heroine.
But it is this challenge which has made her Fingersmith a well-crafted page-turner.
The book, the Neyland-born author's third, is one of six novels nominated for the pounds 30,000 Orange prize for women's fiction.
The book, which examines the fate of two orphans in London in the 19th Century, is pitted against a controversial novel which tells of a British family's problems that emanate from their youngest son's hatred of black people.
The White Family by Maggie Gee is a provocative contender for this year's prize.
But feminist critics have proclaimed Fingersmith as its main rival in the literary race.
Although tipping the winner is an invariably precarious endeavour, Lucie Spence, manager of the new Silver Moon feminist book store at Foyle's in London, says Waters is the competition's front-runner.
"I would like to see Waters get it, " she says. "This is her third book and it's incredibly well-written, a real page-turner.
"She really does transport you back to Victorian times."
Spence says those up for the prize, which has grown in stature alongside the Booker and the Whitbread, have given Orange a gritty list, a mixture of new literary talent and a more established crew. But it is Waters who is proving to be a formidable force in the competition.
Fingersmith grew out of her interest in 19th-century "sensation" novels from writers such as Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Braddon and, to a certain extent, Dickens.
"They were melodramatic novels - quite controversial in their day - novels preoccupied with violence, madness, the indulgence and discovery of secret vice. …