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“Gothic tale, psychological study, puzzle narrative…This is gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and senses.”—The Seattle Times

An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women’s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London’s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank’s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by on apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. Selina was imprisoned after a séance she was conducting went horribly awry, leaving an elderly matron dead and a young woman deeply disturbed. Although initially skeptical of Selina’s gifts, Margaret is soon drawn into a twilight world of ghosts and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions, until she is at last driven to concoct a desperate plot to secure Selina’s freedom, and her own.

As in her noteworthy deput, Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters brilliantly evokes the sights and smells of a moody and beguiling nineteenth-century London, and proves herself yet again a storyteller, in the words of the New York Times Book Review, of "startling power."

Published: Penguin Group on
ISBN: 9781101053119
List price: $12.99
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Rating: 4 of 5Excellent! Affinity wasn't a fast-paced story but nonetheless compelling. Waters had me so thoroughly wrapped up in Margaret's POV that the "twist" actually surprised me. The mixture of journal entries from both Margaret and Selina definitely helped with that trickery.Recommended to those who enjoy literary novels written with authentic Victorian era prose, centered around an "Is it real? Or is it fake" paranormal mystery, topped off with a love story.****WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER FOLLOWS****The ending's a downer for all the right reasons.more
I see I forgot to write a journal entry about this book. Well a review.
I did like it. I've read 4 books by Sarah Waters and out of those 4 one of them I did not finish.Can't recall the name. I enjoyed Fingersmith and Tipping Velvet.

The only thing is, I did see things coming. Maybe I am getting smarter but I knew that the nice matron in the prison was a friend , but I thought at first it was Selina's maid.

After reading a bit more I realised that there must have been someone in the house of Margaret, then i remembered her mother had just had to hire a new maid and bingo.

This book has a sad ending where Margaret will end her life. I do think Selina wasn't planning on letting her fall in love with her but when she did, it only helped. She just wanted to use her and thinking she could do that with her dad father at first, but that wasn't even necessary. This author is so good in writing these kind of books where you just picture the gloomy weather and the dark thoughts.more
Affinity, Sarah Waters' second novel is seriously flawed. In this novel of suspense, the author tells a story, and attempts to pull off a chute at the end of the novel. However, a successful chute is a a sudden realization on the part of the reader to see a hidden aspect of the story, which was cleverly concealed and create a sudden moment of epiphany or elation. This intended effect totally fails in Affinity, because the reader has not received sufficient information in the first 300+ pages, and the "surprise" is revealed by the author in the last part of the novel.In fact, Part 5 of the novel can be read as a synopsis of the novel, preceded by 300 pages of distraction, full of inessential details. The first four parts of the novel are ultimately so meaningless, that many readers will lose interest after about 200 pages, wondering where the novel is going. The distraction in the first 300 pages is strengthened by the capricious, unpredictable and utterly meaningless jumping forward and backward in time, over a period of about three years.Readers who skip the first 318 pages, and only read Part 5, will miss very little. Part 5 would read very well as a shortish short story of barely 30 pages.more
It’s 1874 and Margaret Prior is a spinster at only 29. She’s trapped in an oppressive life with her mother and sees no escape. She’s grieving the loss of her father and the end of a recent romance. She decides to begin visiting Millbank Prison as a “Lady Friend” giving comfort to the female prisons there. She forms a particular attachment with the prisoner Selina Dawes, a spiritualist jailed when she hosts a séance that ends badly. This one started out pretty slow for me. Fingersmith and The Little Stranger were both more enthralling at the start, but I hung in there and the pay off was worth it. The beauty of Waters’ writing is the way it sneaks up on you and completely envelops you. Just when you think you have a pretty good idea how things are going to unfold, you get blindsided, but in a good way! I actually thought I knew exactly how it was going to end and I was a bit disappointed with what I thought was coming. Luckily for me I was completely wrong. Calling this a mystery or ghost story would be ignoring the depth of the book. It is a gothic tale, but it also covers so many different topics: the vast divides in the Victorian class system, depression, sexuality, the nineteenth century obsession with spiritualism and so much more! While crafting this story, Waters lulls you into a false sense of security. You focus on the obvious things, the horrific scenes from the jail, Margaret’s struggle with her feelings for others, all of which are fascinating. But the whole time you’re looking right, a complex tale is being built off to your left and result is intense. BOTTOM LINE: Waters has an incredible gift for crafting stories. Even if the story starts out slow, the end makes it all worthwhile. If you’re a fan of gothic stories this one is a safe bet.  more
I loved Sarah Waters before I read this, and I love her even more now. I think this is a terrific book, baring all of what I think of as the Waters' hallmarks - a brilliantly written tale, with a tightly constructed plot, memorable characters whose emotional inner lives are writ large on the page and an incredibly powerful atmosphere and sense of place. This story's chief protagonist is Margaret, a young lady in Victorian London, who becomes the lady visitor at a women's prison. She falls under the spell of Selina Dawes, a disgraced spiritualist who has ended up in the jail after a "visit" has gone tragically wrong in ambiguous circumstances. Margaret is a sensitive soul who has had her share of tragedy and suffering, and senses in Selina a kindred spirit. Selina senses it also, and their friendship soon proves to have life changing consequences for both of them.....Waters' chief subject matter in all her novels is the lived experience of women, and what it means to be a woman. This novel is more like this than most - it barely even has any male characters at all. It examines the Victorian attitude to womanhood from almost every angle - from the timid and socially trapped young woman (already branded a spinster for being unmarried at 30), the attractive and therefore successful elder sister, the overbearing mother, the "fallen" women in the prison and the starchy matrons that keep them there, even the gaggle of women that attend Selina's black circles - all of these lives are laid bare for our examination, and feel real and complete, however fleeting a glimpse we get of them. One of the few male characters in the story makes a disparaging comment about how all women novelists can only write stories of the heart, a charge that may well have been laid at Waters' door, as her novels are brimming over with feeling, but in the fiendish plotting and an ending that left me reeling, there is evidence of a great deal of "head" as well. Truly, one of the best writers currently working, in my humble opinion.more
Sarah Waters is hands down the best author I have ever read. 5 stars is really not enough for this book. Affinity is suspenseful, intelligent, erotic and totally unpredictable, like all of Sarah Waters books. I have read Affinity at least 3 times, and I'm sure I will read it again. This one, of all of her books, comes the closest to being a horror story. Don't let that dissuade you though. This is a roller coaster of a book and the beautiful craft of Sarah Water's storytelling will pull you through it...more
Margaret Prior decides to perform volunteer work at Victorian London's Millbank Prison, providing services as a Visitor to the women's facility. She needs something to do after her failed suicide attempt to keep her mind busy, and though her mother doesn't like the idea of her daughter spending her time at a prison, Margaret finds comfort in her new duties.During one of her rounds, she notices a solitary inmate, sitting in a semi-dark cell and clandestinely admiring a small flower within her hand. She learns from one of the prison matron's that the woman is Selina Dawes, currently being held due to a séance gone wrong. Intrigued, Margaret takes it upon her self to learn more about Miss Dawes and begins spending more time with her. As the days and weeks pass, Margaret discovers that she is more than simply intrigued by Selina and her world of ghosts and spirits, and as her infatuation grows, so does her plan to find some way to free Selina from Millbank.The story is told through the pages of Margaret's diary so in a grand way, that affected my desire for Margaret to be happy. Reading her thoughts about her family, how her view of the world changed after her suicide attempt, her delight at the new-found experiences with Selina -- it makes the connection with Margaret that much easier and in turn tricks you into believing and feeling just as she does.What makes "Affinity" work for me is what I would consider the twist near the end. I know that I should have seen it coming, but the story of Margaret and her interest in Selina and her connection with the spirit world had me so wrapped up that I found myself mentally nudging Margaret forward to pursue the relationship, always seeing the happy ending, just as Margaret did. But that twist....It's a wonderful novel, filled with characters so well crafted you can almost sense yourself walking around Millbank with them. And the story drags you in and keeps you in its clutches until the very end, like a good story should.more
Margaret Prior suffers a nervous breakdown after the death of her father, who was to take her to Italy with her best friend Helen, with whom Margaret is in love. Now Helen has married Margaret's brother and her other sister is also preparing for marriage, which leaves Margaret's situation as a "spinster" even more glaring and out of place. In this situation, Margaret decides to begin to visit the women prisoners in Millbank Prison, a dreadful, dingy, regimented, cruel place that appears to have been dreamed up by Jeremy Bentham. A woman named Selina Dawes, a spiritualist, has been imprisoned there for fraud and involvement in the death of her one time employer. Selina was prosecuted because she, as well as other spiritualists, are held guilty of practicing upon the emotions of others, who are desperate to make contact with beloved dead persons, or experience some insight into the world beyond. Gradually, Margaret falls in love with Selina, and becomes part of a scheme to assist her in escaping from Millbank. Selina is to meet Margaret and escape with her to Europe. Selina does escape from prison, but Margaret eventually discovers that she has been used as part of Selina's plan and that Selina has no romantic feelings for her. The novel is a study of the appeal of spiritualism in the Victorian period as well as a tragic portrayal of a well-intentioned lesbian life doomed to disappointment and otherness.more
Sarah Waters brings the two lead characters in her second novel vividly to life. One is a spiritualist, incacerated in the womens wing of London's 19th century Millbank Prison, the other a "lady visitor" seeking to bring some minimal interest to the inmates miserable and bleak lives. Further elaboration might reveal too much for those still to read the book, but Waters' uncanny ability to convey emotion and - in this novel as in Little Stranger - impart what might be best described as a sense of erriness is a measure of her huge skill as a writer. Also pleasing is the way she seamlessly blends historical research into her narrative.The eerry plot - with shades of a ghost story - is not the type of book that would usually appeal to me. For that reason, Affinity didn't absorb me in the way Waters's great novel, Fingersmith did. But is is a tribute to the quality of Waters' writing that I read the book quickly, and with real interest. I'd highly recommend it to anyome with a taste for eerry historical tales.more
Pretty slow and dull - some interesting aspects and twist at the end quite good - but overall not terribly satisfying or grippingmore
A few weeks ago I shared my thoughts on the first half of this book here. I was enjoying the atmosphere that the author created, I found the main character intriguing, and was very interested in seeing where the story was going to go next. And I'm going to admit that I went into the book with high expectations after hearing all of the accolades concerning the author and her novels. I'm happy to share that this book lived up to all of my expectations, and I found this to be a wonderful reading experience. My favorite part of this book was the gloomy, creepy atmosphere that the author creates. The prison, where a huge part of the story takes place, seems to take on a life of its' own and I couldn't help but wonder at the mysteries and horrors that it held within its' walls. Margaret was such a curious and mysterious main character. I never could guess what she was going to do throughout the story and found her actions to be surprising at times. And Selina. I constantly wondered about her "spiritualism" and if anything that she was saying was true or how could it possibly not be true. The whole book was a mystery for me until the very end. The ending of the book blew me away...and yet when I thought about it afterwards it wasn't all that unexpected but it sure worked. It was the type of ending that left me thinking about it for a couple of days afterwards if that tells you anything :) All in all, this is a book that I would highly recommend and an author that I will be reading much more of.Disclosure: I checked this book out from my local library but I'm thinking about buying my own copy as I enjoyed this one so much. Thanks to Andi for hosting this readalong and finally giving me the push to give this author a try!more
Margaret Prior, a spinster of almost 30, is recovering from a nervous breakdown, when she starts doing charity work as a lady visitor at Millbank Prison. Among the prisoners she meets there is Selina Dawes, a young and beautiful psychic medium who has been convicted of assault and fraud.I can't really say too much about this book, for fear of giving something away that will spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet read it, but I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in spiritualism, the role of women or prison conditions during the Victorian era, or indeed anyone who likes a good story.more
After her father's death, Margaret Prior becomes despondent. Before he died, she was to have gone to Italy with him and her friend, Helen, with whom Margaret was in love with. Now Helen is married to Margaret's brother and their sister, Priscilla is also getting married. Her physician suggests that Margaret become a Lady Visitor at Millbank Prison, to be a comfort and example to the women. Margaret meets several of the prisoners and becomes obsessed with one, Selina Dawes, a spiritualist imprisoned for fraud.I don't want to say much more about the plot for fear of giving something away. But let me say that I loved this book. It takes place in Victorian London, it has a Dickensian prison and wardens. It has psychics and mediums. Margaret is a lonely character. She does not want to marry or have children. She is haunted by her love for Helen and desperately sad over the loss of her intellectual father, the only one who understood her.Margaret's story alternates with that of Selina's and we see how she ended up in prison.Though I was not a fan of Waters' The Little Stranger which everyone else raved about, I thought Affinity was incredibly well-written, with fleshed out characters and a brilliant plot. Her descriptions of Millbank Prison, the matrons in charge of the women prisoners, and the prisoners themselves are very well researched, as are stories of the spiritualist community.This book is a must, must read! It is very atmospheric and Gothic-like. In case I didn't mention it, I loved it.my rating 5/5more
Affinity tells the story of the mentally unstable 30-year-old Margarent (she of many names), still in mourning for her beloved father and for a broken relationship, who, as a form of duty and generally putting herself out into society again as an upper-class woman, begins visiting dreary Millbank prison as a "Lady Visitor." Her visits there are intended to be morally uplilfiting for the prisoners locked away therein. She quickly becomes infatuated with the intriguing and myterious Selina Dawes, a spiritualist medium, who is serving a most unusual of sentences. Selina seems to know more about Margaret than is possible, seems to be able to communicate with her across spatial divides; she seems generally unconstrained by what holds others in. In her journal, which forms the bulk of the narrative, Margaret charts her increasing obsession with this young woman while also making observations about the miserable conditions of the prison and the inequity of the way men are allowed to conduct themselves in the rigid Victorian society (though she seems to remain blind to class difference, with a few flashes of insight).Affinity has several things going for it: it's beautifully written, with passages of the protaganist, Margarent's, elegant, lush, fevered prose alternating with short sections of the prisoner Selina's short matter-of-fact writings. It truly brings the world of Millbank prison to life; it's hard to come away from a description of it and not feel enclosed and cold yourself. Waters has a truly exacting eye for detail; the Victorian world comes to vivid life. It's also a crash course in spiritualism; without ever belaboring points or dragging the reader through tedious academic detail, you manage to learn a good bit about mediumship and the tricks of the trade as well as about the popular perception of mediumship in the 1870s. Waters has clearly done her background work.And yet . . . it's hard to feel any true sympathy for Margaret. She has one clear insight into the differences of class that I can think of; otherwise, she seems blind to the fact that all the women in prison are lower class and obliged to kowtow to her (though the wardens often snidely point out that there are "ladies" there, too). Her prose can turn somewhat purple at times; whether this is intended to reflect her overagitated state of mind or is simply Waters getting carried away, I do not know, but it does wear thin and bog the novel down sometimes. And, as other reviewers have noted, the "mystery" to the novel is a little bit obvious; the big reveal isn't all that much of a surprise, which is disappointing. A few of the characters run to the stereotype: the obnoxious little sister, the overbearing mother. I would have liked to have heard more about Pa, would have liked to have more about him fleshed out, especially as he is so integral to Margaret's life. It's as if most of the work in characterization went into making Selina mysterious and hard to pin down, and the other characters were made a little less rich for it.Still, the novel is an interesting snapshot of the repressive Victorian era: repressive in its sexual mores, repressive in its family structures, repressive in its morality, repressive in its beliefs, &c. It is morbidly fascinating to watch one woman's mind degenerate and bloom in other ways as she expands the limits of what she finds acceptable. It's like watching a flower blossom while knowing all the while that it must die.more
Atmospheric and at times quite creepy, this novel explores the charlatans of Victorian England who pretended to be able to contact the spirit realm. Waters has a talent for creating characters who are likeable even when they do pretty distasteful things.more
Wonderful creepy setting and detail. I liked the use of the dual journals by the two major characters, but I guessed the ending way too early in the book.more
This is the story of two women, both prisoners in their own different ways and drawn together by a special bond - their 'affinity'.Margaret Prior is a single woman of twenty nine who, following the death of her father, begins visiting London's Millbank Prison as a Lady Visitor. Lady Visitors were women who voluntarily visited prisoners with the aim of befriending them and giving them comfort during the time of their imprisonment. However, Margaret is in need of some friendship and comfort herself. From her very first visit, she finds herself strangely drawn to Selina Dawes, a young spiritualist imprisoned for assault after one of her spiritualism sessions goes badly wrong, leaving a woman dead and a girl traumatised. Selina blames her 'control spirit', Peter Quick, for what happened, but is she telling the truth? Throughout the story, the reader is made to wonder whether Selina really has the powers she claims to have or if Margaret is the victim of an elaborate hoax.The book is told in the form of diary entries - Margaret's longer sections being interspersed with Selina's shorter ones. Margaret's diary entries are very bleak and miserable, as she is trying to cope not only with the loss of her father, but also with her feelings for both Selina and her sister-in-law Helen, the expectations of her domineering mother, and the sense of being 'left behind' that she experiences when her younger sister gets married and leaves home. Selina's sections of the story are very vague and confusing and I didn't fully understand them until I went back and read them again after reaching the end of the book.I enjoyed learning about life in a Victorian prison, as it's not something I've read about in so much detail before. Waters does a wonderful job of conveying the oppressive atmosphere of Millbank, with its labyrinthine corridors and gloomy wards.I haven't read all of Sarah Waters' books yet so I can't really say where Affinity stands in comparison to her others, but I thought it was an excellent book - dark, suspenseful, moving and with some passages that were genuinely spooky.more
The only time I issue one star is when I just can't finish the book... and unfortunately that was the case with Affinity. I'm really surprised because I loved several other Waters books. But I gave this one 125pp and still just didn't care about the characters or the plot. I set it aside because life is too short to waste on dull books.more
Disappointing; a mystery with no mystery about it (“Is the spiritualist a fake?” – Well, what do you think?!) and a far-fetched and implausible explanation.more
Tonight I will sleep fitfully, haunted more by a young spiritualist than by her spirits. Artfully crafted, using imagery that springs to mind so vividly one would think it a memory, Sarah Waters has fashioned yet another masterpiece.The year is 1874. Selina Dawes, a mysterious and powerful young spirit-medium is imprisoned in a monstrous and daunting women’s gaol, Millbank. Jailed after a botched spirit-communication lead to the death of her patron, Selina is visited by no one but her spirit friends until a local mistress comes to visit the prisoners.The visitor, Margaret Prior, is a young lady of London, highly educated and brought up as assistant to her late father, an arts professor. Despairing his absence from her life, Margaret travels about in something of haze—looking for something she knows not what. When she encounters Dawes, Margaret is simultaneously scared witless by the girl and entranced by her power. The women’s relationship builds with Margaret learning more about Dawes from newspapers and first hand accounts, than from her fleeting and bewildering encounters with Selina.Interspersed with short journal entries from Selina’s days as a burgeoning spirit-medium conducting séances, the story follows Margaret’s research as she seeks to uncover the mystery of Selina’s past, her powers, and why she is so affected by her. Although the reader is not privy to Selina’s current thoughts, her journal entries, coupled with her unexplainable powers and knowledge of the spirit realm make her enticing and irresistible. In stark and painful contrast to her exciting prison visits, Margaret’s everyday life unfortunately is constantly rearing its ugly head. Her sister is getting married and the preparations fill her days with a dreary stupor.Although Affinity could hardly be called frightening, it is nevertheless haunting. Descriptions of landscapes, buildings, rooms, etc. feel so intensely ominous that they end up being far scarier than accounts of the spirit encounters. Affinity’s characters can be trusted to illicit your empathy, pity, sorrow, hatred, wonder, love and lust (and in my cast jealousy). Being at once a tale of impropriety and youthful indiscretion between girls, and a bildungsroman of Margaret’s spiritual and sexual development, one cannot but feel compassion toward its struggling young lovers.more
Affinity by Sarah Waters combined so many exquisite storytelling elements –colorful characters, a plot that kept you guessing and a Victorian setting that framed the story perfectly. If you love Victorian novels, then Affinity is a novel not to miss.Margaret Prior was an unmarried lady who was mourning the death of her father and the marriage of her childhood lover, Helen. To find a purpose with her life, she became a “Lady Visitor” at Millbank Prison, specifically to the troubled female prisoners who could benefit from visits by a society woman. During her visits, Margaret found a special attachment to one inmate – Selina Dawes – a medium arrested for allegedly beating a young girl and causing the death of her guardian.Learning more about Selina’s plight, Margaret became more interested in spiritualism, and Waters masterfully wove Victorians’ obsession with ghosts and mediums into the story, allowing the reader to learn more about this aspect of Victorian culture. Eventually, Margaret’s interest in Selina became more deep and attached – to the point that Margaret agreed to aid Selina’s prison escape.Margaret and Selina proved to be characters that were sympathetic and unforgettable. Margaret was emotionally fragile, unsure about her sexual orientation in a sexually repressed society – the perfect candidate to assist Selina. The young medium was depicted as someone lost; her innocence slightly suspect, but a character you hoped the best for (she reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s Grace in Alias Grace). Together, their relationship was emotionally charged and great to read.I selected Affinity to read as my first book of October because of its ghostly elements. I was pleasantly surprised that I got much more than a ghost story. Affinity was a great psychological thriller and historical fiction novel. If you love these genres, then make sure to put this book on your TBR list.more
Superbly researched and written. I love Victorian novels, and this contemporary fiction hits the tone exactly right - like a Bronte novel in mood and repressed passion. I was dreading the ending, fearing it would be false, but instead it was pretty much what I had hoped for and completely true to what would have to have occurred. Beautiful writing and an excellent look at women in a cold, cheerless prison of 1870's England. Dialogue and vocabulary also struck me as very accurate. A tour de force and a perfect pre-Halloween read.more
I. Loved. This Book.Affinity doesn't seem to be as popular as Waters' other novels and I cannot see why. Perhaps it's the subtly of the story.The subtly is one of the reasons I loved it so much. I don't need things explained in detail about the supposed bond between people. This is how I write my own stories; you just feel it. You can feel the emotions of the characters and their feelings without them having physical contact with another person.The supernatural aspect is the main reason I loved this. This made me excited to read Affinity and it did not disappoint. It's a brilliantly crafted story with spirituality woven into it.So far this would have to be my favorite of Waters' novels. The ending will blow you away.more
This book took me longer to finish than Fingersmith because I wasn't quite as interested in the characters until the very end, when Waters pulled some of the same "oh-ho, nobody is who you think they are!" tricks she did in Fingersmith, at which point I liked it much better. :D The book, aside from having a central lesbian love theme (that wasn't as explicitly physical as in FS), dealt with the Spiritualist movement in the 19th century (as well as prison conditions, obviously). There is also some medicinal use of laudanum, which left me confused at the end as to whether the characters (at least Margaret) really believed in the spirits or it was an effect of the opium as several times she said she took some to make the bond between her and Selina stronger or some such. Indeed, there was a question at the end as to whether or not "Peter Quick" ever really existed, or if Selina really did believe he existed... basically, the more I think about it, the more I'm not certain I really know what happened or that I understand the characters' relationships as well as I thought I did. Which I suppose is Waters' trademark, leaving you confused and requiring a reread to better understand it. Overall, I did enjoy the book, albeit not nearly as much as Fingersmith.more
There is no lying that Sarah Waters is an amazing writer. However the story line of this novel was so slow. You never felt like you were going anywhere and when you did get to the point is was disappointing. The authors ability to place in the locations of her novels is nothing but amazing but with a terriable story line to back it up this was a real disappointment.more
Margaret Prior is a spinster grieving for her dead father. She becomes a “Lady Visitor” at Millbank Prison where she meets Selina Dawes. Selina is in Millbank for fraud and assault. She claims to be a spiritual medium who receives gifts from the spirits. She is a lovely young women and Margaret grows overly fond of her. Margaret’s family become concerned about her health; they think she spends too much time at the penitentiary. Her fondness becomes obsession as she begins to believe that her and Selina have a special “affinity” and are bound together forever, but is Selina the sweet lovely creature she appears to be or could it be that the fraud and assault charges are justified?Most of the story is told through Margaret’s journal entries. Ever once in awhile an entry from Selina’s journal is added. Margaret is a very sensitive and intelligent woman. Selina may be in a physical prison, but Margaret is in a figurative one. She is imprisoned by family obligations and societal norms. This is the women’s true “affinity.”more
I enjoyed this, though not as much as Fingersmith. This was interesting, doing the whole dark Dickens thing (prisons in 1800's England), though while I was captivated with Fingersmith, this kept me going but I didn't feel quite as drawn to the characters.more
Sarah Waters has written a gem of a book, a historical novel set in Victorian England in the 1870s.Margaret Prior, in an effort to recover from a mental and emotional breakdown resulting in a suicide attempt over the death of her father, has become a Lady Visitor to the women’s ward of Millbank Prison in London. It was fairly typical in those days for upper-class women to engage in “good works” of charity, and one such activity was visiting women in prison to help them “improve” themselves. One of the prisoners is Selina Dawes, a spiritualist medium, who is serving a 4 year sentence over the death of her patroness and the emotional injury to another woman during a spiritualist session. Margaret finds herself drawn to Selina, who fascinates her much like a snake does a bird. Margaret comes to believe that Selina has the power to communicate with spirits who then can carry out her wishes; bizarre events occur in Margaret’s home that she can explain no other way.Such is the context of this remarkable book. Waters spins out the story of the attraction between the two women to a totally unexpected end that blows the reader right of the water, so to speak. Structured as excerpts from both women’s diaries—Selina’s 2 years earlier than Margret’s entries—it is an excellent method for building the tension in the plot, giving nothing away until the very end. In addition, Waters has the fun of using the Victorian obsession with spiritualism as a focus of the plot.Utterly integral to the plot as well are the conditions in women’s prisons of the time. Waters has clearly done her research; the effects on the women themselves are told through the story and are very dramatic as a result. What makes it even more horrifying to me is that in some ways, nothing has changed: there are still the sadists in today’s prisons, and those who truly wish to do well, to rehabilitate the women according to whatever moral standards prevail at the time. Waters has a sure touch with her characters. Margaret’s fragility and vulnerability come through clearly, and Selina is an enigma. All the minor characters in the book whether Selina’s family, the matrons in the prison or the women prisoners themselves all have distinct voices. It is a remarkable tour de force that Waters can keep them all separate—and totally believable, especially Selina.This is an outstanding read, another winner from Sarah Waters. Highly recommended.more
As always, Sarah Waters is brilliant at bringing Victorian England to life. Affinity is quite a bit heavier and darker than Fingersmith or Tipping the Velvet. Taking place primarily in a women's prison, you'll spend most of the book feeling damp and cold.more
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Reviews

Rating: 4 of 5Excellent! Affinity wasn't a fast-paced story but nonetheless compelling. Waters had me so thoroughly wrapped up in Margaret's POV that the "twist" actually surprised me. The mixture of journal entries from both Margaret and Selina definitely helped with that trickery.Recommended to those who enjoy literary novels written with authentic Victorian era prose, centered around an "Is it real? Or is it fake" paranormal mystery, topped off with a love story.****WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILER FOLLOWS****The ending's a downer for all the right reasons.more
I see I forgot to write a journal entry about this book. Well a review.
I did like it. I've read 4 books by Sarah Waters and out of those 4 one of them I did not finish.Can't recall the name. I enjoyed Fingersmith and Tipping Velvet.

The only thing is, I did see things coming. Maybe I am getting smarter but I knew that the nice matron in the prison was a friend , but I thought at first it was Selina's maid.

After reading a bit more I realised that there must have been someone in the house of Margaret, then i remembered her mother had just had to hire a new maid and bingo.

This book has a sad ending where Margaret will end her life. I do think Selina wasn't planning on letting her fall in love with her but when she did, it only helped. She just wanted to use her and thinking she could do that with her dad father at first, but that wasn't even necessary. This author is so good in writing these kind of books where you just picture the gloomy weather and the dark thoughts.more
Affinity, Sarah Waters' second novel is seriously flawed. In this novel of suspense, the author tells a story, and attempts to pull off a chute at the end of the novel. However, a successful chute is a a sudden realization on the part of the reader to see a hidden aspect of the story, which was cleverly concealed and create a sudden moment of epiphany or elation. This intended effect totally fails in Affinity, because the reader has not received sufficient information in the first 300+ pages, and the "surprise" is revealed by the author in the last part of the novel.In fact, Part 5 of the novel can be read as a synopsis of the novel, preceded by 300 pages of distraction, full of inessential details. The first four parts of the novel are ultimately so meaningless, that many readers will lose interest after about 200 pages, wondering where the novel is going. The distraction in the first 300 pages is strengthened by the capricious, unpredictable and utterly meaningless jumping forward and backward in time, over a period of about three years.Readers who skip the first 318 pages, and only read Part 5, will miss very little. Part 5 would read very well as a shortish short story of barely 30 pages.more
It’s 1874 and Margaret Prior is a spinster at only 29. She’s trapped in an oppressive life with her mother and sees no escape. She’s grieving the loss of her father and the end of a recent romance. She decides to begin visiting Millbank Prison as a “Lady Friend” giving comfort to the female prisons there. She forms a particular attachment with the prisoner Selina Dawes, a spiritualist jailed when she hosts a séance that ends badly. This one started out pretty slow for me. Fingersmith and The Little Stranger were both more enthralling at the start, but I hung in there and the pay off was worth it. The beauty of Waters’ writing is the way it sneaks up on you and completely envelops you. Just when you think you have a pretty good idea how things are going to unfold, you get blindsided, but in a good way! I actually thought I knew exactly how it was going to end and I was a bit disappointed with what I thought was coming. Luckily for me I was completely wrong. Calling this a mystery or ghost story would be ignoring the depth of the book. It is a gothic tale, but it also covers so many different topics: the vast divides in the Victorian class system, depression, sexuality, the nineteenth century obsession with spiritualism and so much more! While crafting this story, Waters lulls you into a false sense of security. You focus on the obvious things, the horrific scenes from the jail, Margaret’s struggle with her feelings for others, all of which are fascinating. But the whole time you’re looking right, a complex tale is being built off to your left and result is intense. BOTTOM LINE: Waters has an incredible gift for crafting stories. Even if the story starts out slow, the end makes it all worthwhile. If you’re a fan of gothic stories this one is a safe bet.  more
I loved Sarah Waters before I read this, and I love her even more now. I think this is a terrific book, baring all of what I think of as the Waters' hallmarks - a brilliantly written tale, with a tightly constructed plot, memorable characters whose emotional inner lives are writ large on the page and an incredibly powerful atmosphere and sense of place. This story's chief protagonist is Margaret, a young lady in Victorian London, who becomes the lady visitor at a women's prison. She falls under the spell of Selina Dawes, a disgraced spiritualist who has ended up in the jail after a "visit" has gone tragically wrong in ambiguous circumstances. Margaret is a sensitive soul who has had her share of tragedy and suffering, and senses in Selina a kindred spirit. Selina senses it also, and their friendship soon proves to have life changing consequences for both of them.....Waters' chief subject matter in all her novels is the lived experience of women, and what it means to be a woman. This novel is more like this than most - it barely even has any male characters at all. It examines the Victorian attitude to womanhood from almost every angle - from the timid and socially trapped young woman (already branded a spinster for being unmarried at 30), the attractive and therefore successful elder sister, the overbearing mother, the "fallen" women in the prison and the starchy matrons that keep them there, even the gaggle of women that attend Selina's black circles - all of these lives are laid bare for our examination, and feel real and complete, however fleeting a glimpse we get of them. One of the few male characters in the story makes a disparaging comment about how all women novelists can only write stories of the heart, a charge that may well have been laid at Waters' door, as her novels are brimming over with feeling, but in the fiendish plotting and an ending that left me reeling, there is evidence of a great deal of "head" as well. Truly, one of the best writers currently working, in my humble opinion.more
Sarah Waters is hands down the best author I have ever read. 5 stars is really not enough for this book. Affinity is suspenseful, intelligent, erotic and totally unpredictable, like all of Sarah Waters books. I have read Affinity at least 3 times, and I'm sure I will read it again. This one, of all of her books, comes the closest to being a horror story. Don't let that dissuade you though. This is a roller coaster of a book and the beautiful craft of Sarah Water's storytelling will pull you through it...more
Margaret Prior decides to perform volunteer work at Victorian London's Millbank Prison, providing services as a Visitor to the women's facility. She needs something to do after her failed suicide attempt to keep her mind busy, and though her mother doesn't like the idea of her daughter spending her time at a prison, Margaret finds comfort in her new duties.During one of her rounds, she notices a solitary inmate, sitting in a semi-dark cell and clandestinely admiring a small flower within her hand. She learns from one of the prison matron's that the woman is Selina Dawes, currently being held due to a séance gone wrong. Intrigued, Margaret takes it upon her self to learn more about Miss Dawes and begins spending more time with her. As the days and weeks pass, Margaret discovers that she is more than simply intrigued by Selina and her world of ghosts and spirits, and as her infatuation grows, so does her plan to find some way to free Selina from Millbank.The story is told through the pages of Margaret's diary so in a grand way, that affected my desire for Margaret to be happy. Reading her thoughts about her family, how her view of the world changed after her suicide attempt, her delight at the new-found experiences with Selina -- it makes the connection with Margaret that much easier and in turn tricks you into believing and feeling just as she does.What makes "Affinity" work for me is what I would consider the twist near the end. I know that I should have seen it coming, but the story of Margaret and her interest in Selina and her connection with the spirit world had me so wrapped up that I found myself mentally nudging Margaret forward to pursue the relationship, always seeing the happy ending, just as Margaret did. But that twist....It's a wonderful novel, filled with characters so well crafted you can almost sense yourself walking around Millbank with them. And the story drags you in and keeps you in its clutches until the very end, like a good story should.more
Margaret Prior suffers a nervous breakdown after the death of her father, who was to take her to Italy with her best friend Helen, with whom Margaret is in love. Now Helen has married Margaret's brother and her other sister is also preparing for marriage, which leaves Margaret's situation as a "spinster" even more glaring and out of place. In this situation, Margaret decides to begin to visit the women prisoners in Millbank Prison, a dreadful, dingy, regimented, cruel place that appears to have been dreamed up by Jeremy Bentham. A woman named Selina Dawes, a spiritualist, has been imprisoned there for fraud and involvement in the death of her one time employer. Selina was prosecuted because she, as well as other spiritualists, are held guilty of practicing upon the emotions of others, who are desperate to make contact with beloved dead persons, or experience some insight into the world beyond. Gradually, Margaret falls in love with Selina, and becomes part of a scheme to assist her in escaping from Millbank. Selina is to meet Margaret and escape with her to Europe. Selina does escape from prison, but Margaret eventually discovers that she has been used as part of Selina's plan and that Selina has no romantic feelings for her. The novel is a study of the appeal of spiritualism in the Victorian period as well as a tragic portrayal of a well-intentioned lesbian life doomed to disappointment and otherness.more
Sarah Waters brings the two lead characters in her second novel vividly to life. One is a spiritualist, incacerated in the womens wing of London's 19th century Millbank Prison, the other a "lady visitor" seeking to bring some minimal interest to the inmates miserable and bleak lives. Further elaboration might reveal too much for those still to read the book, but Waters' uncanny ability to convey emotion and - in this novel as in Little Stranger - impart what might be best described as a sense of erriness is a measure of her huge skill as a writer. Also pleasing is the way she seamlessly blends historical research into her narrative.The eerry plot - with shades of a ghost story - is not the type of book that would usually appeal to me. For that reason, Affinity didn't absorb me in the way Waters's great novel, Fingersmith did. But is is a tribute to the quality of Waters' writing that I read the book quickly, and with real interest. I'd highly recommend it to anyome with a taste for eerry historical tales.more
Pretty slow and dull - some interesting aspects and twist at the end quite good - but overall not terribly satisfying or grippingmore
A few weeks ago I shared my thoughts on the first half of this book here. I was enjoying the atmosphere that the author created, I found the main character intriguing, and was very interested in seeing where the story was going to go next. And I'm going to admit that I went into the book with high expectations after hearing all of the accolades concerning the author and her novels. I'm happy to share that this book lived up to all of my expectations, and I found this to be a wonderful reading experience. My favorite part of this book was the gloomy, creepy atmosphere that the author creates. The prison, where a huge part of the story takes place, seems to take on a life of its' own and I couldn't help but wonder at the mysteries and horrors that it held within its' walls. Margaret was such a curious and mysterious main character. I never could guess what she was going to do throughout the story and found her actions to be surprising at times. And Selina. I constantly wondered about her "spiritualism" and if anything that she was saying was true or how could it possibly not be true. The whole book was a mystery for me until the very end. The ending of the book blew me away...and yet when I thought about it afterwards it wasn't all that unexpected but it sure worked. It was the type of ending that left me thinking about it for a couple of days afterwards if that tells you anything :) All in all, this is a book that I would highly recommend and an author that I will be reading much more of.Disclosure: I checked this book out from my local library but I'm thinking about buying my own copy as I enjoyed this one so much. Thanks to Andi for hosting this readalong and finally giving me the push to give this author a try!more
Margaret Prior, a spinster of almost 30, is recovering from a nervous breakdown, when she starts doing charity work as a lady visitor at Millbank Prison. Among the prisoners she meets there is Selina Dawes, a young and beautiful psychic medium who has been convicted of assault and fraud.I can't really say too much about this book, for fear of giving something away that will spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet read it, but I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in spiritualism, the role of women or prison conditions during the Victorian era, or indeed anyone who likes a good story.more
After her father's death, Margaret Prior becomes despondent. Before he died, she was to have gone to Italy with him and her friend, Helen, with whom Margaret was in love with. Now Helen is married to Margaret's brother and their sister, Priscilla is also getting married. Her physician suggests that Margaret become a Lady Visitor at Millbank Prison, to be a comfort and example to the women. Margaret meets several of the prisoners and becomes obsessed with one, Selina Dawes, a spiritualist imprisoned for fraud.I don't want to say much more about the plot for fear of giving something away. But let me say that I loved this book. It takes place in Victorian London, it has a Dickensian prison and wardens. It has psychics and mediums. Margaret is a lonely character. She does not want to marry or have children. She is haunted by her love for Helen and desperately sad over the loss of her intellectual father, the only one who understood her.Margaret's story alternates with that of Selina's and we see how she ended up in prison.Though I was not a fan of Waters' The Little Stranger which everyone else raved about, I thought Affinity was incredibly well-written, with fleshed out characters and a brilliant plot. Her descriptions of Millbank Prison, the matrons in charge of the women prisoners, and the prisoners themselves are very well researched, as are stories of the spiritualist community.This book is a must, must read! It is very atmospheric and Gothic-like. In case I didn't mention it, I loved it.my rating 5/5more
Affinity tells the story of the mentally unstable 30-year-old Margarent (she of many names), still in mourning for her beloved father and for a broken relationship, who, as a form of duty and generally putting herself out into society again as an upper-class woman, begins visiting dreary Millbank prison as a "Lady Visitor." Her visits there are intended to be morally uplilfiting for the prisoners locked away therein. She quickly becomes infatuated with the intriguing and myterious Selina Dawes, a spiritualist medium, who is serving a most unusual of sentences. Selina seems to know more about Margaret than is possible, seems to be able to communicate with her across spatial divides; she seems generally unconstrained by what holds others in. In her journal, which forms the bulk of the narrative, Margaret charts her increasing obsession with this young woman while also making observations about the miserable conditions of the prison and the inequity of the way men are allowed to conduct themselves in the rigid Victorian society (though she seems to remain blind to class difference, with a few flashes of insight).Affinity has several things going for it: it's beautifully written, with passages of the protaganist, Margarent's, elegant, lush, fevered prose alternating with short sections of the prisoner Selina's short matter-of-fact writings. It truly brings the world of Millbank prison to life; it's hard to come away from a description of it and not feel enclosed and cold yourself. Waters has a truly exacting eye for detail; the Victorian world comes to vivid life. It's also a crash course in spiritualism; without ever belaboring points or dragging the reader through tedious academic detail, you manage to learn a good bit about mediumship and the tricks of the trade as well as about the popular perception of mediumship in the 1870s. Waters has clearly done her background work.And yet . . . it's hard to feel any true sympathy for Margaret. She has one clear insight into the differences of class that I can think of; otherwise, she seems blind to the fact that all the women in prison are lower class and obliged to kowtow to her (though the wardens often snidely point out that there are "ladies" there, too). Her prose can turn somewhat purple at times; whether this is intended to reflect her overagitated state of mind or is simply Waters getting carried away, I do not know, but it does wear thin and bog the novel down sometimes. And, as other reviewers have noted, the "mystery" to the novel is a little bit obvious; the big reveal isn't all that much of a surprise, which is disappointing. A few of the characters run to the stereotype: the obnoxious little sister, the overbearing mother. I would have liked to have heard more about Pa, would have liked to have more about him fleshed out, especially as he is so integral to Margaret's life. It's as if most of the work in characterization went into making Selina mysterious and hard to pin down, and the other characters were made a little less rich for it.Still, the novel is an interesting snapshot of the repressive Victorian era: repressive in its sexual mores, repressive in its family structures, repressive in its morality, repressive in its beliefs, &c. It is morbidly fascinating to watch one woman's mind degenerate and bloom in other ways as she expands the limits of what she finds acceptable. It's like watching a flower blossom while knowing all the while that it must die.more
Atmospheric and at times quite creepy, this novel explores the charlatans of Victorian England who pretended to be able to contact the spirit realm. Waters has a talent for creating characters who are likeable even when they do pretty distasteful things.more
Wonderful creepy setting and detail. I liked the use of the dual journals by the two major characters, but I guessed the ending way too early in the book.more
This is the story of two women, both prisoners in their own different ways and drawn together by a special bond - their 'affinity'.Margaret Prior is a single woman of twenty nine who, following the death of her father, begins visiting London's Millbank Prison as a Lady Visitor. Lady Visitors were women who voluntarily visited prisoners with the aim of befriending them and giving them comfort during the time of their imprisonment. However, Margaret is in need of some friendship and comfort herself. From her very first visit, she finds herself strangely drawn to Selina Dawes, a young spiritualist imprisoned for assault after one of her spiritualism sessions goes badly wrong, leaving a woman dead and a girl traumatised. Selina blames her 'control spirit', Peter Quick, for what happened, but is she telling the truth? Throughout the story, the reader is made to wonder whether Selina really has the powers she claims to have or if Margaret is the victim of an elaborate hoax.The book is told in the form of diary entries - Margaret's longer sections being interspersed with Selina's shorter ones. Margaret's diary entries are very bleak and miserable, as she is trying to cope not only with the loss of her father, but also with her feelings for both Selina and her sister-in-law Helen, the expectations of her domineering mother, and the sense of being 'left behind' that she experiences when her younger sister gets married and leaves home. Selina's sections of the story are very vague and confusing and I didn't fully understand them until I went back and read them again after reaching the end of the book.I enjoyed learning about life in a Victorian prison, as it's not something I've read about in so much detail before. Waters does a wonderful job of conveying the oppressive atmosphere of Millbank, with its labyrinthine corridors and gloomy wards.I haven't read all of Sarah Waters' books yet so I can't really say where Affinity stands in comparison to her others, but I thought it was an excellent book - dark, suspenseful, moving and with some passages that were genuinely spooky.more
The only time I issue one star is when I just can't finish the book... and unfortunately that was the case with Affinity. I'm really surprised because I loved several other Waters books. But I gave this one 125pp and still just didn't care about the characters or the plot. I set it aside because life is too short to waste on dull books.more
Disappointing; a mystery with no mystery about it (“Is the spiritualist a fake?” – Well, what do you think?!) and a far-fetched and implausible explanation.more
Tonight I will sleep fitfully, haunted more by a young spiritualist than by her spirits. Artfully crafted, using imagery that springs to mind so vividly one would think it a memory, Sarah Waters has fashioned yet another masterpiece.The year is 1874. Selina Dawes, a mysterious and powerful young spirit-medium is imprisoned in a monstrous and daunting women’s gaol, Millbank. Jailed after a botched spirit-communication lead to the death of her patron, Selina is visited by no one but her spirit friends until a local mistress comes to visit the prisoners.The visitor, Margaret Prior, is a young lady of London, highly educated and brought up as assistant to her late father, an arts professor. Despairing his absence from her life, Margaret travels about in something of haze—looking for something she knows not what. When she encounters Dawes, Margaret is simultaneously scared witless by the girl and entranced by her power. The women’s relationship builds with Margaret learning more about Dawes from newspapers and first hand accounts, than from her fleeting and bewildering encounters with Selina.Interspersed with short journal entries from Selina’s days as a burgeoning spirit-medium conducting séances, the story follows Margaret’s research as she seeks to uncover the mystery of Selina’s past, her powers, and why she is so affected by her. Although the reader is not privy to Selina’s current thoughts, her journal entries, coupled with her unexplainable powers and knowledge of the spirit realm make her enticing and irresistible. In stark and painful contrast to her exciting prison visits, Margaret’s everyday life unfortunately is constantly rearing its ugly head. Her sister is getting married and the preparations fill her days with a dreary stupor.Although Affinity could hardly be called frightening, it is nevertheless haunting. Descriptions of landscapes, buildings, rooms, etc. feel so intensely ominous that they end up being far scarier than accounts of the spirit encounters. Affinity’s characters can be trusted to illicit your empathy, pity, sorrow, hatred, wonder, love and lust (and in my cast jealousy). Being at once a tale of impropriety and youthful indiscretion between girls, and a bildungsroman of Margaret’s spiritual and sexual development, one cannot but feel compassion toward its struggling young lovers.more
Affinity by Sarah Waters combined so many exquisite storytelling elements –colorful characters, a plot that kept you guessing and a Victorian setting that framed the story perfectly. If you love Victorian novels, then Affinity is a novel not to miss.Margaret Prior was an unmarried lady who was mourning the death of her father and the marriage of her childhood lover, Helen. To find a purpose with her life, she became a “Lady Visitor” at Millbank Prison, specifically to the troubled female prisoners who could benefit from visits by a society woman. During her visits, Margaret found a special attachment to one inmate – Selina Dawes – a medium arrested for allegedly beating a young girl and causing the death of her guardian.Learning more about Selina’s plight, Margaret became more interested in spiritualism, and Waters masterfully wove Victorians’ obsession with ghosts and mediums into the story, allowing the reader to learn more about this aspect of Victorian culture. Eventually, Margaret’s interest in Selina became more deep and attached – to the point that Margaret agreed to aid Selina’s prison escape.Margaret and Selina proved to be characters that were sympathetic and unforgettable. Margaret was emotionally fragile, unsure about her sexual orientation in a sexually repressed society – the perfect candidate to assist Selina. The young medium was depicted as someone lost; her innocence slightly suspect, but a character you hoped the best for (she reminded me of Margaret Atwood’s Grace in Alias Grace). Together, their relationship was emotionally charged and great to read.I selected Affinity to read as my first book of October because of its ghostly elements. I was pleasantly surprised that I got much more than a ghost story. Affinity was a great psychological thriller and historical fiction novel. If you love these genres, then make sure to put this book on your TBR list.more
Superbly researched and written. I love Victorian novels, and this contemporary fiction hits the tone exactly right - like a Bronte novel in mood and repressed passion. I was dreading the ending, fearing it would be false, but instead it was pretty much what I had hoped for and completely true to what would have to have occurred. Beautiful writing and an excellent look at women in a cold, cheerless prison of 1870's England. Dialogue and vocabulary also struck me as very accurate. A tour de force and a perfect pre-Halloween read.more
I. Loved. This Book.Affinity doesn't seem to be as popular as Waters' other novels and I cannot see why. Perhaps it's the subtly of the story.The subtly is one of the reasons I loved it so much. I don't need things explained in detail about the supposed bond between people. This is how I write my own stories; you just feel it. You can feel the emotions of the characters and their feelings without them having physical contact with another person.The supernatural aspect is the main reason I loved this. This made me excited to read Affinity and it did not disappoint. It's a brilliantly crafted story with spirituality woven into it.So far this would have to be my favorite of Waters' novels. The ending will blow you away.more
This book took me longer to finish than Fingersmith because I wasn't quite as interested in the characters until the very end, when Waters pulled some of the same "oh-ho, nobody is who you think they are!" tricks she did in Fingersmith, at which point I liked it much better. :D The book, aside from having a central lesbian love theme (that wasn't as explicitly physical as in FS), dealt with the Spiritualist movement in the 19th century (as well as prison conditions, obviously). There is also some medicinal use of laudanum, which left me confused at the end as to whether the characters (at least Margaret) really believed in the spirits or it was an effect of the opium as several times she said she took some to make the bond between her and Selina stronger or some such. Indeed, there was a question at the end as to whether or not "Peter Quick" ever really existed, or if Selina really did believe he existed... basically, the more I think about it, the more I'm not certain I really know what happened or that I understand the characters' relationships as well as I thought I did. Which I suppose is Waters' trademark, leaving you confused and requiring a reread to better understand it. Overall, I did enjoy the book, albeit not nearly as much as Fingersmith.more
There is no lying that Sarah Waters is an amazing writer. However the story line of this novel was so slow. You never felt like you were going anywhere and when you did get to the point is was disappointing. The authors ability to place in the locations of her novels is nothing but amazing but with a terriable story line to back it up this was a real disappointment.more
Margaret Prior is a spinster grieving for her dead father. She becomes a “Lady Visitor” at Millbank Prison where she meets Selina Dawes. Selina is in Millbank for fraud and assault. She claims to be a spiritual medium who receives gifts from the spirits. She is a lovely young women and Margaret grows overly fond of her. Margaret’s family become concerned about her health; they think she spends too much time at the penitentiary. Her fondness becomes obsession as she begins to believe that her and Selina have a special “affinity” and are bound together forever, but is Selina the sweet lovely creature she appears to be or could it be that the fraud and assault charges are justified?Most of the story is told through Margaret’s journal entries. Ever once in awhile an entry from Selina’s journal is added. Margaret is a very sensitive and intelligent woman. Selina may be in a physical prison, but Margaret is in a figurative one. She is imprisoned by family obligations and societal norms. This is the women’s true “affinity.”more
I enjoyed this, though not as much as Fingersmith. This was interesting, doing the whole dark Dickens thing (prisons in 1800's England), though while I was captivated with Fingersmith, this kept me going but I didn't feel quite as drawn to the characters.more
Sarah Waters has written a gem of a book, a historical novel set in Victorian England in the 1870s.Margaret Prior, in an effort to recover from a mental and emotional breakdown resulting in a suicide attempt over the death of her father, has become a Lady Visitor to the women’s ward of Millbank Prison in London. It was fairly typical in those days for upper-class women to engage in “good works” of charity, and one such activity was visiting women in prison to help them “improve” themselves. One of the prisoners is Selina Dawes, a spiritualist medium, who is serving a 4 year sentence over the death of her patroness and the emotional injury to another woman during a spiritualist session. Margaret finds herself drawn to Selina, who fascinates her much like a snake does a bird. Margaret comes to believe that Selina has the power to communicate with spirits who then can carry out her wishes; bizarre events occur in Margaret’s home that she can explain no other way.Such is the context of this remarkable book. Waters spins out the story of the attraction between the two women to a totally unexpected end that blows the reader right of the water, so to speak. Structured as excerpts from both women’s diaries—Selina’s 2 years earlier than Margret’s entries—it is an excellent method for building the tension in the plot, giving nothing away until the very end. In addition, Waters has the fun of using the Victorian obsession with spiritualism as a focus of the plot.Utterly integral to the plot as well are the conditions in women’s prisons of the time. Waters has clearly done her research; the effects on the women themselves are told through the story and are very dramatic as a result. What makes it even more horrifying to me is that in some ways, nothing has changed: there are still the sadists in today’s prisons, and those who truly wish to do well, to rehabilitate the women according to whatever moral standards prevail at the time. Waters has a sure touch with her characters. Margaret’s fragility and vulnerability come through clearly, and Selina is an enigma. All the minor characters in the book whether Selina’s family, the matrons in the prison or the women prisoners themselves all have distinct voices. It is a remarkable tour de force that Waters can keep them all separate—and totally believable, especially Selina.This is an outstanding read, another winner from Sarah Waters. Highly recommended.more
As always, Sarah Waters is brilliant at bringing Victorian England to life. Affinity is quite a bit heavier and darker than Fingersmith or Tipping the Velvet. Taking place primarily in a women's prison, you'll spend most of the book feeling damp and cold.more
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