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Affinity by Sarah Waters

Affinity (original 1999; edition 2002)

by Sarah Waters

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2,4951022,440 (3.74)256
Authors:Sarah Waters
Info:Riverhead Trade (2002), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:British, lesbian, historical, fiction, read

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Affinity by Sarah Waters (1999)


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English (99)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (102)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
A sad Gothic novel filled with a continuing feeling of dread.

Margaret Prior is recovering from a suicide attempt. After the death of her father she arranges to attend a local prison a few days a week to visit the prisoners - to talk and comfort them. On her rounds she meets Selina Dawes, and the two strike up a friendship. Selina is a medium, imprisoned for a seance gone wrong. Unsure whether to believe Selina’s gifts are real, Margaret is drawn to the prison more and more, desperate to understand who and what Selina really is.

This book is a hard one for me to describe. This is the first time I have ever read anything by Sarah Waters, and having read the synopsis for the book I was quite excited to read it. I love Gothic novels and this one, with the hint of supernatural just sounded fantastic. Alas I came away feeling somewhat disappointed.

The novel is certainly a dreary one, and I often felt a little boring, crawling through pages of depressing monologue. I often found I had to put it down and read something a bit more entertaining and then return to it. On that notion I was planning to give this book only two stars, it was a little long winded for me.

But then when I finally finished the book (for it took me a while) I had the strange feeling that I’d just finishing something incredible. It deals a lot with social conventions of the time on subjects such as suicide and lesbianism, both punishable extremely severely, and the idea that because Margaret is a lady, her suicide attempt is swept under the rug. It has much to say about the double standards between different classes in the Victorian period. It also deals a lot with the prison system and how prisoners were treated in that time, there are some intense, almost frightening chapters in which prisoners are taken to solitary confinement, and the way they are horrifically treated.

The thing that stood out most for me was the mystery element. That I really enjoyed. The whole plot keeps you guessing, can Selina really contact spirits, or is a conjurer of cheap tricks? The whole story is a very sad and dismal love story. I also rather liked the switching of point of view for each chapter. Half the chapters follow Margaret as she goes to the prison, deals with her sisters marriage and her invasive mother, and the other half tell the story of Selina before she was imprisoned. I preferred Selina’s chapters myself as I found them more interesting, leaving little clues to the possibility of her being a medium or not.

Affinity is a very subtle and moving novel. It is filled with dense, bleak imagery that really does conjure up a very intense atmosphere of despair. This book may not be for everyone, but if you’re looking for something outside of the box, this one might be just what you’re looking for. ( )
  ColeReadsBooks | Mar 9, 2015 |
3.5 stars

It is 1874 and Margaret Prior is visiting a women's prison to hear some of the stories of some of the prisoners. She becomes particularly interested in one prisoner, Selena Dawes, who is a medium and was imprisoned for murdering a woman who took her in, but Selena insists it was a spirit who caused the woman's death.

The book alternated between Margaret in “present” day and Selena's perspective beginning two years earlier. I found the “present” day storyline much more interesting, though there were still parts I glossed over a bit. It's not fast-moving, but it's a good story and it did pick up at the end. I didn't think I was going to like the ending, but wow, I was in for a surprise! I do approve of the ending, after all. ( )
  LibraryCin | Feb 22, 2015 |
Maybe even 2 stars. I got bored by this book by page 250 and had to force myself through the last 100 pages. Some lovely descriptive passages but too slow moving for my tastes -- still, if that was all I would have given it 3 or even 3 1/2 stars. However, I found the plot completely predictable and the characters unappealing. And why is this billed as a mystery? Romance, yes; ghost story, okay but mystery, no! ( )
  leslie.98 | Feb 22, 2015 |
When Margaret Prior accepts to become a 'Lady Visitor' at Millbank Prison in London, she is far from suspecting what tangled skeins await her in the endless corridors of the dank and cold prison, with it's wing holding women prisoners who are there for crimes as diverse as attempted suicide, infanticide, arson, petty theft, and fraud. Recovering from an undefined illness brought on by the grief following the death of her father, she believes this will be a worthwhile occupation to fill her time away from home and her overbearing mother, and will bring much-needed relief to the women prisoners who are living in deplorable conditions in the jail, where the emphasis, typical of the times, is on punishment. Her presence gives the prisoners a rare opportunity in the day to speak to someone, for they are expected to be silent at all times otherwise, and it gives them a small break in their continual chores, as well as a chance for some empathy from a stranger rather than the harsh treatment they can expect from the prison matrons who seem to delight in taunting them continually.

Margaret is only interested in listening to the women speak of their experiences and describe their crimes rather than giving pious sermons to the women, as other lady visitors tend to do, and she is taken by the matrons around the jail to see how it is run, which allows the reader to get a comprehensive view of how things stood for women prisoners in 1874. It is rather obvious that Waters did thorough research for the novel and the details are many and quite striking. She writes beautifully and sets the mood perfectly so that one is carried along fascinating scenery in expectation of events to come. To some readers these scenes might seem too prolonged, but I found the details fascinating and as I listened to the audio version beautifully narrated by Juanita McMahon, was all too happy to be carried along the story at a deliberately observant pace.

When Margaret first sees Selina Dawes alone in her cell with her pale face turned to the sun, her attention is arrested. Selina is holding a violet, which she can't possibly have obtained from within the prison, so that its very presence there seems almost miraculous. Selina herself has a delicate and mysterious beauty, and soon Margaret visits her regularly and learns she is a spirit medium who is continually in contact with ghosts. Selina claims the ghosts bring her gifts, such as that violet Margaret saw her with. Furthermore, she says they can spirit her out of the jail anytime they wish to, but that they have a purpose for having sent her there, and soon it emerges that the purpose is for Margaret and Selina to have come together, for they are each other's Affinity.

But this is no simple lesbian romance story. And if one is patient enough and can enjoy the journey, the novel becomes a suspenseful ride which is impossible to put down in the second half and promises a big reveal in the end. ( )
3 vote Smiler69 | Feb 16, 2015 |
Sarah Waters is one of my favourite authors, but I found this book very hard to finish. (I managed it, after three or four previous attempts.) There are some clever twists, but not the level of intricate detail Waters achieved with Fingersmith. There are hints at romance, but none of the passion or bawdiness of Tipping the Velvet. A sense of mood and atmosphere are established, yet not as effectively as in The Little Stranger. But the overarching problem, as a modern reader, is the difficulty of suspending disbelief when faced with 19th century relics such as spiritualism and séances. A disappointing novel, when set against Waters' high standards. ( )
  whirled | Dec 3, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Watersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abrams, ErikaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ascari, FabrizioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
中村有希訳Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carlsson, Irja M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fernandes, IsabelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gawlik-Małkowska, MagdalenaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ghersini, TeodoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Retterbush, StefanieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sørensen, Henrik EnemarkTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
林玉葳Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Сафронова, АлександраTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
אינגה מיכאליTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Affinity ( [2008]IMDb)
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To Caroline Halliday
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I was never so frightened as I am now.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
Set in and around the women's prison at Milbank in the 1870's , AFFINITY is an eerie and utterly compelling ghost story, a complex and intriguing literary mystery and a poignant love story with an unexpected twist in the tale. Following the death of her father, Margaret Prior has decided to pursue some 'good work' with the lady criminals of one of London's most notorious gaols. Surrounded by prisoners, murderers and common thieves, Margaret feels herself drawn to one of the prisons more unlikely inmates - the imprisoned spiritualist - Selina Dawes. Sympathetic to the plight of this innocent-seeming girl, Margaret sees herself dispensing guidance and perhaps friendship on her visits, little expecting to find herself dabbling in a twilight world of seances, shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions.
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Margaret Prior, assigned to visit the women's ward of Victorian London's Millbank prison as part of her rehabilitative charity work for a suicide attempt, is drawn into a dark romance with spiritualist Selina Dawes who has been jailed after a seance she was conducting went horribly wrong.… (more)

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