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Affinity by Sarah Waters
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Affinity (original 1999; edition 2002)

by Sarah Waters

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2,4531012,508 (3.74)242
Member:CaseyStepaniuk
Title:Affinity
Authors:Sarah Waters
Info:Riverhead Trade (2002), Paperback, 368 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:British, lesbian, historical, fiction, read

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Affinity by Sarah Waters (1999)

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English (98)  Portuguese (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (101)
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
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 |
The first two thirds of Affinity reminded a great deal of The Snake Pit by Mary Jane Ward, a novel from the point of view of a woman in a sanitarium recovering from a nervous breakdown. But by the middle of second act, as Margaret Prior researches mysticism, the blandness of her life and the lives of the inmates begins to reveal pent up emtions. Under the guise of communion with the "spirits" Affinity spirals into a story filled with sexual tension, intrigue and madness. I was so caught up in Margaret's emotions that I completely missed Selena's devious playing of all the people in her life to ultimately win her freedom and prove in the process that she really did deserve her sentence in Millbank! ( )
  pussreboots | Aug 10, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Watersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Waters, Sarahmain 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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