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

by Sarah Waters

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2,6261122,277 (3.74)262
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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Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
Took two readings to fully appreciate. I'm a big Sarah Waters fan and have been for many years. I've read all of her books, in the order that they were published. My first reading of Affinity left me very disappointed. Many of my friends had read it and raved about how great it was - it's the favorite SW book for some of them. 
 
After reading nothing but lesbian fiction - primarily romance - for several years, I've gotten back into reading horror and thrillers and mysteries. It took me quite a while to give Waters' The Little Stranger a shot. I was less than thrilled with The Night Watch because I found it pretty slow and it didn't hold my interest. The backward storytelling didn't help. But once I got into The Little Stranger, why I fell in love with her work in the first place came back. Except now she was telling ghost stories. It started me thinking about Affinity again and I decided then that I would eventually give it another shot. 
 
I picked up the audio version of the book and a couple days ago I finally loaded it up and got to listening. This time around I can finally say that I completely enjoyed Affinity. I believe that my expectations of it being a lesbian romance ruined the book for me the first time around. I kept waiting for the romance to really pick up - you have to remember that this book followed Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, both romances (although Fingersmith is more of a mystery) - and when it didn't, I suppose I felt a bit betrayed. Misled, at least. 
 
Going into the second reading knowing that it isn't a romance but a paranormal mystery of sorts made a huge difference. I was able to fully appreciate the twists and turns and let myself really see the relationships as they were written, not as my subconscious kept telling me they were supposed to be. 
 
Sarah Waters can write some emotionally dark fiction. I love it and can't say that I'm sorry that she's not writing romance anymore. Although there was definitely a romantic angle in The Paying Guests it was so much more.
 
Hurry, Ms. Waters, hurry! I'm ready for a new book! ( )
  amcheri | Aug 22, 2016 |
"Now I have more freedom than I ever had at any time in my life, and I do only the things I always have."

Affinity - a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas, or interests.

This book was not easy to get into. I'm neither a fan of Dickensian tales of woe nor of paranormal or supernatural stories, so for most of this book I was not convinced I would finish it, never mind like it.

The structure of the book was difficult, too. Chapters jump back and forth in time, and the narrative changes between the characters. I kept having to go back and re-read passages to remember where about in the story I was at - and which character.

However, Waters' writing detailing delicious descriptions of life in a Victorian women's prison was awesome. So awesome in fact that I felt like I was there in the bleak and rigid clasp of fear and despair - haunted (haha) by the question if the supernatural could be real. In fact, having read most of the book at night now that the darkness has gripped us up here in the North, made Affinity the perfect read in the run up to Halloween.

Affinity, as the title suggests, explores the relationship between different people, focusing mostly on upper-middle-class Margaret Prior, who volunteers to become a lady visitor in a London prison, and Selina Dawes, a notorius medium who has been sent down after being involved in a woman's death. However, affinity applies to other relationships in the book and each of them serves to paint a picture of the main character, Margaret Prior, and her struggle with life in London society during the 1870s.

As I mentioned, the book was a bit of a struggle for me at first but very rewarding in the end. The ending it self has been criticised by others, but I thought it was perfectly fitting, though not anywhere near as polished as the ending Waters' later books.


This review was originally posted on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/1028682/affinity ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
The setting is London in the year 1874. Margaret Prior, a young woman from a wealthy family, has decided to become a ÛÏLady Visitor‰Û to the women‰Ûªs ward at Millbank Prison. She is a deeply unhappy person, grief-stricken by her father‰Ûªs death and bristling under life with her overbearing mother. The hope is that her charity-work will help with her recovery from a suicide attempt.

Margaret meets with the usual thieves and prostitutes but is particularly drawn to an enigmatic prisoner named Selina Dawes. Selina, she learns, is a spiritualist serving time after her last sÌ©ance resulted in the death of her benefactress. Margaret gradually becomes obsessed with Selina and convinced of her innocence. As we read her increasingly desperate journal entries, we see Margaret cast the young woman as her savior, and herself as Selina‰Ûªs.

Sarah Waters‰Ûª characters do silly things, selfish things, and even cruel things. But there is usually some redeeming quality that stops me from hating them entirely. Unfortunately the main character here is such a dipshit that I could not bring myself to care about her. At all. Just a disclaimer here, I do understand what a serious condition depression is. However, Margaret is the kind of person who wants everyone to be as miserable as she is. For instance, she insists on wearing mourning clothes at her sister's wedding. That has nothing to do with depression and everything to do with being a bitch.

I also disliked that the story boiled down to belief vs. skepticism. Either you think Selina is the real deal, or you think she is a con artist and spend the entire book waiting for the big reveal. Waters tries to keep it ambiguous by including excerpts from Selina‰Ûªs own journal, but I found these passages unnecessary as well as illogical. Margaret never reads this journal. It was not presented at Serena‰Ûªs trial, otherwise there would be no doubt about her guilt. And for God‰Ûªs sake, if you are a con artist, why would you write your secrets down where anyone could read them? I guess Affinity itself is like a magic trick: depending on how cynical you are, you will see only what you want to see, and that will determine whether you see the ending coming or not. ( )
  doryfish | Aug 15, 2016 |
You were seeking me, your own affinity. And if you let them keep you from me now, I think we shall die', 2 Sept. 2012
By
sally tarbox

This review is from: Affinity (Kindle Edition)
The narrator of this novel is a troubled young woman in Victorian London. Living in a well to do household under her mother's thumb, bereft after her beloved father's death and lonely after the female she loved decided to marry...she is encouraged to become a Lady Visitor at Millbank Prison.
Waters' descriptions of prison life alone are fascinating:
'The towers seem to have grown higher and broader, and the windows to have shrunk...since I last went there- the grounds smelling of fog and of chimney smoke as well as of sedge, and the wards reeking of nuisance-buckets still, of cramped and unwashed hair and flesh and mouths, but also of gas and rust and sickness. There are great black, blistering radiators...the cells however remain so chill that the walls are wet with condensation, the lime upon them turned to a kind of bubbling curd...the women in them hunched, like goblins, over their sewing or their coir'.
As Margaret meets some of the inmates, she is drawn to one Selina Dawes, a beautiful spirit-medium, parts of whose own narrative are interspersed with the main one. Is she real or a fraud? As the cover blurb states: 'you'll find yourself desperately wanting to believe in magic'.
I couldn't put it down! ( )
  starbox | Jul 9, 2016 |
Review: Affinity by Sarah Waters.

I enjoyed the environment the author created. The story for the most part took place in a prison. The characters were described really well and very responsive. This novel has many high points of events and mystery. Sarah Waters made this an intriguing experience for the reader.

Margaret is a spinster and has an obsessive ambition to guide her to the prison of criminal women. The gloomy, creepy, dungeon like atmosphere, prisoner’s and wardens kept me turning the pages to where the story was going to go next. The prison seems to have a life of its own and I couldn’t help but be curious at the mysteries and horrors that it held within its walls. Sarah Waters kept the mysteries tightly intact to keep the readers guessing or wondering what was true or how things couldn’t be true.

There was one cell mate that Margaret was captivated with. Her name was Selina, a spiritualist. She was serving time for murder. She is a very clever character and I think most readers thought they could see through her but still she had an aura about her that some still loved. Behind in the shadows Selina waited to the end of the story to prevail her true colors….a mixture of deceitful surprises and a reader in shock over the climax. A well written novel…..
( )
  Juan-banjo | May 31, 2016 |
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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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To Caroline Halliday
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I was never so frightened as I am now.
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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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