- Hardcover: 351 pages
- Publisher: Riverhead Books (1 May 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1573221562
- ISBN-13: 978-1573221566
- Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 3 x 22.4 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 544 g
- Customer Reviews: 207 customer ratings
Affinity Hardcover – 1 May 2000
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About the Author
Sarah Waters is the New York Timesbestselling author of The Little Stranger, The Night Watch, Fingersmith, Affinity,and Tipping the Velvet. She has three times been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, twice been a finalist for the Orange Prize, and was named one ofGrantas best young British novelists, among other distinctions. Waters lives in London.
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Top international reviews
This is a beautifully narrated story, in parts dark and atmospheric, in others sensual and even erotic. Waters’ prose is so evocative, you can almost feel the dampness and darkness of the prison and the wretchedness of the poor women held there. Set against this - and all the more powerful for it - we have Selina’s charisma and the slow awakening of Margaret’s desire, things of beauty in a place of horror.
As always, Waters’ characterization is both convincing and compelling. We discover Margaret, in all her facets, through the writings in her diary, where she lays bare her most intimate thoughts. Selina, on the other hand, remains enigmatic right until the end, when her true nature is finally revealed.
This is a book to be savored word by word, chapter by chapter ... until the startling denouement, which will have you turning the final pages at speed, as you race to discover Margaret and Selina’s fate. So consumed was I by Affinity, I needed several days to absorb and process it before picking up a new book.
Thanks for reading my review. I hope you found it helpful. You can find more candid book reviews on my Amazon profile page.
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.
It's set in London in the 1870s: Margaret, spinster daughter of a well-to-do family, recovering from a suicide attempt following her father's death, takes up prison visiting and is sucked into a relationship with inmate Selina, a society medium jailed for fraud and assault. It's written with two alternating narratives, both diary style, with Margaret describing present events and Selina describing events leading up to her imprisonment.
It's clever, of course, like all Waters' books, and she's done her research, as always. The novel convincingly explores two parallel worlds - a Victorian women's prison, and the respectable but equally trapped life of an unmarried Victorian lady (made slightly more tolerable by regular doses of chloral and/or laudanum). The reader is drawn further and further into the dark labyrinth of the prison alongside the dodgy world of Victorian spiritualism, as the relationship between the two women becomes more hypnotic and intense. Like Margaret, you're torn between what you know and what you want to believe, so that, despite the clues dropped along the way, the ending is both inevitable and a complete bombshell.
But is there enough here for a novel - would it have worked better as a short story?
The plot unfurls very slowly, and not a lot actually happens until the very end when the two narratives finally meet. Neither heroine is particularly sympathetic and the other characters are only seen through their eyes, which makes the whole thing very limited and claustrophobic. Presumably this was what the author was aiming for but, together with the endless descriptions of prison corridors and dull social events, it all makes for a bit of a repetitive wallow at times.
It's an interesting idea, it's beautifully written, and there's a great twist at the end. If you've enjoyed Sarah Waters' other books then you might like this: I can appreciate it, but for me, it's my least favourite.
This is a frustratingly slow moving story and I was pleased to finish it and move on to something new.
I will probably re read this one at some point as I also found The Little Stranger slow but grew to love it on the second reading so maybe Affinity will be more enjoyable second time round.
If the research is completely true the insight into prison life for women at that time is interesting in itself.
I did not guess the end.
If made into a film it would be a fantastic thriller with something for everyone.
I would recommend this book highly.
Also in many ways so different from Tipping the Velvet by the same author.
Very well written.