Affinity Paperback – Jan 8 2002
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Affinity is a tale of power and possession that Henry James himself might admire. In her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters explored secrets and longing--capping off this lesbian romp with a utopian-socialist vision. Her intricate follow-up is just as sensual but infinitely darker, its moral more difficult to descry. Its stylistic and psychological rewards, however, are visible at every turn, the author's persuasive imagination matched by her gift for storytelling.
In late September 1874, Margaret Prior makes her way through the pentagons of London's Millbank Prison, a place of fearful symmetry and endless corridors. This plain woman on the verge of 30 has come to comfort those behind bars, several of whom Waters brings to instant, sad life. And our Lady Visitor plans to take her role dead seriously, having recovered from two years of nervous indolence in her family's Chelsea house. One person, however, makes her job a passion. Opening an inspection slit (or "eye" as these devices are known), Margaret hears "a perfect sigh, like a sigh in a story." Peering inward, she's confronted by the most erotic of visions--a woman turned toward the sun, caressing her cheek with a forbidden violet: "As I watched, she put the flower to her lips, and breathed upon it, and the purple of the petals gave a quiver and seemed to glow..."
Selina Dawes may indeed have the face of a Crivelli angel, but this medium is in for fraud and assault, her last session having gone very badly indeed. Suffice it to say that the first full encounter between these two very different women is enthralling. "You think spiritualism a kind of fancy," Selina riddles. "Doesn't it seem to you, now you are here, that anything might be real, since Millbank is?" And soon enough Margaret receives several viable signs of the supernatural: a locket disappears from her room, flowers mysteriously appear, and her dazzling friend knows everything about her. Strangest of all, Selina seems to love her.
As Margaret records her weekly prison forays, her own past comes into focus, notably her plans to travel to Italy with her first love (who is now her sister-in-law). But her current journal, she convinces herself, is to be very different from her last one, which "took as long to burn as human hearts, they say, do take." Meanwhile, Waters offers a narrative two-for-one, placing Margaret's diary cheek by jowl with Selina's chronicle of her pre-Millbank existence. This dispassionate, staccato record initially suggests that we can separate truth from desire. Or can we? What Waters's haunting creation leaves us with is a more painful reality--that knowledge and belief are entirely different things. --Kerry Fried --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
“Unfolds sinuously and ominously…a powerful plot-twister…a truly suspenseful tale of terror; and a piece of elegant, thinly veiled erotica. Like a Ouija board, Affinity offers different messages to different readers, scaring the shrouds off everyone in the process.”
“[Waters] displays her incredible talent for the Gothic historical novel in this splendid book about a Victorian women’s prison and the affair there between an inmate and a ‘lady visitor.’”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Gothic tale, psychological study, puzzle narrative…superbly suspenseful…This is gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and senses.”
—The Seattle Times
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Top Customer Reviews
Waters has proven herself as a masterful storyteller, crafting tales that draw the reader in and do not let go. I found myself reading at all hours of the day and night, unable to stop turning the pages, absolutely absorbed in the tale unfolding before me. As I read this novel, I found myself falling in love with Selina Dawes, my heart broken by the dark story behind Margaret Prior's stint as a Lady Visitor, and so desperate to know what happens that by the end my head was spinning. My husband sat and just watched me read, my reactions so visceral that I was gripping the book, grimacing in ache and surprise as the story unfolded, and breathing raggedly, wildly, as I rushed headlong to the astounding ending.
This is not your run-of-the-mill mystery, gothic or otherwise. It is sensual, dark and entrancing, and I highly recommend "Affinity" to anyone looking for a good yarn. I have "Fingersmith" waiting to be read, but am enduring a torturous wait before diving into it, desperate to know what fabulous tale Ms. Waters has prepared for me, but painfully aware that once I have devoured it, there will be no more to sate my desire for this woman's fabulous work... And so I wait...
The story is about a Lady Visitor, Margaret, who begins visiting the women of Millbank prison because charity work should help get her mind off her dear father's death. There she meets Selina Dawes, a spiritualist who is jailed for an assault that occurred during one of her seances. There are many mystical things that happen in this book, and the reader is left to puzzle out whether to believe in the spirits or look for a logical explanation. Margaret herself is a skeptic, not sure whether to believe in Selina's tales of spirit friends.
The ending comes as quite a surprise, and like the Sixth Sense or Fight Club, will have you paging backwards to look for the clues you missed.
Miss Prior's elaborate descriptions of Millbank, the incarcerated women, and her daily life at home soon reveal that she, too, is locked in her own private prison from which she has no way to escape. She's already had one "nervous" episode nearly resulting in her death. This followed the betrayal of a woman with whom she was smitten and the death of her dearly beloved father. She is a woman locked in a world with social mores that do not allow her to be herself-nor even to know who her real Self is. Only Selina has managed to introduce a little magic into her life.
With each passing week, the story builds in intensity as Miss Prior visits the dismal Millbank and attempts to see Selina Dawes as often as possible. Though she fights it, little by little, she surrenders to her feelings for the other woman. Will Selina manage to escape and will Miss Prior assist? Is the young woman truly innocent and wrongly convicted? We get clues from periodic diary entries made by Selina, but the mystery of the spiritualist's past is not revealed until the end.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
I found this book hard to stick with and almost didn't finish it. It was an unrealistic storyline and hard to follow. Not nearly as good as other works I have read by this author.Published 8 months ago by Lois B.
Ater finishing Affinity, I can hardly wait for her next book. Ms Waters write such a totally consuming story that it's hard to pull yourself away. Read morePublished on June 10 2004 by Dusty Chambers
This is a tough review. I have read both of Ms. Waters other books, 'Fingersmith' which is fantastic and 'Tipping the Velvet' which is very good. Read morePublished on May 14 2004 by S. A Troutt
I picked this up at my local library after reading heaps of praise for Sarah Waters and her three books: Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, and Fingersmith. Read morePublished on April 7 2004
Without going into a lot of detail, I just feel the need to express how wonderfully written and suspensful this was. Read morePublished on Feb. 4 2004 by agnes bonaparte
A much different setting than "Tipping the Velvet," Affinity has still managed to capture a dark side of Victorian London. Read morePublished on Aug. 23 2003 by Mizuho Kazami