Author: Sarah Waters
Release Date: January 8, 2002
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4 out of 5
Margaret Prior is a women destined to become a spinster living in the late 1800s in London. She has experienced loss recently, and as a way to cope, she decides to do charity work at Millbank Prison, a jail (or gaol) for women. Margaret connects with one of the prisoners, a spiritualist and medium for the dead named Selina Dawes.
I’ve slowly been working my way through Sarah Waters’ backlist after being blown away by The Little Stranger and Fingersmith, so I was excited to pick up Affinity. I was looking forward to the historical gothic novel I’ve come to know and love from Sarah Waters.
I’m going to preface my review by saying that it irks me when Sarah Waters’ books are referred to as “lesbian novels.” Yes, there is usually some element of lesbian love in Sarah Waters’ books, whether overt or implied (I’m assuming here – I haven’t read all of her books yet). But saying they are lesbian books trivializes them. They’re usually about lonely women looking for some sort of connection in their miserable lives and they happen to find it with another woman. It doesn’t mean that women who aren’t lesbians can’t identify with the characters or stories, nor does it mean there will be graphic lesbian scenes in the books. End rant.
Margaret is a sad main character, forsaken by her former lover and utterly lonely. At first, the reader cheers when they see that she is connecting with Selina, that she may once again find some happiness, even if the object of Margaret’s affection is in prison. But as the novel unfolds and the reader begins to learn more about Selina, things become uncertain. The reader isn’t sure of whom to trust, even if Margaret places her faith in Selina completely.
This is a novel of deceptions, of sleights of hand, of quiet whispers and Sarah Waters writes it incredibly well. The whole book has a haunting, gothic quality that fans of the genre will adore. Her writing is lyrical and beautiful, yet very powerful. It’s a moody, contemplative novel that will hook readers from beginning to end.
Affinity was an intriguing read and I really enjoyed it. Though I must admit that The Little Stranger is still my first love when it comes to Sarah Waters, Affinity was incredibly written and beautiful, and I can’t wait to read more of Waters’ work.