Booked All Week

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Affinity, by Sarah Waters

with 9 comments

Having read–and loved–The Little Stranger last year, I foresaw that Affinity would likely make for a fun, engaging, and creepy post-finals-intro-to-winter-break indulgence read. Which it was. Though it rests on a decidedly lower rung of my estimation than does The Little Stranger, I was still gladly grabbed by the suspenseful rush of the story. And with a Victorian women’s prison as the setting, and the trend of spiritualism as a key element of the plot*, how could I not be?

“Spinster” Margaret Prior is a Lady Visitor to Millbanks, where she is to set an encouraging example for the prison’s inmates. She makes a special friend of Selina Dawes, a calm and quiet girl who proves to be one of the prison’s most mysterious wards. Miss Prior feels strongly for Selina, who claims innocence and maintained visitations from spirits. Miss Prior is skeptical, at first, but as her desire for Selina grows, and strange objects manifest both within and outside the bars of Selina’s cell, she must call into question her own convictions, feelings, and secret histories all at once–and the result is startling.

I find the supernatural amusing in theory, but I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to summon enough suspension of disbelief for this book. Luckily–and without giving too much away, I hope (um, spoiler alert?)–some of that skepticism was vindicated by a twist ending. The twist ending was a little out of left field, I thought, and at times throughout the book the emotional melodrama was a bit much (whereas the intensity of emotion was very subtle, I thought, in The Little Stranger, and there was considerable and gradual lead-up to the “twist”, which I prefer). I really enjoyed Water’s exploration of Victorian punishment, sexual repression, and spiritualist subculture, though, so for me this book was still totally worth reading.

*New Year’s reading resolution: find out more about this whole spiritualism thing.

Written by Emily Jane

January 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

9 Responses

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  1. […] Affinity by Sarah Waters was reviewed at Booked All Week. […]

  2. Have you read Ghost Hunters by Deborah Blum? It’s a really neat book about spiritualism, especially the scientists who wanted to study it.


    January 9, 2012 at 4:54 am

  3. I finished The Little Stranger this weekend but didn’t love it like I wanted to. I do like the sound of this one though and want to give Waters a second chance so this may be it.


    January 10, 2012 at 2:08 am

    • I’m sorry to hear that, Amy. Perhaps you would enjoy this one more…I didn’t like it quite as much, but it’s a good story!

      Emily Jane

      January 10, 2012 at 3:05 am

  4. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to get through Affinity twice now, but I think success is still on the horizon in the future. I love Sarah Waters always, and I know I will love Affinity eventually.


    January 11, 2012 at 3:20 am

    • Haha, I wish you the best at your next attempt Jenny! I’ve liked what I’ve read of her so far, and am interested to read more. What’s your favorite of her books?

      Emily Jane

      January 12, 2012 at 2:02 am

  5. I read and LOVED The Little Stranger last year, and also started reading Affinity. Affinity did not stack up in comparison and I laid it aside, though I would like to dive back into it in 2012. I also have Tipping the Velvet on my stacks, which looks promising. 🙂

    Andi (Estella's Revenge)

    January 17, 2012 at 5:50 pm

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