Affinity
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Affinity

3.71 of 5 stars 3.71  ·  rating details  ·  11,153 ratings  ·  747 reviews
An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women’s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London’s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank’s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by one apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 8th 2002 by Virago (first published 1999)
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Tipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersFingersmith by Sarah WatersAnnie on My Mind by Nancy GardenKeeping You a Secret by Julie Anne PetersFried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
Best Lesbian Fiction
19th out of 947 books — 1,109 voters
Fingersmith by Sarah WatersThe Crimson Petal and the White by Michel FaberPossession by A.S. ByattA Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba BrayTipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Best Victorian Historical Fiction Set In Britain
8th out of 162 books — 403 voters


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Community Reviews

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Wendy Darling
In reading the gothic psychological novel Affinity, it is nearly impossible to shake off an overwhelming feeling of gloom and pervasive dread. Following a failed suicide attempt, a young "lady visitor" named Margaret Prior develops a relationship with an inmate named Selina Dawes in a Victorian women's prison, and both their lives are forever changed by their acquaintance.

Narrated in alternating chapters by the two very different women, this dark, moody story incites fear, melancholy, and terrib...more
Tatiana
Oct 22, 2011 Tatiana rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of quality women's fiction
As seen on The Readventurer

It is almost impossible to say anything about the plot of Affinity without spoiling something, so I'll refrain from recapping. A wealthy, depressed old maid starts visiting a women's prison and quickly finds herself taken by an inmate, a young spiritualist - that's all you need to know.

Let's talk about feelings instead. This sense of emptiness and despair I am left with is so overwhelming right now, that it leads me to believe I might have liked Affinity even more than...more
Inge
DNF 43%

I am sorry, Affinity, that we didn't work out. We both just want different things. It's not you, it's me. I'm just not in the right state of mind to read you right now. But someday, somewhere, you will make a reader fall in love with you, and you will make that person very happy. And that is what you deserve.

Go in peace now. I release you.

Finished it anyway

Nope, still don't get it.
S.S.
Oh, Sarah Waters, the lesbian Charles Dickens. Some think she’s boring and I totally understand that. Nothing can be more mundane than flowing, ornate sentences filled with imagery strong enough to physically transport you to the setting, right? And don’t get me started on that gorgeous historically accurate Victorian-style prose. I’m half asleep just thinking about her engaging plots and characters. So, yeah, I can definitely see how it can be boring and how you’d rather watch football or somet...more
Siria
Sarah Waters, at this stage, must be the accepted queen of Victorian Gothic lesbian melodrama; not, I imagine, that there is much competition for this title, but I think it's a deserved one nonetheless.

In many ways, the plot of Affinity is like that of the other work of Waters' that I have read, Fingersmith. Crime and Victorian punishment, repression and sexuality and psychology, all feature heavily in both books. Affinity, however, is a much more satisfying novel for me. While it, too, hangs on...more
Anastasia
Generally, I don't pick up random books at Barnes and Noble that I don't already know a little about. However, I made an exception with Affinity because it intrigued me so. I come to find out that was a pretty costly mistake.

Firstly, the book dabbles in the supernatural psychics world which I already hold a serious distrust for. However, I thought this book might present the spiritual medium's world in a light that's a little more pretty and entertaining. No, instead I still feel oddly at ends...more
Blair
Set in the mid-1870s, Affinity is the story of lonely Margaret Prior. Nearing thirty, unmarried, and recovering from a series of difficult and upsetting events including the death of her beloved father, she takes up the duties of a 'lady visitor' at London's Millbank prison. Assigned to visit, speak with and offer companionship to the female prisoners, she finds herself developing a particular affection for one inmate - Selina Dawes, an alleged medium imprisoned for fraud and assault. At first,...more
Oscar
‘Afinidad’, de la galesa Sarah Waters, está ambientada en el siglo XIX victoriano, y explora el oscuro y opresivo mundo de una cárcel de mujeres, a la vez que nos muestra cómo era el ambiente del espiritismo en aquella época. Igualmente, el amor lésbico está presente, y, aunque no explícitamente, sí se trata con naturalidad, algo que en la narrativa victoriana sólo podía ser leído entre líneas.

La historia está escrita en forma de diario a dos voces, las de Margaret Prior y Selina Dawes, lo que d...more
Rusalka
Sticking with the gothic theme for a bit. Affinity is a book I actually hadn't heard that much about. But after loving Tipping the Velvet so much last year, the last time I was at the secondhand bookshop I picked it up. Which was fortuitous as there were a few other Sarah Waters options, but this was the one chosen as a group read for April.

The book is another Victorian London historical fiction. We meet Margaret, the eldest, single sister in her family, as she starts her first day as a Lady Vis...more
Misha
"Sexy, Spooky, Stylish" - that's the blurb on the cover. If I was not a Sarah Waters fan already, I would have picked up the book based on those words. How can you resist a book with that description? After reading the book, I can safely say that those words are an accurate description of Affinity. I will further add to that - "Haunting and magical."

It seems, I have been reading many deliciously gothic novels recently. Well, I am not complaining! Affinity is yet another addition to my love for a...more
Maggie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
S.
I think I've missed a meeting on this one.
I can take flawed characters. I am very happy with the theme of lesbian love. The theme of scam spirit calling and the hysterical pawing at dead relatives is right up my alley.

But I was alternately so woefully bored and frustrated it sucked all the joy out of the reading.

Sarah Waters draws her characters extremely well; they are weak willed, or slyly vindictive, or limply flailing through life trapped in masochistic longing.
None of them are likeable. I...more
Laura
This one is so hard for me to rate. I'm very bummed out re the ending. I'm angry. And the book was so dark! Too dark for me.

This woman can really write though. Seriously, you have to give her books a try. I adored The Little Stranger. In this one, I think her writing is actually better, but the scenes are mostly in a prison in 1874 and it is depressing and demoralizing to be in that place. And you really feel like you are there. She puts you in the scene, sights, smells and all.

I wanted to fin...more
Amy
I've felt many different ways about Sarah Waters novels. The first I read - Tipping the Velvet - I loved. I got to the end and turned immediately back to the begining. Fingersmith I really enjoyed, The Night Watch I thought was ok and The Little Stranger I hated.

So who knew where I was to stand with Affinity? After all, my feelings on SW run the entire gauntlet. But I was excited when I realised I'd forgotten about this novel of hers and - happily! - I wasn't disappointed.

I didn't love it as mu...more
Megan
What to say about Affinity? I liked it.... mostly. No, no that's not correct. I liked it a lot but it took me fooooorever to finish it. Was it me? The writing style? The excessive female hysteria? Hmm... I guess the only way to decide for sure is to pick up another Sarah Waters novel.

I definately recomend Affinity for lovers of Victorian literature. In fact, I have a suspicion that my impatience with this style of writing is what made the book so slow for me. In theory, it is awesome ~ women's...more
El
This second book by Waters takes place again in 19-century England much like her first book, Tipping the Velvet. This story takes place not on the stage and in the bedrooms of ladies, but primarily in a women's prison. Margaret is a "Lady Visitor" as part of her rehab after attempting suicide after her father's death. While there she becomes captivated by Selina Dawes, a woman who was imprisoned for her work in spirituality after a seance went awry. Margaret begins researching Selina and fills h...more
Sarah
When I first finished this book, I rated it 4 stars because my head was still spinning from the very clever twists at the end. But now I come to review the book and it is very definitely a 5 star read for me.

This darkly gothic tale takes part in Victorian London and Waters' writing really paints a vivid and stark portrait of what it must have been like living there, and in particular what life was like in a women's prison.

When I started reading the first chapter, I thought I wasn't going to lik...more
Suzanne
Sep 30, 2010 Suzanne rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Adults
I never read anything 'Victorian', or 'turn-of-the-century' anywhere, but I bought this because of the cover and because of the Author and...

Hiding out from the heat yesterday, I opened it, and did not put it down until 1 o'clock this morning when it was finished...

Mesmerizing, in a quietly draw-you-in, now-you-can't-stop kind of way
angie
Apr 17, 2007 angie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction
I could never do this book justice with a review. All I WILL say is that AFFINITY broke my heart. I went through several tissues and my heart skipped a few beats through some of the twists and turns the novel took.

Elizabeth
Oh my goodness. Sarah Waters has become one of my favorite authors.

"Affinity," like "Fingersmith," is a book that you really can't summarize in a review at risk of giving too much away.

Waters achieves a suspenseful atmosphere in this book. Dealing with Victorian spiritualism and the prison system in the 1870s, the reader isn't quite sure what is supernatural and what isn't. And furthermore, you realize that while there is only one character in prison, Margaret is really in a prison of her own-...more
Elaine
What a plodding bore! And by such an excellent novelist! The plotting is original.
but the language plods along with repetitious details,
such as how often do we have to hear about doses of Chloral?

The reasons for the heroine's visits to the prison were muddy. The prison scenes.
while probably accurate were devoid of suspense. They were merely dreary. Even springing an inmate from gaol didn't grab me.

Were Waters a lesser novelist, I'd have given this 2 stars. This should have been as exciting as...more
Vanessa Wu
For a long time I believed that all English novels ought to be written in long, difficult sentences with complicated clauses and words that no-one ever uses in conversation. Narrators ought to be effete and educated. Plots should be convoluted. Coincidences should stretch credulity. And there should be romance and sometimes even heartbreak.

It was with reluctance and some sorrow that I learned that novels survived the onslaught of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. They not only su...more
Elizabeth
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Celine
When I started this book, I had no idea how sad Affinity would make me. Because it does, and it has, for at least two days even after finishing the book.

Affinity is the tale Margaret, a young lady living in nineteenth-century London. After her father's death, Margaret has fallen ill for half a year. Now everything is slightly better, she has taken it upon her to visit the female inmates at the Millbank prison as Lady Visitor. Here she meets the spirit medium Serena, who starts to intrigue her mo...more
Graceann
Nov 21, 2009 Graceann rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction fans
Recommended to Graceann by: historical fiction book group
Margaret Prior is a very proper young Englishwoman. She is a Lady Visitor at Millbank prison; meant to show the wayward ladies how to behave themselves in an upright, appropriate fashion. One prisoner intrigues her more than the others, and this is where our story takes flight.

Sarah Waters has a masterful grasp of Victorian London - the deadly smog, the dismal prison system, and the severely limited opportunities for women. The world of spiritualists and their craft is also explored in some det...more
Jocilyn
Tonight I will sleep fitfully, haunted more by a young spiritualist than by her spirits. Artfully crafted, using imagery that springs to mind so vividly one would think it a memory, Sarah Waters has fashioned yet another masterpiece.

The year is 1874. Selina Dawes, a mysterious and powerful young spirit-medium is imprisoned in a monstrous and daunting women’s gaol, Millbank. Jailed after a botched spirit-communication lead to the death of her patron, Selina is visited by no one but her spirit fri...more
Ruthiella
Took me a few pages to get my orientation, but then I was off and really could not put this book down. Sensitive, intellectual Margaret, still mourning the loss of her father and living with her overbearing mother, becomes a volunteer “Lady Visitor” on the women’s ward of a 19th century London prison. As a Lady Visitor, Margaret’s purpose is to help rehabilitate the prisoners by setting a ladylike example. Among the thieves and prostitutes, Margaret finds herself drawn to one inmate in particula...more
Shelley aka Gizmo's Reviews
*Rating* 3.0 Candy Corn
*Genre* Psychological/Paranormal/Mystery

*Review coming later*

Thoughts:

The story is a mystery as well as a journey into the mind of a troubled young woman who previously tried to commit suicide after her father died. You really need to pay close attention to each chapter, and take notes so that you can better what is happening, and how the ending will leave you shocked and breathless and most likely feeling a little bit outraged at how the world is pulled out from under one...more
Melissa
It’s 1874 and Margaret Prior is a spinster at only 29. She’s trapped in an oppressive life with her mother and sees no escape. She’s grieving the loss of her father and the end of a recent romance. She decides to begin visiting Millbank Prison as a “Lady Friend” giving comfort to the female prisons there. She forms a particular attachment with the prisoner Selina Dawes, a spiritualist jailed when she hosts a séance that ends badly.

This one started out pretty slow for me. Fingersmith and The Litt...more
Brooke
Affinity is the story of Margaret, a young woman in Victorian era England, who attempts to commit suicide after her father dies. As part of her recovery, she becomes a "Lady Visitor" at a women's prison, an upper-class role model for the prisoners to look up to and emulate. She and one of the prisoners, Selina Dawes, end up falling for each other. Margaret spends her time away from her researching Selina's life and the crime that landed her in prison.

Much of the book is spent on the supernatural...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Alternate book cover 3 8 Aug 07, 2014 12:20PM  
You'll love this ...: April 2014 - Affinity discussion 206 60 May 02, 2014 06:36PM  
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25334
Sarah Waters is a British novelist. She is best known for her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, as well the novels that followed, including Affinity, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch.

Waters attended university, earning degrees in English literature. Before writing novels Waters worked as an academic, earning a doctorate and teaching. Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel....more
More about Sarah Waters...
Fingersmith Tipping the Velvet The Little Stranger The Night Watch Dancing with Mr. Darcy: Stories Inspired by Jane Austen and Chawton House

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“It is a world that is made of love. Did you think there is only the kind of love your sister knows for her husband? Did you think there must be here, a man with whiskers, and over here, a lady in a gown? Haven't I said, there are no whiskers and gowns where spirits are? And what will your sister do if her husband should die, and she should take another? Who will she fly to then, when she has crossed the spheres? For she will fly to someone, we will all fly to someone, we will all return to that piece of shining matter from which our souls were torn with another, two halves of the same. It may be that the husband your sister has now has that other soul, that has the affinity with her soul—I hope it is. But it may be the next man she takes, or it may be neither. It may be someone she would never think to look to on the earth, someone kept from her by some false boundary...” 25 likes
“Why do gentlemen's voices carry so clearly, when women's are so easily stifled?” 19 likes
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