In reading the gothic psychological novel Affinity, it is nearly impossible to shake off an overwhelming feeling of gloom and pervasive dread. Followi...moreIn 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 terrible pity. As always, with this author's work comes a thoroughly researched story and a compelling look at women in oppressive circumstances, as well as how their limited choices often lead to desperate attempts to control their own destinies. There's also an erotic undercurrent of forbidden attraction running deep in this novel as Margaret finds herself increasingly drawn to the mysterious Selina Dawes, who has been imprisoned for a spiritualist reading gone horribly wrong. Their subtly blooming attraction is heightened by the misery of the contrast with Selina's living conditions at Millbank Prison (an actual London prison, by the way), and it's a certainty that in Margaret's desire to save Selina, she is also desperate to save herself.
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 are torn with another, two halves of the same. It may be that the husband your sister has now has that other soul, that has affinity with her soul--I hope it is. But it maybe 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...
Sarah Waters writes in dense, elegant prose and tells stories that unfold with exquisite deliberation. Affinity is similar to The Little Stranger, in that there are such evocative, spine-chilling moments (including a particularly vivid one involving (view spoiler)[dripping wax and a dimpled baby's arm :-O (hide spoiler)]) that I literally had to put the book down and step away from it. She masterfully creates an atmosphere of suffocating melancholy and builds the tension to an almost unbearable point, so that when the characters finally break, there is a blessed emotional release and relief in the confusion and madness that follows.
As with all of the authors' novels, it's important not to read too many reviews or interviews lest important surprises are spoiled. I've read enough of her books to know that I needed to pay attention to every word that is uttered, but she still kept me guessing until the devastating end. If you decide to read this, try to save it for a day when it's cold and dreary and drizzling; I did, and my imagination nearly went wild over the awful conditions of the prison, as well as the evocative seances I could picture perfectly in my mind. Affinity isn't the typical jump-out-of-the-closet horror novel, but for the reader who appreciates subtlety and who might feel a fine shiver when things don't feel quite right in the house, it can offer an incredibly suspenseful and terrifying read.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Still my favorite gothic novel of all time. A troubled love interest, an unwelcoming housekeeper, a house haunted by the memories of its previous mist...moreStill my favorite gothic novel of all time. A troubled love interest, an unwelcoming housekeeper, a house haunted by the memories of its previous mistress, and a young girl who is ill-equipped to handle everything...all the elements for a wildly mysterious and romantic story that is unforgettably and beautifully written.(less)
A haunted house, a forbidding lady, a master who has gone mad, and a servant girl caught up in the middle of the whole mess. If this premise appeals t...moreA haunted house, a forbidding lady, a master who has gone mad, and a servant girl caught up in the middle of the whole mess. If this premise appeals to you, there's no doubt you'll delight in this book. I'm a big fan of Victorian fiction, and the author does a superb job of making the era come alive and keeping the language and decorum pretty true to the period.
Abigail Tamper is a 14-year-old servant at Greave Hall, where she's lived all of her life. Her mother died under mysterious circumstances not long ago, and the troubled Master of the house seems to know more about her death than he will admit. Abi has few confidants among the other servants, and her only protector against the cruel Mrs. Cotten, who rules the household, is her childhood friend Samuel, who is the Master's son who is badly wounded from his service in the Crimean War. Abigail's terror and loneliness are palpable, and readers will feel for her as she tries to unravel the mystery and figure out whether there is more danger in the supernatural forces present in the house...or from the earthly ones.
This is an enjoyably creepy, atmospheric Victorian murder mystery with a strong heroine and wonderfully detailed, moody setting. The descriptions of Abigail's duties as a housemaid are particularly well done, as well as the hierarchal interplay between the servants. While experienced readers may guess the villain before he's revealed, this is a quick, enjoyable read and a terrific addition to the gothic genre, especially for the younger teens for whom it's intended. Plus there's an embroidered fabric Ouija...how fun is that?
One of my favorite books growing up, and one I wish more people had read. A pervasive dread and terrible sadness permeates the story, and the characte...moreOne of my favorite books growing up, and one I wish more people had read. A pervasive dread and terrible sadness permeates the story, and the characters are well-drawn, the plotting superb, and the emotions it evokes unforgettable. Definitely a book worth seeking out online or in secondhand bookstores, since it's sadly long out of print.(less)