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3.74  ·  Rating details ·  22,005 ratings  ·  1,624 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 an apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. ...more
Paperback, Reprint edition, 352 pages
Published January 8th 2002 by Riverhead Books (first published May 6th 1999)
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Lizzie I didn't see any future for her, given her mother's attitudes about how she should live. And now that she's been swindled out of money, her family wil…moreI didn't see any future for her, given her mother's attitudes about how she should live. And now that she's been swindled out of money, her family will restrict her even further. Even if she met a woman who loved her, it seems unlikely that she'll be able to get away. Suicide seemed like the best outcome for her, sadly.(less)

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Average rating 3.74  · 
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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
Wendy Darling
Apr 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of gothic literature, Edgar Allen Poe
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
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katie Lumsden
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely adored this. Sarah Waters is such an incredible writer and fast becoming one of my favourites. The plotting is brilliant, the themes fascinating, the historical world building spot on, and the charactisation impeccable. Would highly recommend!!
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
I have said it before, I will say it again. I cannot fathom how Sarah Waters does it, how she can draw the reader into this entirely other world, this other period, time, place, complete immersion. Even something simple like the protagonist Miss Prior's afternoon in The Spiritualists' Reading Room instantly conceived for me a dim, smoky, velvet lined library where she learns the secrets of her true love/affinity's case. Genius.

I honestly do not typically care for the paranormal stories, but und
Misha Mathew
"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
Anastasia Garcia
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
Primrose Jess
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Have you ever read a book and experienced de ja vu at the ending??? I thought this book was one I haven't read before (I still think so) but at the end.. it seemed vaguely familiar as if I had read it. I wasn't too surprised and thought "Wait.. I think I read this before." Chalk it up to the creepy experiences that Margaret Prior experiences through out the book.

My thoughts/reactions:

-The Victorian prison system was abysmal for inmates. The idea of spending years with the notion of no news of
Oct 15, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
"Now I have more freedom than I ever had at any time in my life, and I do only the things I always have."

Affinity - a feeling of closeness and understanding that someone has for another person because of their similar qualities, ideas, or interests.

This book was not easy to get into. I'm neither a fan of Dickensian tales of woe nor of paranormal or supernatural stories, so for most of this book I was not convinced I would finish it, never mind like it.

The structure of the book was difficult,
Jan 03, 2021 rated it liked it
Trying to bring more spooky queer energy into 2021 with my last book/first book. I started this on the 31st and it saw me through til midnight, but it took a while for this to click for me because I have zero interest in spirit mediums. But that last line made it all worthwhile; whew, what a doozy!
Elizabeth (Alaska)
Sarah Waters sets the atmosphere of this early on. Does gothic always take place at an old mansion hidden in fog? No, here it is Millbank prison on the banks of the Thames River. Let's not forget the spirits that we can expect in a gothic novel - certainly Sarah Waters has not.
To Millbank. It is only a week since my last visit, but the mood of the prison has shifted, as if with the season, and it is a darker and more bitter place now, than ever. The towers seemed to have grown higher and broader
Sep 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Very atmospheric this one, Sarah Waters is so good at transporting the reader right to the heart of the grimness of Victorian London, or the creepiness of a country house.There's a great sense of time and place and of the stifling life Victorian women were forced to lead. The main character did begin to grate on me after a while, she was somewhat melodramatic and I didn't find myself rooting for her at all. The ending was satisfying and I loved the Gothic feel of the book but I much preferred Fi ...more
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Another extraordinary novel from Sarah Waters. I can't believe I'm only just now discovering these books. I'm amazed by her range and her ability to conjure another era in such an all-absorbing, spellbinding way. This one is an absolutely perfect Gothic mystery/tragedy/ghost story, set in a Victorian-era women's prison. If you read Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and felt like you'd never read anything as good again--well, it's time to get to know Sarah Waters. ...more
BAM Endlessly Booked
A book for all Seasons: picked strictly for the cover
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nick Imrie
This novel made me bawl my eyes out at sleep-over, one time. No joke, I was literally sobbing by the time I got to the end.

Don't ask me why I was reading a novel instead of playing with the other kids at the sleep-over, you'll only make it worse.
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
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrea by: Sarah Mac
Shelves: lgbtq, novels
It's not very often I devour a book in a little over a day (knowing Sarah Waters' fondness of sucker-punch plot twists at the last moment, I had the good sense to set it aside in the evening and not stay up all night reading…), and even rarer that I whole-heartedly agree with a blurb.

By the time it all begins to matter, you'll find yourself desperately wanting to believe in magic.

True. So true… I really wished right until the end (view spoiler)
Jan 14, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Maria Hill AKA MH Books
My least favourite Sarah Waters to date. Slightly overwrought I think? Even a bit dull towards the middle. But the ending, ah her endings!
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, 2014
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
Jul 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, women, uk, fiction, europe
It was my first book by Sarah Waters (how come?!) and not the last one, for sure. From the very beginning I got transferred into XIX London and I stayed there for the two days in which I read it (and for me it was quick as a lightening!) I believed in everything, in the characters, in the story, and was experiencing it with the characters. I got invested in the story so much that in the middle I “guessed” the ending – but kept my fingers crossed for myself to be mistaken. (view spoiler) ...more
During 80% of the book it felt more like a 3 stars, since I really was enjoying the setting, the well built atmosphere in Millbank prision, etc, but I didn't really connect with the characters. I never liked Selina, and although I felt for Margaret and her difficulties to fit in structured Victorian London, I felt uncomfortable with her continuous nervousness. But the twist at the end upgraded it to 4 stars. It wasn't really a surprise for me, since I saw it coming, but the ending just made it a ...more
Acacia Ives
As far as I’m concerned this book is good. Like all of Sarah Waters books. This one is just not as good as Fingersmith. In this you see a dark world of prison for women and of séances. I’ve read it multiple times and it holds up every time. It stay in the four star range but I think I enjoy it more each time. As for characters I really do find everyone believable, interesting and well worth exploring. The romance is solid and kept my attention without to much frill. Overall this book is worth th ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Wow Sarah Waters, I am really shook right now. I think it’s best to go into a book like this knowing as little as possible because with my girl SW you just never know what kinda wild is coming. This was the last of her books that I needed to read and I’m praying she writes more because I’ve never read such unique, eloquent, historically accurate, beautiful books. I live for her complex characters and twisted mind. 5 shining, lovely stars ✨⭐️✨
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
From the book: “How deep, how black, how thick the water seems to-night! How soft it’s surface seems to lie. How chill it’s depths must be.”

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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.

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