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Affinity

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  19,054 ratings  ·  1,342 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 Riverhead Books (first published 1999)
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Popular Answered Questions
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Lizzie I think it was hinted at that she killed herself.
I don't remember a baby or a coffin.
Peter wasn't real and he wasn't a ghost. During seances Vigers or…more
I think it was hinted at that she killed herself.
I don't remember a baby or a coffin.
Peter wasn't real and he wasn't a ghost. During seances Vigers or some other assistant would go around touching the women, giving them fruit and so on, as Peter. Since the other women were in the dark and ready to believe, they thought he was real.(less)

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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
Wendy Darling
Apr 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
Tatiana
Oct 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Vonia
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
...more
Saffron
Gah! I can't do this. It's so slow and just so boring...So DNF from me :(
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
...more
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
...more
Jess
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
BrokenTune
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, to
...more
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
...more
Azumi
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
El argumento es muy interesante. La ambientación genial, como en todas sus novelas, con ese aire victoriano, en las que es muy fácil sumergirse en los escenarios que está describiendo. Pero algo me ha flojeado, no sé si los personajes o bien el desarrollo de la trama la cual he encontrado demasiado lenta.

Escrita a modo de diario de los dos personajes principales: Selina que nos relata su vida antes de la cárcel y Margaret que es la narradora principal ya que nos relata el tiempo actual. Mantien
...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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
A book for all Seasons: picked strictly for the cover
Celine
Sep 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Sandra
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
HacheC
Aug 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sigue siendo Sarah Waters, pero de los tres que he leído, es el que menos me ha convencido. Lento no, lo siguiente y final predecible desde la mitad de libro (si anteriormente has leído a Waters). Además, la trama me recordó muchísimo a Falsa Identidad.
Anyway, la Waters es la Waters y se le perdonan los deslices que haga falta.
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
Maggie
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy
Nov 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Pablo Guzmán
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Les cuento que Sarah Waters inventó la novela de fantasmas, la novela de misterio, el estilo indirecto y la ficción en general.

En esta historia cargada de ambigüedades y de un sublime erotismo de alto voltaje, Sarah Waters presenta a una espiritista encarcelada por un crimen que asegura que no cometió y una visitadora social que intenta escapar de la depresión causada por la muerte de su padre, protagonistas cuya afinidad hará converger sus caminos en medio de secretos, revelaciones y aparicion
...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
El
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
Lisa
May 27, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio, top-author
Set in 1870's London this tells the story of Margaret who is a lady trying to recover from a suicide attempt by visiting those less fortunate than herself at Millbank women's prison and Selina who is a spiritualist who ends up in prison when a seance goes wrong.
We follow their stories separately and as their worlds collide so the bond between them is revealed, from both sides.
Beautifully written with a supernatural element that gives it a creepy edge and an interesting insight into how the priso
...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
Lucille
Dec 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.”

Exactly.
Vienna
Sep 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
I really loved the storyline and the two main characters. The story and how it was told is just really unique and very dark. I got the feeling that is was like Orange Is The New Black, but even more darker and more about mental illness and crazier things. There were also some really good twists.

The reasons why I can't give this book 5 stars is because I was confused something (especially in the beginning) and I wasn't hooked that much as I was with Tipping The Velvet. It is also not that romant
...more
Deb
Oct 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible Gothic story. Very tense and perfect ending!
Imi
The ending made this for me ((view spoiler)), but that's not enough for me to change my opinion on the rest of the book; this is by far the weakest novel I've read from Sarah Waters so far. The major theme is the Victorian obsession with the supernatural: séances, mediums, and spirit guides... Personally, I've never really been that interested in this area as a theme, and that's perhaps the biggest reason for my ambivalence thro ...more
DeAnna Knippling
Nov 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A medium and a wealthy heiress trapped by her family meet in Millbank prison in Victorian England. Good works by a social reformer or forbidden love? YOU DECIDE.

A lovely plot twist in this that suffers against FINGERSMITH, but then most things would. What I didn't care for here were long stretches of slow pacing that was loose and floppy. The author tightens up the tension in later books even through the slow pacing, so it sticks out here.
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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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“Why do gentlemen's voices carry so clearly, when women's are so easily stifled?” 44 likes
“Your twisting is done--you have the last thread of my heart. I wonder: when the thread grows slack, will you feel it?” 29 likes
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