Author: Sarah Waters
Themes: Mystery, Romance
Continuing my Sarah Waters’ binge reading session, I’ve just finished both ‘Affinity’ and ‘The Night Watch’, having become hooked on her excellent novel, ‘Fingersmith‘, a couple of months ago.
I am really impressed by Waters’ ability to create an entirely unique story in each of her novels; in a time when many authors write series, all of her books are stand-alone novels, and each one is different from the next. Of course, some themes are repeated, for example, lesbian romance occurs in more than just one story. But for the majority, the plot is always well thought out, and includes a twist or two.
‘Affinity’ centres around Margaret Prior, a troubled young woman from a privileged, upper class background, as she begins visiting the dark, grimy halls of Millbank prison in Victorian London. Margaret, who is recovering from a recent suicide attempt, becomes increasingly fascinated with with one particular inmate, Miss Selina Dawes. Dawes is a self named spiritualist, and was imprisoned at Millbank after a séance went wrong, resulting in a death of an older lady. Margaret is aware of the lies and tricks the desperate and depraved prisoners are willing to play on the prison staff, but something about the seemingly innocent Selina calls to her. She finds herself visiting more often and spending longer than necessary lock in a cold, damp cell with this pale girl and her spirits. After researching her case, Margaret puts together events in her head and believes Selina to be innocent. She means to find freedom for Miss Dawes, and hopes to find it for herself along the way. But is Selina really as innocent as Margaret wants to believe?
This really is a great book. It starts rather slowly, with a visit to the prison, but once you are a few chapters in, you’ll be hooked. Having just finished, I feel like I already want to re-read ‘Affinity’ and look for anything that I may have missed now that I know the ending.
The majority of the novel is set out as a diary penned by Margaret, written after the events of each day. However, before each new chapter is a page or two written by Selina before the events of the book. Selina is such a mystery; even at the end of the book I was still desperate to read another diary entry from her. I think it’s nice there is no second novel, readers can imagine what happens when the book has finished, and it will remain in their memory for a long time.
I’m now just starting to read ‘The Paying Guest’, review to come! Have you read any Sarah Waters’ books? Leave me a comment telling me your favourite!