Book Review: Affinity


Sarah Waters

Riverhead Trade

368 pages

Margaret Prior is practically an old maid.  She is nearing 30 and life is looking bleak, so much so that she has already attempted suicide.  The year is 1874 and Margaret has decided to attempt to break up the monotony of her days by visiting the inmates of Millibank prison.  As you can imagine, she meets many desperate, sad characters, who live day in and day out in the bleak, dank cells of the prison.  Fairly quickly though, a particular inmate catches Margaret’s attention.  Her name is Selina Dawes and she is what you might call prophetic: a spiritual medium.  In fact, it is that same livelihood that has landed Selina in prison in the first place.

As her friendship with Selina progresses, Margaret’s interest is piqued and she begins to do some sleuthing.  She is quickly enveloped by Selina’s world, and their relationship blossoms.  Margaret gets in over her head, and she becomes more and more furtive to protect her relationship with Selina.

I was fascinated by the portrayal of the women’s prison, including both the women held captive their as well as the women that were affected by simply working in the prison.  The only aspect of the book that really wasn’t all that interesting to me was the medium part, or as I like to call it, the “hocus pocus”.  As Affinity progressed though, I became more and more enveloped, and I felt myself becoming as naive as Margaret.

There were times when I felt that Affinity might be straying to close to The Little Stranger in that it was moving a little too slow for me and I was beginning to wonder if maybe Waters was moving down on the totem pole as far as favorite authors go.  The ending changed all that.  Obviously, I don’t want to give the ending away, so I’ll keep the specifics to myself, but I will say that there was an aha moment for me, and the entire book started to become more clear.  I began to question everything I had though up to that point, and I was unsure of how to proceed with my jumbled thoughts.  Thus, you can see, Affinity is a book I had to digest long after finishing the last page.

I now have only one Waters book left to read: The Night Watch. So far I have only disliked The Little Stranger, although I can still appreciate the genius of her prose.

Have you read Affinity?  If so, how were you affected by the ending?

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16 Responses

  1. I have heard from others that this one is a slow starter and then really picks up the pace, so I will keep that in mind when I get to it. I have only read one other Waters, which I thought was ok, but it didn’t blow me away. I am hoping I have more luck with Affinity!

  2. I loved this one from start to finish. It was so atmospheric and creepy. It never dragged for me, simply because I didn’t trust Selina but couldn’t quite put my finger on what was happening. Loved the ending as well. All around great book for me. Reviewed it last year, and it was one I had to sit down right away to write in order to get my thoughts down.

    Glad you enjoyed it, too.

  3. This was the first Sarah Waters book I read and I really enjoyed it. I loved the ending too. Selina’s sections of the book had confused me but when I reached the end everything became clear!

  4. The ending blew me away and like you made me re-analyse the whole story. The Night Watch is my favourite Sarah Waters novel so I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

  5. I loved the ending! Particularly, that very last line.

  6. I saw the ending coming, to be perfectly honest. I liked this one, but I don’t think any of her works are a patch on Fingersmith. It’s my second-favourite book by Waters…

  7. The cover of this one always intrigues me. Sounds like it’s one that really rewards the reader for having patience. Ah the benefits of being unable to ever give up on a book.

  8. I felt rather neutral about the book as a whole. I thought the concept was great, but I had a bit of a hard time getting into it. As for the ending, I wasn’t so much surprised by it. :/ This is the only Waters I have tried, so I think I should pick up another to compare…

  9. I have not heard of this book, but it sounds like an interesting read with a unique premise and setting. Thanks for the review.

  10. I would be the loser who led a readalong of this one and DIDN’T FINISH. Ack! I do plan to return to it — maybe after I finish Goon Squad later this week.

  11. I keep meaning to pick up one of her books, The Little Stranger has been on my list for a long time, but this one sounds more like my kind of read.

  12. I haven’t read anything by Waters even though I’ve read mostly positive things about her books. Affinity sounds like a good read. Great review. 🙂

  13. I haven’t read any of Sarah Waters’ books except Fingersmith, which I loved. I do have The LIttle Stranger which I got for $1 at the library sale. I think most people have loved it or hated it. I do want to read all her books eventually.

  14. I actually loved The Little Stranger, which made me decide to try more of Waters. So far, I have only have Fingersmith in my TBR, but will be adding this book, too. Thanks for the review!

  15. The ending of this book blew me away…I totally didn’t see it coming even though I felt like I should have. This was my first book by Waters’ but it definitely won’t be my last. Great review!

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