Description: An upper-class woman, recovering from a suicide attempt, visits the women’s ward of Millbank prison as part of her rehabilitation. There she meets Selina, an enigmatic spiritualist-and becomes drawn into a twilight world of ghosts and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions, until she is at last driven to concoct a desperate plot to secure Selina’s freedom, and her own.
BookieMonster says: Phew, Sarah Waters! Into one very well-written and captivating novel she managed to cram spiritualism, lesbianism, Victorian stifling of women, Victorian mourning rituals, Victorian treatment of mental health, Victorian prison history, Victorian class structure and a clever little mystery plot. (Sorry for all the Victorians, but this novel is rather, well, Victorian.)
The very best thing about Waters is that, unlike much lesser historical writers, she manages to cover all these points in a way that doesn’t say “Hey, look at how historical I’m being! Look at my many accurate historical points! oh, and look! Lesbians!”.
No, Waters does a very neat trick in her writing – and that is being genuinely authentic to the point where you just don’t really notice it. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery of the plot and the portrayal of prison life and the spiritualist movement (especially having recently read Spook).
Affinity has been somewhat overshadowed by Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith (both also excellent, by the way) which is a bit of a shame, as Affinity is every bit as good. This is a dark tale with a sad and lonely heart. Highly recommended.