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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Affinity pulls you in however hard you try
Having read "Tipping the Velvet" I was expecting a lot of colour, frivolity and fun from "Affinity". Even though I'd read it was set in a prison I awaited a Victorian "Bad Girls". However it was far from any of these - it was dark, it was psychological and so different from the previous novel. Subtle and discreet the reader is slowly drawn...
Published on 24 Feb 2002

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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm....
I bought this book after having finished 'Fingersmith', which I rate inside my top 25 book; I found Water's writing extremely gripping and reminiscent of old Victorian novels. I expected something equally exciting when I began to read 'Affinity'.
How wrong I was....at the beginning.
At first, I found the book quite tedious, as it moved at a rather slow pace,...
Published on 29 Nov 2003 by Katalina Samolskaya


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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Affinity pulls you in however hard you try, 24 Feb 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
Having read "Tipping the Velvet" I was expecting a lot of colour, frivolity and fun from "Affinity". Even though I'd read it was set in a prison I awaited a Victorian "Bad Girls". However it was far from any of these - it was dark, it was psychological and so different from the previous novel. Subtle and discreet the reader is slowly drawn into Affinity and the world of Millbank, just as Margaret is drawn to Selina and however hard you try to resist this pull - you end up not just "wanting" to believe in the "magic" but like Miss Prior "NEEDING TO". I recommend this novel even though a lot of people prefer "Tipping the Velvet" I loved the repression and wanting in "Affinity" - Sara Waters explores that human need to believe in someone or something and she does this superbly!
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "You know why . . . your flesh comes creeping to mine and what it comes for. Let it creep.", 1 Dec 2006
By 
Brida "izumi" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
This is the first book by Sarah Waters that I have read. Because of this, I came to the book with few assumptions or expectations. I did,however, hope that the book would live up to the comment on the front that it was "sexy, spooky and stylish". Having now finished it, I can happily say it was all of these things and more.

The story follows Margaret, a young Victorian lady who is close to becoming a spinster. When she is first introduced, the reader is given the impression that something has happened to her - she seems troubled, and there is mention that she has not been 'well'. We later learn that, for some reason, she attempted suicide. Her family seems to think that it would do her good to go to volunteer at a prison, Millbank, to visit the female prisoners. It seems she is to become a sort of confidante to them, if they wish. While this situation in itself is quite interesting, while on one of her visits, Margaret sees one lady who intrigues her. This mysterious lady, Selina Dawes, seems to possess a compelling calmness about her. And, when Margaret first sees Selina in her cell, she is holding a perfect violet in her hands. Where, Margaret wonders, would she have gotten this flower from?

As Margaret learns more about Selina, she discovers that she is a spiritualist, or medium. Her crime involves some kind of alleged abuse against one of her female customers. Margaret, it seems, finds it hard to believe that Selina would be capable of such a crime, and so tries to learn more about her and befriend her - she is drawn to her.

That is a very basic plot. There are many aspects to this novel which make it what it is. I thought Waters has done a fabulous job at describing life in Victorian times; Selina's imprisonment starts to echo Margaret's situation in life and society, as an unmarried woman. The writing is beautiful - there is one passage in particular when Margaret is taken to view the personal belongings of the women, their old clothes, dresses and hair. Margaret likens this room to a tomb - the boxes with all their belongings in are said to remind her of small coffins for babies. It is quite harrowing.

The tension in the book is built up brilliantly too. You know that something horrible is going to happen, so in a way the end is not such a great surprise. I think the relationship between Selina and Margaret is also dealt with very well. There is a very touching part where they are discussing love, and Selina talks about souls having an affinity to each other:-

'"How will a person know, Selina, when the soul that has the affinity with hers is near it?"

'She answered, "She will know. Does she look for air, before she breathes it? This love will be guided to her; and when it comes, she will know. And she will do anything to keep that love about her, then. Because to lose it will be like a death to her.'" (p.210-211)

It is certainly a beautiful idea, and one that brings a lot to the story.

I thought this novel was excellent. It has made me want to read other books by Waters. I just hope that they are as good as this!
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hmmmm...., 29 Nov 2003
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
I bought this book after having finished 'Fingersmith', which I rate inside my top 25 book; I found Water's writing extremely gripping and reminiscent of old Victorian novels. I expected something equally exciting when I began to read 'Affinity'.
How wrong I was....at the beginning.
At first, I found the book quite tedious, as it moved at a rather slow pace, with too many descriptions of the prison and Margaret's house in Cheyne Walk.
After the first 150 pages, however it began to draw me in, with the exciting occurences. The descriptions did not come as often and I did not feel tired or compelled to shut the book to start a new one. The characters became more enticing; instead of skimming blankly over passages illustrating their feelings read them closely and felt for said characters. I was drawn into the story and the plot, that I almost believed everything (well, maybe not everything)said.Indeed the end was extremely surprising and shocking.
After the first half, a very enticing and well written book. Expect great things from Ms Waters - even better than 'Fingersmith' - in the future.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Storytelling at its best., 31 May 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Affinity (Virago V S.) (Paperback)
I brought "Affinity" after reading "Tipping the Velvet" (also an astounding read). The book describes a two year time frame of events--one that occurs in the present and the other describing the events that led to the present.
It is set in the late 1800's, in London, England. Sarah Water's takes you on a fascinating journey of intrigue, devotion, deception, passion, etc., etc.--it's all here. It is written in a marvelously descriptive text that lures you in in such a manner that you simply cannot put the book down. Water's slowly drops hints along the way, and never allows the reader to guess at any outcome of events.
I was slightly disappointed by (what seemed like) the sudden ending of the book. But only disappointed because I was so utterly convinced of the inevitable outcome (I felt as bewildered as Miss Prior). I have not been surprised by a plot/book/author for a very long time.
I highly recommend "Tipping the Velvet" and "Affinity." I assure you, in reading these books, you will be in skilled hands.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliantly well developed novel. Delightfully unexpected, 29 Dec 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
Wow, what can I say, Sarah Waters has done it again only this time with such a stroke of genius you will be amazed! How brillinatly she lulls you into a false sense of familiarity; soothing you to believe that "Affinity" is just another twist on her previous work of art "Tipping the Velvet". However, heed her warnings when our new protaganist warns that "this journal will not be like the last". No, this time she will avoid the desperate yearnings of the heart and focus on more practical things. Well of course I began to lose sight of that when the author guided me so beautifully through the thoughts and longings of young Margaret Prior as she befriends the women at the dark and hellish Millbank prison. But Sarah Waters' imagery and use of language is cleverly manipulative. Her frequent reference to an image of melting wax reflects how changable our story really is - nothing is as it seems.
Such a wonderful read I had to consume the whole story in one sitting and after joyfully kicking myself at its ending, took pure delight in reading it over again with the benefit of hindsight.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What the Need for Love Will Cause Us to Do, 22 Nov 2009
By 
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
Margaret Prior is a very proper young Englishwoman. She is a Lady Visitor at Millbank prison; meant to show the wayward ladies how to behave themselves in an upright, appropriate fashion. One prisoner intrigues her more than the others, and this is where our story takes flight.

Sarah Waters has a masterful grasp of Victorian London - the deadly smog, the dismal prison system, and the severely limited opportunities for women. The world of spiritualists and their craft is also explored in some detail. Waters writes in a style that pulled me in and refused to let me go until the final page was turned, at which point the story still wouldn't release me. I've spent a great deal of time since finishing the book, thinking about its twists and turns and how I might have reacted to some of the situations in which Miss Prior found herself. I was thoroughly surprised by the ending (a rare feat nowadays) and I cared a great deal about the main characters.

If this is an indication of Sarah Waters' writing style, I'm very excited to read her other novels. An author with this sort of gift for storytelling comes along but rarely, and should be celebrated.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You'll feel emotionally drained and desperate to talk., 3 April 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
I'd recommend that you look at this book as a member of a reading group or force your partner to read it after you because when you finish you'll be bursting to talk about it. Unfortunately, to talk about it is to completely ruin it for anyone who has not read it. Sarah Waters is a great find for me, I loved her previous book, 'Tipping The Velvet' and have been eagerly awaiting her second novel for some time. 'Affinity' certainly doesnot fail to deliver. Whilst Tipping The Velvet takes you on a bawdy romp, this novel slowly and perhaps a little cruelly, draws you in to the highly charged, emotional world of Margaret Prior and Spiritualism. Even the most hardened cynic will want to believe in magic. If you're looking for a coming out book, a sexy detective romp, an airport novel don't read this book - you'll be disappointed. This book is for those who like to shut out the world and dive into a book, who cannot do anything else until that book is read and then when it is, can't talk to anyone unless they too have read it. Pick it up and read it in one sitting but don't leave it until late at night to finish it - you'll never get to sleep !
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, 11 Oct 2009
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
This is my very first Sarah Waters' book. I know! Where have I been?! I am now desperate to read her other offerings.

The writing is excellent. The style reflects very well both the time in which the book is set and also the personality of the narrator, Margaret, who is trapped within her desires and the impossibility of being able to express them. The setting is perfect - a woman's prison, the physical manifestation of the metaphorical prisons which form one of the themes of the book. The plotting also is superbly done, and the pace remains constant throughout.

The twists provide the reader with 'oh of course, why didn't I think of that' moments when all is revealed. So obvious, and yet so well disguised. I did guess some of the twist, but I think that's more because I've read an awful lot of detective fiction over the years, and I arrived at a point where *something* needed to have happened, and I went through the characters till I happened upon the one I thought was most likely. However, I certainly didn't guess it all.

Throughout, the reader feels hope and anxiety about Margaret touched with an impending sense of doom. I found the story itself both interesting, well-researched and captivating. Margaret is a lady who has suffered some kind of breakdown we guess, and as part of trying to feel better about life she volunteers as a 'Lady Visitor' at Millbank Prison, where she meets various other women of varying circumstances who will change her life. An absolutely captivating and excellent read.

Highly recommended.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Victoriana, 1 Feb 2003
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
A very intriguing book, capturing many of the themes and contrasts of Victorian society - its idle rich, squalid prisons, lonely spinsters, shallow rich, desperate poor and the fashionable obsession with spiritualism. The main character is Margaret, a young spinster who volunteers to be a "lady visitor" at a women's prison. She becomes obsessed with one of the inmates, the meek and beautiful Selina, accused of fraud and assault. The squalidness and barbarity of the prison are contrasted with the meekness and gentleness of Selina, the medium - when we first meet her she is huddled in her cell beneath a small patch of sunlight that has found its way into her cell, holding a tiny flower in her hands. The author's writing is so convincing that you become completely absorbed by it, and everything becomes believable, which makes the dramatic twist at the end of the book doubly shocking.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and Haunting with a Surprise Ending!, 20 Feb 2006
This review is from: Affinity (Paperback)
I was hooked from the first page of this book. It starts with a mysterious event which doesn’t make sense entirely and leaves the reader wondering what had happened exactly. A great opening.
The story then introduces Margaret who is visiting Millbank prison for the first time. She is visiting the female inmates as it is believed the company of a lady will do the prisoners good. Thus we are thrown into the dark world of Victorian prisons and spiritualism as well as Margaret’s own life which has been fraught with illness and unhappiness.
At Millbank prison Margaret meets Selina Dawes, a spiritualist imprisoned for assault and fraud. Margaret begins to fall in love with Selina and subsequently embraces the spiritual words and happenings which begin to surround her.
The reader very much empathises with Margaret – she doesn’t get the best treatment from her mother and has been unhappy in love, consequentially the reader hopes for a happy ending.
I never saw the ending coming though and was completely surprised by the revelations. – Everything comes together at the end like a perfect puzzle.
A wonderful tale with a twist in the end – Excellent!
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Affinity by Sarah Waters (Paperback - Jan 2002)
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