February 21, 2009

Affinity - Sarah Waters

See - I promised I was reading books by authors other than Alexander McCall Smith! And Affinity by Sarah Waters is probably as far as I could have got from McCall Smith in many ways!

I first read about this book over at A Work In Progress - Danielle's review made the book sound very enticing so I collected it soon after reading her review from my local library. I have read The Night Watch by the same author when it was first released some time ago and I absolutely loved it so I had no hesitation in going back to her work - even though Affinity sounded like a very different novel.

Affinity is set during the 1870's in London - the book alternates between scenes in upper class houses of the time and the Millbank prison for women.

Margaret Prior, an upper middle class unmarried lady begins to visit the female inmates of the prison after a suicide attempt following the death of her beloved father. Margaret struggles with the confronting nature of the visits at first but soon begins to see some similarities between herself and the prisoners - even though they would first appear to come from worlds away from one another. Margaret begins to develop a close relationship with one of the prisoners, Selina Dawes, a young spiritualist who has been imprisoned for assault and fraud after a seance sitting she was facilitating ended in the death of one woman and the "deep disturbance" of another.

The book alternates between the voices of Margaret and Selina where they give accounts of the events currently taking place as well as the events leading up to Selina being arrested, tried and sent to prison.
While the book focuses on Margaret and Selina I also felt it was saying a lot about the lives of women in general in the time in which it was set. At one stage Margaret makes the comment; "Why do gentlemen's voices carry so clearly, when women's are so easily stifled?".

The writing is evocative and enticing - I felt like I was walking through Victorian London, particularly the scenes set in the prison which felt disturbingly real at times. The story was teased out with just the right pacing I felt - I didn't want to put the book down but at the same time I didn't want it to end.

The ending of the book was fantastic - I did not see it coming at all!

I am looking out for other books by Sarah Waters now and am keen to pick up another book like Affinity so if anyone has any suggestions please let me know.


Mari said...

I love books set in Victorian times. I haven't heard of this one before now but will definitely be looking for a copy. It sounds great.

Karen said...

Hi Mari - I love books set in this era too - and this one is fantastic. Can you recommend any others set in this time period??

Unknown said...

I loved The Fingersmith, but have recently seen the BBC adaptation of Affinity, so wanted to wait a while before reading the book. She is an amzing storyteller!

valentina said...

I've read all Sarah Waters' except this one! I can't wait to get my hands on it:)

Jules said...

That's another author that I've been wanting to read for a long time... I don't have any of her books in my TBR, but you just kicked my b...!

Eva said...

This sounds so good! I just finished my first Waters read-Tipping the Velvet, and it was awesome. :)

I really enjoy Wilkie Collins for my Victorian fix, but he's not a historical writer of course. ;)

Karen said...

Hi farmlanebooks - She sure is an amazing writer! I have just put a hold on Fingersmith at my library. I will have to look out for the TV productions too.

Hi Valentina - yep, it is definitely a good one!

Hi Jules - there are always too many good books and authors out there! My TBR pile is already overflowing.

Hi Eva - I've put a hold on Tipping The Velvet too. It sounds like all of her books are fantastic. I think she has a new one coming out this year?? I have to admit I have not read any of Wilkie Collins but maybe I will have to begin.

Mari said...

Most of Dickens, of course, and I love Sherlock Holmes. As for contemporary historical fiction, there is the Sally Lockhart Trilogy by Philip Pullman. I found this list on Amazon. Lots of books I have not read.

Bookcases. They are the Billy bookcases from IKEA.

Tara said...

Oh you have such a treat ahead of you!! Fingersmith is wonderful, one of my favorite books! You may also like: Slammerkin, The Dress Lodger, hmm. what else? Danielle from A Work in Progress has loads of good suggestions for this genre.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read anything by Sarah Waters yet, although The Night Watch is languishing on my TBR pile. It sounds like I should change that soon.

Her new novel The Little Stranger is apparently a ghost story.

Two contemporary takes on the Victorian novel I've enjoyed recently are The Journal of Dora Damage by Belinda Starling and The Meaning of Michael Cox. Then of course, there's the Victorians themselves.

Karen said...

Hi Mari - I haven't read any Dickens since my uni days but I remember enjoying his work even when I had to write essays about it! I have also been meaning to read the Sally Lockhart books as I have also enjoyed Pullman's other novels. Thanks for the bookshelf info too!

Hi Tara - I am getting excited about reading Fingersmith now - it's so good when you have great books to look forward to!

Hi adevotedreader - sometimes it just seems like there are too many great books to be reading and not enough time to be reading. I have been meaning to read the Dora Damage book so I will add it to my list - thanks!

Iliana said...

This was my first Waters book so it became my favorite :)

I really enjoyed Tipping the Velvet too and one of these days I will read Night Watch!

Karen said...

Hi Iliana - I plan to read all of her books so I will let you know which one is my favourite at the end!

Ana S. said...

This sounds amazing. I have never read Sarah Waters, but I plan on changing that soon with Fingersmith.

nutmeg said...

I have to add my vote for Fingersmith as well - I picked this one for book club a while ago and we all loved it. And I have still have Water's Night Watch to read - must get to that shortly.

As to Victorian murder/mystery novels - I have just finished Michael Cox's A Meaning of Night. I quite enjoyed that one - a bit of a pastiche in a way - it certainly kept me glued to the end. Also, Deanna Raybourn's book Silent in the Grave was a real hoot - probably "Victorian-lite" but the lead character, Lady Julia Grey is a hoot!

Karen said...

Hi Nymeth - Fingersmith is next on my list too.

Hi Nutmeg - thanks for these great suggestions. It's always great to find other books in a genre when you have found something you are really enjoying.

Danielle said...

I just loved this one. I had a feeling about the ending, but I didn't see it coming at all until the very end. She's such a great writer. Fingersmith is even better, if you haven't read it yet. And I can't wait until her new book comes out later this spring.

Karen said...

Hi Danielle - thanks for your review which led me to read the book in the first place. I am now very much looking forward to reading Fingersmith!

verbatim said...

I am in the midst of Fingersmith, page 250, and I'm already disappointed that it's *only* 600 pages -- it's so good! I'll definitely read Affinity as well.

Karen said...

Hi Verbatim - that's excellent to hear! I ended up buying Fingersmith this week because it was taking too long to get it from my library!

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