And what a timely review this is!
Well it only took me two and a half years to read this one! Let that not reflect negatively on the book, mind you. I started it when I hosted my first readalong (which I did not complete, bode badly much?). For some reason it wasn't clicking, but I've picked it up frequently enough that I remember a lot of the plot from the first half of the book. When I dove back into it earlier this week for RIPVIII, I still had my grasp of the plot and characters and magically, it stuck with me!
We're plunked down in 19th century London and the story is told through the journal entries of Selina Dawes and Margaret Prior set several years apart. Margaret becomes a "visiting lady" at the oppressive Millbank prison, and she meets the talented, damned, Spiritualist medium (Selina). The two find that they have quite an affinity for one another. Margaret is downtrodden, held captive by female gender norms of the time, not to mention her nagging mother and her feelings for other women. Selina, on the other hand, is literally held captive for some shady offense that landed her in the pokey, but she's such a nice little thing. And that whole talking to spirits talent can really come in handy sometimes.
As you might imagine, all is not as it seems in Affinity. Margaret Prior has a mountain of emotional and psychological issues after her father's passing. She's heartsick with lost love. She just needs something to believe in. Selina comes from a difficult past, given her profession, and it's captivating to watch this tale unravel from both sides of the plot.
Waters certainly has a talent for evoking the oppressive (how many times can I use this in the review?) surroundings, and the prison and its inmates are wonderful symbols for larger themes and tropes from within this Victorian time period. And the Spiritualist element of this really gave me the creeps! Selina has a particular spirit attached to her who goes by the name of Peter Quick. In his up-to-no-goodness, I found myself with goosebumps several times.
Additionally, I thought Selina's Spirtualism was a nice counterpoint to Margaret's lesbianism. While they are both lesbians, both facets of the characters' lives kept them closeted. These two elements seemed to run parallel to one another and eventually intermingle. It's hard to explain. I'm stilling thinking over it and trying to formulate my thoughts on the particulars of this portion of the novel.
The ending is twisty and surprising. It gave me something to chew on and mull over upon closing the book. I may have waited two and a half years to read the whole thing, BUT IT WAS SO WORTH IT! I gave this one 4/5 stars on Goodreads. The point deduction was only for the way the plot slowly built. I loved this in Waters' The Little Stranger, but obviously it took me a bit longer to get into this one.
Pub. Date: January 2002
Publisher: Penguin Group
Source: Bought it!