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Affinity

Waters, Sarah

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“Gothic tale, psychological study, puzzle narrative…This is gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and senses.”—The Seattle Times

An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women’s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London’s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank’s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by on apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. Selina was imprisoned after a séance she was conducting went horribly awry, leaving an elderly matron dead and a young woman deeply disturbed. Although initially skeptical of Selina’s gifts, Margaret is soon 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.

As in her noteworthy deput, Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters brilliantly evokes the sights and smells of a moody and beguiling nineteenth-century London, and proves herself yet again a storyteller, in the words of the New York Times Book Review, of "startling power."

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Review:

Affinity is a tale of power and possession that Henry James himself might admire. In her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters explored secrets and longing--capping off this lesbian romp with a utopian-socialist vision. Her intricate follow-up is just as sensual but infinitely darker, its moral more difficult to descry. Its stylistic and psychological rewards, however, are visible at every turn, the author's persuasive imagination matched by her gift for storytelling.

In late September 1874, Margaret Prior makes her way through the pentagons of London's Millbank Prison, a place of fearful symmetry and endless corridors. This plain woman on the verge of 30 has come to comfort those behind bars, several of whom Waters brings to instant, sad life. And our Lady Visitor plans to take her role dead seriously, having recovered from two years of nervous indolence in her family's Chelsea house. One person, however, makes her job a passion. Opening an inspection slit (or "eye" as these devices are known), Margaret hears "a perfect sigh, like a sigh in a story." Peering inward, she's confronted by the most erotic of visions--a woman turned toward the sun, caressing her cheek with a forbidden violet: "As I watched, she put the flower to her lips, and breathed upon it, and the purple of the petals gave a quiver and seemed to glow..."

Selina Dawes may indeed have the face of a Crivelli angel, but this medium is in for fraud and assault, her last session having gone very badly indeed. Suffice it to say that the first full encounter between these two very different women is enthralling. "You think spiritualism a kind of fancy," Selina riddles. "Doesn't it seem to you, now you are here, that anything might be real, since Millbank is?" And soon enough Margaret receives several viable signs of the supernatural: a locket disappears from her room, flowers mysteriously appear, and her dazzling friend knows everything about her. Strangest of all, Selina seems to love her.

As Margaret records her weekly prison forays, her own past comes into focus, notably her plans to travel to Italy with her first love (who is now her sister-in-law). But her current journal, she convinces herself, is to be very different from her last one, which "took as long to burn as human hearts, they say, do take." Meanwhile, Waters offers a narrative two-for-one, placing Margaret's diary cheek by jowl with Selina's chronicle of her pre-Millbank existence. This dispassionate, staccato record initially suggests that we can separate truth from desire. Or can we? What Waters's haunting creation leaves us with is a more painful reality--that knowledge and belief are entirely different things. --Kerry Fried

About the Author:

Sarah Waters is the author of Tipping the Velvet, a New York Times Notable Book; Affinity, which won her the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award; Fingersmith and The Night Watch, both of which were shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize; and The Little Stranger, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award and a New York Times Notable Book. She has also been named one of Granta's best young British novelists. She lives in London.  

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Book Description Riverhead Books, 2002. Book Condition: New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service! Summary: A pulse-quickening read by the author of "Tipping the Velvet, Affinity" is a sophisticated and spine-tingling historical mystery awash with the sights, scenes, and smells of 19th-century London. This spellbinding ghost story has left British reviewers "transfixed with horror and excitement" ("Daily Mail, " London). Bookseller Inventory # ABE_book_new_1573228737

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Book Description Penguin Publishing Group, United States, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 142 x 126 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. Gothic tale, psychological study, puzzle narrative This is gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and senses. The Seattle Times An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by on apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. Selina was imprisoned after a seance she was conducting went horribly awry, leaving an elderly matron dead and a young woman deeply disturbed. Although initially skeptical of Selina s gifts, Margaret is soon 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.As in her noteworthy deput, Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters brilliantly evokes the sights and smells of a moody and beguiling nineteenth-century London, and proves herself yet again a storyteller, in the words of the New York Times Book Review, of startling power. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781573228732

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Book Description Penguin Publishing Group, United States, 2002. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. 142 x 126 mm. Language: English Brand New Book. Gothic tale, psychological study, puzzle narrative This is gripping, astute fiction that feeds the mind and senses. The Seattle Times An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by on apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. Selina was imprisoned after a seance she was conducting went horribly awry, leaving an elderly matron dead and a young woman deeply disturbed. Although initially skeptical of Selina s gifts, Margaret is soon 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.As in her noteworthy deput, Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters brilliantly evokes the sights and smells of a moody and beguiling nineteenth-century London, and proves herself yet again a storyteller, in the words of the New York Times Book Review, of startling power. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9781573228732

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