Author: Sarah Waters
Publication Date: 1/8/02
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Blurb (GR): 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.
It is almost impossible to say anything about the plot of Affinity without spoiling something, so I'll refrain from recapping. A wealthy, depressed old maid starts visiting a women's prison and quickly finds herself taken by an inmate, a young spiritualist - that's all you need to know.
Let's talk about feelings instead. This sense of emptiness and despair I am left with is so overwhelming right now, that it leads me to believe I might have liked Affinity even more than Fingersmith. I would go as far as to say what I feel now is pretty close to what I felt after finishing The Blind Assassin.
This novel is very strong as a horror-laden/supernatural mystery - the level of suspense and foreboding is very high, but what it conveys even better is the suffocating atmosphere of oppression, repressed sexuality and thinly veiled eroticism and longing for the forbidden. As a woman of the now I have never experienced such a feeling of being completely powerless first hand, but Sarah Waters made me feel all of this for her Victorian heroines.
Not many contemporary writers can portray this very time- and class-specific environment. It's hard to top Edith Wharton. But Waters accomplishes it marvelously.