Affinity by Sarah Waters

DATE FINISHED: March 11th, 2011

RATED: ****

SYNOPSIS: A visitor to a women’s prison finds herself drawn to one of the inmates, Selina, whose crime is listed as fraud and assault. Selina is a medium, whose trade before imprisonment was ‘dark circles’ in the homes of wealthy ladies. At first cautiously, a strong relationship is forged between the two women, but imagination and manipulation are equally strong powers at play…

THOUGHTS: The story is told through the journals of the two women, Selina’s during the period leading up to her imprisonment, and Margaret’s during the period of her visits. The truth behind Margaret’s secret shame & Selina’s spiritualism are revealed gradually, as passions run higher and higher despite the restraints of societal expectations. The extent of the manipulation and true feelings involved are not revealed until the very end of the novel, which makes for a satisying finale, and a love story you might not have expected. I enjoyed the build-up, too, although I started to tire of Margaret’s increasingly obsessive behaviour as the story progressed. All in all, though, a strong period mystery, which I preferred to ‘Tipping the Velvet’ by the same author, but did not enjoy as much as ‘Fingersmith’.

FOLLOWING ON: The fraudulent spiritualists of the Victorian era are a recurrent motif in period fiction.  My favourites are ‘Alias Grace’ by Margaret Attwood, ‘White Stone Day’ by John MacLachlan Gray and ‘The Prestige’ by Christopher Priest.

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