August 31, 2014

Book review: Affinity

Goodreads synopsis
"Now you know why you are drawn to me – why your flesh comes creeping to mine, and what it comes for. Let it creep."

From the dark heart of a Victorian prison, disgraced spiritualist Selina Dawes weaves an enigmatic spell. Is she a fraud, or a prodigy? By the time it all begins to matter, you'll find yourself desperately wanting to believe in magic.

Set in and around the women's prison at Milbank in the 1870s, Affinity is an eerie and utterly compelling ghost story, a complex and intriguing literary mystery and a poignant love story with an unexpected twist in the tale.

Following the death of her father, Margaret Prior has decided to pursue some 'good work' with the lady criminals of one of London's most notorious gaols. Surrounded by prisoners, murderers and common thieves, Margaret feels herself drawn to one of the prisons more unlikely inmates – the imprisoned spiritualist – Selina Dawes. Sympathetic to the plight of this innocent-seeming girl, Margaret sees herself dispensing guidance and perhaps friendship on her visits, little expecting to find herself dabbling in a twilight world of seances, shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions.

I adore Sarah Waters, so I picked this book up eagerly. I read two of her novels before - Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet - and I really loved both, so I had no doubt in my mind I wanted to read Affinity as soon as possible. It also fit right in with LGBT month in April so it was just another plus.
I started it on the plane and so I actually managed to hold my attention to it for almost two hours, which is rare for me as I get super distracted all the time while reading. So here the book had almost all my attention, but not for the story. Sadly, this novel did not pull me in as Waters' previous ones did.
I didn't understand the story at all for a long time; it took me way too long to understand what's going on, and that's never been a problem before with Waters. I have never read much (or any) historical fiction before so maybe I am just not used to it. Waters got me really into the genre only recently with her amazing stories, but I feared Affinity would not be among them. 
I honestly cannot even point a finger to what bothered me. I found the book rather plain. That's the problem. Nothing stood out too much at the start to really grab my attention, want me to read more... I had put the book on hold for over a week before I picked it up again, and even then it felt forced.
Luckily, that turned around soon. I picked the book up again after four months and resolved to finish it once and for all. After I was about a third in, it finally picked up. The story got mysterious, a little fantastical, and I instantly wanted to know more. The whole spiritual realm really interested me because I knew Waters wrote realistic fiction, so I was very curious to see where this story would take us.
I liked the main character, as I usually do with Waters' books. Margaret was a free-willed female that didn't really behave in the forms she was supposed to, and I always have a soft spot for a rebel. She was unique and quite daring going to a prison in late 19th century, to just walk freely among the locked up women to learn about their lives.
The mysteries and twists to the story were great, when things finally started to happen. The snippets from Selina's diary (?) didn't make any sense to me at first and I was really close to skipping them, but luckily I did not, because they made sense later on in the story. As is usual for Waters, she brings the story together from multiple points, but towards the end of the book you know all the angles and can connect it all into a whole.
Affinity also has some F/F romance, like previous works I read from Waters. This one didn't evolve as much as I hoped, or was used to, but there was definitely some sweet moments. Waters really knows how to write an enticing story with great twists, drama, and romance. I was loving the book by the time I was coming to the end of it. 
Waters' works are fantastic, there's all there is to it. She hold one's attention nicely, it's never boring, it's always something unusual and not very common in historical fiction in terms of topic, so I always love picking up her books. Not to mention the twist at the end. I expected it, I knew it was coming, but it still shocked me to finally come upon it and understand the entire book. She's such a master deceiver! You never ever know until the point that explains it, what will happen. Amazing! Cannot wait to read more.

Great read!

1 comment:

  1. Great review :) this'll definitely be my next Waters...