By (author) Sarah Waters
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Affinity by Sarah Waters
Book DescriptionSet in and around the women's prison at Milbank in the 1870's , 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.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9781860496929
(195mm x 126mm x 22mm)
Imprint: Virago Press Ltd
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Publish Date: 2-Mar-2000
Country of Publication: United Kingdom
Books By Author Sarah Waters
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UK Kirkus Review » This is the second novel by Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Sarah Waters. Set in Victorian London, it tells the sad and dark tale of Margaret Prior as she becomes ensnared by the spiritualist Selina Dawes. The pair meet when, in an attempt to shake off the grief of her father's death and to escape the shackles of bourgeois society, Margaret decides to become a Lady Visitor at Millbank prison. She is immediately drawn to the cell of Selina, who, over the course of her visits, winds her in like a fish on a hook, with a heady mix of spiritualism and eroticism. Tokens such as a spray of orange blossom and a tress of Selina's hair begin to arrive in Margaret's bedroom, convincing her that she is indeed Selina's 'affinity' and that by allowing her to take over her body, and thereby escape, they can begin a new life together on the Continent. This is a beautifully written novel, with its evocative descriptions of smog-bound London and the Thames as it seeps into the creaking Kafkaesque edifice of Millbank. These passages are counter-balanced by Margaret's beautifully stilted prose as she recounts the misery of her stifling and repressed life as a Victorian spinster. Such is the bewitching quality of Waters's writing that we, like Margaret, are taken in and it comes as a rude shock to learn that Selinas scheme is nothing more than an elaborate hoax to facilitate her own escape. Underlying this haunting tale is an interesting social commentary on the status of women in Victorian society and a sensitive study of female sexuality. We are constantly made aware of the inferior position occupied by women of the time, and throughout there are veiled references to Margaret's lesbian tendencies as she tries to stifle memories of a previous relationship with her sister-in-law while at the same time succumbing to Selina's seductive charms. This is a finely crafted and absorbing novel which has the reader spellbound from the start by its eerie sensuality. (Kirkus UK)
US Kirkus Review » This ambitious second novel, a richly detailed exploration of the mysterious affinity that appears to unite two lonely women, boldly extends the range of the British writer (Tipping the Velvet, 1999). The dominant world is London's Millbank Women's Prison, to which highborn Margaret Prior comes in 1874, as a Lady Visitor offering solace and companionship to Millbank's wretched inhabitants. This is intended as therapy, for Margaret has recently attempted suicidean act presumed to stem from the recent death of her father (a respected Renaissance scholar), but is in fact connected to a disappointment in love. At Millbank, Margaret is drawn to the vibrant figure of Selina Dawes, a spirit medium blamed for the death of a client during a sance. The developing closeness between the two women intensified by evidence that Selina is telepathically sending tokens of her affection to Margaret's homeis juxtaposed with flashback scenes that gradually disclose the truth about Selina's supposed powers (especially as embodied in the visitant she claims is her collaborator, seductive Peter Quickin a knowing nod to Henry James's The Turn of the Screw). Waters has researched her mood-drenched Victorian gothic quite impressively (down to such convincing minutiae as this injunction to search all prison visitors: Infants may be taught to pass on blades, in their very kisses). And the long denouement, in which Margaret, having risked everything, awaits the fulfillment of Selina's promise that stone walls do not a prison make (You need only want me, and I will come), grates exquisitely on the reader's nerves, right up to its brilliant climax in the revelatory image of a mud-brown gown . . . and a maids black frock . . . tangled together, like sleeping lovers. Waters has found a superb metaphor for the love that dares not speak its name, and developed it with remarkable ingenuity and power: another stunning performance by a young writer whose promise seems just about unlimited. (Kirkus Reviews)
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Author Biography - Sarah Waters
Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966. She has been shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes and has won The South Bank Show Award and The Somerset Maugham Award. Four of her novels have been adapted for television. She has been named as author of the Year four times - by the Booksellers Association, Sunday Times, Waterstone's and The British Book Awards.
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