~by Sarah Waters
2000 Lambda Literary Award Nominee
2001 ALA Stonewall Book Award Winner
Sarah Waters second novel has won several awards in Britain, and has been well received in the United States as well. I can completely understand why, and heartily agree that this book was marvelous. Set in Victorian England, Affinity is told through the journals and diaries of Selina Dawes and Margaret Prior, two very different women who develop a remarkable connection with one another.
Selina Dawes, a medium and spiritualist, has been convicted of fraud and assault. She is sentenced to the women's block of Millbank Prison, a dreary gaol where she and the other women spend long, damp days mostly in solitude.
Margaret Prior, recovering from a suicide attempt, has become the "lady visitor" of Millbank Prison. Serving as a role model for the women, she even befriends some of the prisoners. Dawes particularly captures her attention, and becomes her private obsession.
The prose is evocative--dark, atmospheric, and detailed. The story is not quickly paced, but the suspense built throughout the novel keeps the reader interested, wondering what to believe and who to trust. The ending is intense, and some questions are never answered, remaining ambiguous. Even after finishing the book, I still thought about it for days. Waters is an extremely talented writer, and I look forward to reading more of her work.