Nyx Book Reviews

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Review: Affinity by Sarah Waters

Title: Affinity
Author: Sarah Waters
Series: None
Rating: 4/5 Stars

352 pages
Published June 5th 2000 by Virago

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When I started this book, I had no idea how sad Affinity would make me. Because it does, and it has, for at least two days even after finishing the book.

Affinity is the tale Margaret, a young lady living in nineteenth-century London. After her father’s death, Margaret has fallen ill for half a year. Now everything is slightly better, she has taken it upon her to visit the female inmates at the Millbank prison as Lady Visitor. Here she meets the spirit medium Serena, who starts to intrigue her more with every visit.

This novel unfolds very, very, very slowly. It’s way shorter than the other book I have read by Sarah Waters, Fingersmith, but it doesn’t contain as many plot twists as that one does. Affinity feels a lot slower. I didn’t mind that much, because I happen to love the historical period, and I can easily be entertained by the gloomy mood. Still, after a while I started to wish for the end, because about ninety percent of this novel is build-up.

And when the end comes, it hits hard. I won’t spoil anything for you, but I can assure you that if you have come to be affectionate towards any of the characters, it will stay with you. I personally didn’t see it coming it all. It all wraps up neatly together, but not in a way you would normally get with this type of novel.

The character of Margaret is a very flawed one. We see most of the story through her eyes, and her weakness shows through every experience she has. She’s not very easy to like, but I really did want her to get a happy ending, in any form or another. Madness, substance abuse and depression are a few of the underlying themes, but I wish they were more pronounced. Without explaining Margaret’s mental condition, she’s really just a weak woman that doesn’t appreciate the things she has in life.

Affinity‘s strength is the vividness of the descriptions of Millbank. I could perfectly imagine the creaking iron, the cold labyrinth-like corridors, the sound of a key turning in its lock. Ms Waters is a master in painting a gloomy atmosphere.

I recommend this book if you really feel like reading something that will make you shiver. It’s not as accessible as Fingersmith is, but it’s still a great historical novel. Not for the inexperienced reader, as the novel is written in slightly lofty archaic language and style.


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.

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