Affinity – Sarah Waters

Posted 29 March, 2012 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 19 Comments


Title: Affinity
Author: Sarah Waters
Published: 1999; Pages: 352
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Affinity In Short: Margaret Prior, a troubled young woman who is heavily grieving her father, begins visiting woman prisoners at the jail and becomes particularly interested in Selina Dawes who is known for her work with spirit mediums. The story is told through Margaret’s narration in the future and Selina’s narration in the past.

Why I Read it: I read and really liked Fingersmith a few years ago and have had this one on my shelf for a while. A readalong happened, which I missed, but your responses really piqued my interest.

What You Wanted to Know:

Was this your first Waters? If not, how did it compare to others that you have read by her? If so, what did you think of her writing? (Kailana)

I’m mostly drawn to Sarah Waters because of her writing style, atmospheric settings, and strong character developments. The two books I’ve read have been set during Victorian times (maybe all of them are?), and I find that era to be very fascinating. I hate to say that I did not like this one quite as much as Fingersmith, but I think that’s because I was constantly in a state of anticipation of what was coming next.

Did you find all the different elements packed into the story believable? (A medium, a woman’s jail, etc.) (Kailana)

I’m not sure how much I believe that a young woman could just hang out at the jail and visit with the inmates, but I also don’t know much about Victorian prisons. The medium parts were really fascinating to me, but I admit that I had a tough time wrapping my head around some of the spiritual parts, especially involving Peter Quick.

Did you enjoy Affinity? It had such a totally unexpected ending for me that it left me feeling very melancholy. (Picky Girl)

I did enjoy the book as a whole. My biggest downfall when reading this one is that it took me about two months (maybe more) to read so I never felt like I was completely drawn into the story like I was with Fingersmith. There’s something to be said about reading too quickly and too slowly! I can understand the melancholy feeling, but mostly I felt a little let down by the ending because it wasn’t what I expected or wanted.

So, Affinity–is it a good one to start with if I haven’t read any Sarah Waters yet? (Debi)

As Lisa mentions below–do you want to build up to the best or read the best first? More importantly than where to start is that you DO! Waters’ writing is really wonderful. She has the ability to draw you right into the story and see everything that is happening and surrounding and all that the characters are feeling (I know this kind of contradicts what I said above but…)

I’ve got Little Stranger; have you read that one? I’m curious as to how it compares to Affinity. I have heard some people say that it’s the best one, in which case I’d like to build up to it and maybe start with Affinity. (Lisa)

I haven’t read Little Stranger but will definitely be reading more of Waters. Not sure where I should go from here. Tipping the Velvet? Or something newer?

Sam wants to know what I thought of the ending, and other than the hint above in my comment to Jenn, my lips are sealed. Ha!!

Bottom Line: Overall I found Affinity to be a fulfilling read, even if the end did leave me a tad bit unsatisfied. Perhaps because I saw the story going one way and was kind of surprised when it didn’t. Funny how that works out, huh? Margaret wasn’t the most likeable character; she was a little on the weak side–which suits the book exactly. But my fascination with Selina and the spirit medium story definitely kept me intrigued. If you haven’t read any Waters, I definitely recommend her!

Which is your favorite Waters?

Trying something new…

On the Blog:
One Year Ago – The Countdown Begins: One Month to Go
Two Years Ago – Blog Changes: Massive Overhaul of the Bookish Kind
Three Years Ago – Sunday Salon 1: Introducing Trish
Four Years Ago – The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

19 Responses to “Affinity – Sarah Waters”

  1. Les

    I have a few of Waters’ books on my shelf, but have only read The Night Watch, which I thought was very good! It’s set in London during WWII, which is one of my favorite periods to read about. My review is here, if you’re interested.

    Even though I have her earlier works on my shelf, I really want to read The Little Stranger first.

  2. The only Waters I’ve read is The Little Stranger, which I enjoyed quite a bit. I’ll definitely be reading more of her books in the near future, and I keep hearing about Fingersmith so I’ll probably start there.

  3. Another Waters to add to my list! I loved Fingersmith and though Night Watch was very good, too. Tipping the Velvet is on my shelf – found a like new copy for a dollar at the library book sale last year.

  4. I loved tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith. This one took a lot longer for me to connect with but I ended up loving it too. Unfortunately, I was pretty bored with The Little Stranger!

  5. Amy

    Affinity sounds really interesting. I’m glad you enjoyed it and I like that you discussed it by answering questions. Don’t worry that it took you a while to read it. You’re busy…at least you’re reading and it’s good literature you’re reading!

    I haven’t read any of Waters books yet but I have Night Watch and Little stranger and plan to read them soon. I think I’m going to read Little Stranger first since I haven’t read a negative review of it yet.

  6. *Rhapsody – Yup, I think my mistake was reading Fingersmith first as well!

    *Les – I didn’t realize that some of her books were set in other eras besides Victorian–I love the idea of a WWII setting and bet that Waters pulls it off wonderfully. I’m out of books to read by her (on my shelf), so will look for some of the more recent titles!

    *Diane – Yes! Definitely read this one. It’s especially good if you’re going to have a rainy spring week. ;) I don’t think there’s anything different about the blog, but I’ll take the compliment. Thank you!

    *Heather/Book Addict – Is Little Stranger the one with the house? I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed it! And Fingersmith is an excellent one to pick up.

    *JoAnn – I found my copy of Affinity at Half Price Books on clearance and was really excited! Will be on the lookout for her others as well. I don’t know much about Tipping the Velvet but both Night Watch and Little Strongers sound great.

    *Bermudaonion – Waters does like to keep you on your toes!

    *ReviewsbyLola – Good to see you around, Stephanie! :) I’ve heard kind of mixed things about Little Stranger. Seems when people start with that one they really enjoy it but doesn’t quite live up to the others.

    *Amy – I don’t know very much about Night Watch or Little Stranger but I hope you enjoy both of them! Les above mentioned that Night Watch is set during WWII and I have to admit that that intrigues me!

  7. I started out my Waters reading with The Night Watch. I splurged before Christmas one year and that book had just came out. It was a gift to myself. I really enjoyed it, but Fingersmith is still my favourite even though I read it later. Affinity was good, but still not as good as Fingersmith. I almost feel bad for her because she has written such an amazing book and she can’t seem to compare…

  8. I really hope this post didn’t ruin SW for me! I’ve read and loved Fingersmith. ight have to wait another year before getting back to her.

  9. Aw man, sorry this one wasn’t such a fantastic read for you. I think reading it over a couple of months would definitely delay the surprise and ending and maybe make it less powerful.

    I was hesitant to read Affinity because like you, Fingersmith was my first Waters book. It was very different, but I enjoyed it.

    Now I really need to read The Little Stranger.

  10. The Night Watch and The Little Stranger are both post WWII, so she does venture out from the Victorian setting on occasion. And Fingersmith is my favorite, too…that’s a tough one to beat!

  11. *Kailana – It’s hard when one book is so good. I generally think that time between books is a good thing. I’ll definitely continue to read her stuff, though!

    *Care – Maybe wait for a while. I don’t like to read too many books by the same author too close together just for this reason!

    *Picky – I still really liked the book and do think that it would have been better if I read it a little faster than I did. Was too hard to really sink into the mood of the book. I think you’re right in making sure you view the books as completely different!

    *Softdrink – I didn’t realize Night Watch was post WWII also! So much to look forward to.

  12. I have two Waters books on my shelf (they were birthday gifts from last year) and your post has inspired me to dig in once I finish the books I’m working on right now. Would Fingersmith be a good beach book, or is it more of a you-need-to-focus book?

  13. *Karen Beth – I think you’d really like Waters! Especially the books set during the Victorian times. ;) But I’m not sure she’s beach material!

    *Joy – Waters is definitely an author I need to be in the mood for! I do hope you enjoy her when you get to them.

    *Trisha – Nothing is wrong with you. ;) I like to space time out between readings of same author.

  14. Still haven’t read her but know that I must! My husband listened to The Little Stranger and wasn’t that impressed so I’ve put her on the back burner.