No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Friday, May 13, 2005

#42: Affinity -- Sarah Waters

I finished this book a few days ago, but I'm still thinking through my reaction to it. I'd say it's a very good book, well-written and tightly plotted and affecting, but I don't like it.

Affinity is set in the 1870s. It tells the story of Margaret Prior, spinster, who's become a prison visitor at Millbank after a breakdown that is only gradually explained. She befriends Selina Dawes, imprisoned for assault and accused of being a fraudulent medium. Margaret's tale -- the antagonism between her and her mother, her grief for her dead father, her brother's marriage -- unfolds in parallel with excerpts from Selina's diary, covering the period just before her arrest. Margaret's past leads, it seems inevitably, to her present: to her growing affection for Selina. All this against a Turneresque backdrop of Victorian London at its smoky, foggy, gloomy theatrickal best. Oh, this is a dark book.

I think what bothers me most is how easily I was drawn into Margaret's credulity: she wants to believe in Selina and everything she represents, and marvels at the evidence of supernatural intervention that's presented to her. I missed some clues as to what was really going on, just as poor Margaret does: and the climax of the book (a neat double twist) hit hard.

Waters writes beautifully and perceptively about the human heart, about loss and grief and solitude, about depression. Her evocation of the Thames at Battersea on a winter's night made me shiver. (I used to walk across Chelsea Bridge twice a day.) I want to read more by Sarah Waters: but I don't think I want to read this one again for a while.

reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place

No comments:

Post a Comment