"Affinity" by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is good at creating creepy moods and her novel "Affinity" is very creepy, indeed. The story takes place in 19th century London, so there are a lot of fog banks, old buildings and mysterious servants to heighten the suspense. The main character, Margaret Prior, does not fit in her world. She, having recently recovered from a suicide attempt, is invited to visit the women inmates of Millbank Prison. These isolated and misbegotten women might benefit from interacting with ladies such as Margaret. There are innate dangers, however, and Margaret is warned by the experienced and stern staff to abide by their seemingly harsh rules.

In trying to be kind to a particularly isolated prisoner, Margaret loses her heart. Mysterious events, most of which are subtle, lead Margaret to believe in spiritualism. This interest is something she cannot confess, having been academically-minded her whole life. In fact, there are many things that Margaret cannot reveal about herself and most of her efforts involve concealing her true thoughts, intentions and desires.

Margaret's suicide attempt means that she is closely scrutinized by her widowed mother, by her brother and sister-in-law, by her doctor and by servants. She takes drugs to help her sleep and to prevent other bouts of melancholy. But the drugs play a part in Margaret's undoing, which is terrible, shocking, and powerful right up until the book's last sentence.

--Julie C. Headquarters



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