Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Affinity - Sarah Waters (Kindle)


Things I never want to end when I am in the middle of experiencing them:

1. A full body massage

2. Beach vacations

3. Fine dining with wine pairings

4. A good dream

5. Sarah Waters books

Can you relate? There are just certain things that you want to go on forever. This is how I've felt about every single Waters book I've read including my most recent, Affinity. I've been allotting myself one of her books no frequently than every six months, because there is a finite number of them and I'm scared of the day when I have none left! Sarah Waters! Write faster!

I found myself boarding a plane in California, headed back home to Florida (over a five hour flight) without a book in hand. So I loaded the Kindle app on my iPhone, uploaded this book from my Kindle at home, and away I went. And because it was on my phone, I found myself reading it everywhere. At stoplights. In the bathroom. In the car when someone else is driving. I couldn't stop.

Even though Fingersmith is the ultimate twisty Waters book, unrivaled in the category really, I still am faced with writing a review for a book that is best read cold. So I shall keep this brief and mysterious-ish.

Synopsis: It is 1874. Margaret Prior is recovering from an emotional breakdown that occurred as a result of the death of her father and a failed relationship. To aid in her recovery, it has been suggested that she visit the women incarcerated at London's Millbank Prison, to guide them towards an honest and spiritual life. Within the prison's walls, she meets the ethereal Selina Dawes, an enigmatic young medium. The two form a unique connection.

Our narrative swings back and forth in time, between Selina's story of how she came to be imprisoned, and the present day with Margaret.

This all feels stiff and bland, and I'm sorry for that, but its all I'm going to give you as far as plot.

My thoughts: OK, now here is where I allow emotion to enter the picture. Transport yourself to within the cold, wet, dingy walls of a London prison. Walls that contain a beautiful woman who almost emits a glow that lights up her cell. All around are smells of unwashed bodies, sounds of wailing and despair. Nobody does atmosphere like Waters. You want gothic? Sensuality? Darkness? Tension? Obsession? Manipulation of the mind? You got it baby. While Fingersmith had action in spades, this tale is one that is more internal and subtle, but it still did not lessen the ache in my stomach as the story marched towards its climax.

What about predictability? I thought I pretty much knew which direction this was all going, but all the while I was doubting myself. Waters is an absolute master at bobbing and weaving, at leaving little trails of crumbs that lead off into dark corners, at making you wonder whether goodness or evil will prevail. There were passages (that I will not quote lest I spoil something) that were some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful protestations of feelings I have ever read.

Amongst all of this mystique, of course, is the commentary on society in the late 1800's, which Waters is famous for. If a poor woman tries to commit suicide, she is imprisoned. If a rich one attempts the same feat, she is coddled and rehabilitated in the comfort of her home. The belief that a woman only comes into her own once she is married and has a child. The unacceptability of a woman to speak her mind.

If you are a fan of Waters, and you buy what she is selling, then this is a book you absolutely must read. But read it slowly. Make all that deliciousness last.

5 out of 5 stars



21 comments:

Jessica said...

This is one of those books where quite often the reader either thinks its just ok or they LOVE it like you did.

I think I'll love it and I'm looking forward to reading it next year after reading The Night Watch.

Melody said...

I've all the books by Sarah Waters, but I've only read one so far. It's not that I don't enjoy her previous book which I'd read, but more on saving them up for my next reads. I just wish that she's one if those authors who will produce a book every year, and that will make us all very happy isn't it?

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I still haven't read this one! I can see I must make sure I do soon!

Nymeth said...

You BET I can relate :P

This book made me uncomfortable, but in the best possible way - I felt completely immersed in Margaret's suffocating life. And the ending broke my heart.

Julie P. said...

I really need to get off of my bottom and read one of her books.

Zibilee said...

Ok, so I read Fingersmith and then went out and bought all of her books, including The Night Watch, but haven't gotten around to reading them yet. This one sounds amazing, as does Tipping The Velvet, and I am going to have to read them soon! Your review was incredibly evocative and wonderful and now I am off to search this one out on the shelf. Waters is amazing, and though I have been saving her books for a rainy day, I can't ignore this fabulous review! Glad to hear it was such a good read for you!

Molly said...

Ok - since I wholeheartedly agree with the first four mentions, then I absolutely, positively must read Sarah Waters!

I actually own Fingersmith, but just have not made the time to read it. Obviously that needs to change!!

Care said...

I appreciate and understand how Waters books are best read cold!

raych said...

I have read ALL the Waterses and now I am tragically done them. *droops sadly, due to lack of Waters*

This was my favorite after Fingersmith. TWIST!

C.B. James said...

I love your opening here. I've stopped all activity so I could finish a book before. Sent people away. Told my students to just keep reading even though silent reading time was over.

They never seem to mind.

heidenkind said...

Look at all these five star books you're reading lately!

caite said...

ok, that decides it. I must find my Sarah Waters books and actually read one.

farmlanebooks said...

I haven't read this one, but of all the BBC adaptations I thought this had the weakest plot. I don't want to read it until I've forgotten the TV adaptation a bit more, but it is great to know that you loved this one as much as the others.

Marie said...

I read this in a Gothic literature class in college and I absolutely loved it. I have reread it at least twice since then and it just gets better.

bermudaonion said...

You've made me wonder why I've never read any of Waters' books.

Iliana said...

Great review Sandy. This is my favorite Waters book. Actually it was the first one of hers I read so perhaps because of that it also a bit more memorable. Have you read all of her books now? I still need to read Fingersmith and Night Watch. I don't want to rush through...

Jenners said...

I love that you are rationing her books. I'm going to read her "The Little Stranger" next ... and then I suppose I'll try this one. I love the phrase "a book best read cold."

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I cannot believe that I am going to say this out loud -- I have not read a Sarah Waters book yet... I'm thoroughly ashamed, considering I love all the dark and Gothic elements you've mentioned...so maybe I'm just going to have to add a Sarah Waters book into my bookstore purchases tomorrow...

Beth F said...

I haven't read Sarah Waters (am I now drummed out of blogger-ville?). Perhaps this is the one to start with.

Melissa M said...

I've been meaning to read Sarah Waters forever! I have her books on my shelves and just don't get to them. This needs to change. Once I finish my current read I'm going to hunt down my copy of Fingersmith.

Kathleen said...

Great review Sandy and I am convinced after reading Fingersmith that I will read each and every book that Waters writes. I'm with you, I hope she starts writing faster!