Completion Date: October 29, 2011
Reason for Reading: Favourite Author.
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.Today's post is left over from 2011. I read and reviewed Affinity with Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader. We are finally posting our thoughts on it. You will have to visit her post to see the first part of the review and then you can read the second part below.
"Unfolds sinuously and ominously...a powerful plot-twister. The book is multidimensional: a naturalistic look at Victorian society; a truly suspenseful tale of terror; and a piece of elegant, thinly veiled erotica." (USA Today)
"Gothic tale, psychological study, puzzle narrative-Sarah Waters' second novel is all of these wrapped into one, served up to superbly suspenseful and hypnotic effect." (The Seattle Times)
Kelly: As long as it is done well, I really like diary-style books. They are never entirely believable because who remembers such exacting details from their day and writes in their diaries like that, but I think it was handled well. It showed enough of the story to see what was going on and that is the important thing. I also enjoyed that it was alternating between two people and their diaries. I think it wouldn’t have been the same story if the reader didn’t get to see both sides.
Marg: There are some diary books that are great to read, but there are others that aren’t! I was relieved to see that this was one of the good ones!
Kelly: What did you think of the relationships between the characters? Did you think they were believable?
Marg: I actually thought the relationships between the characters were really well drawn, especially the difficult relationship between Margaret and her now sister-in-law. If there was one character I did struggle with a little it would be Margaret’s mother, but I have no doubt that she was acting completely within the social and moral restrictions of the time.
Which relationships did you think were written well, or not as the case may be?
Kelly: Yes, the relationship between Margaret and her sister-in-law was very interesting. It was a nice addition to add a bit of sympathy to your view of Margaret. It must be even worse when you have a relationship with someone and not only does it not work out, but they marry your brother so you have to see them all the time. I don’t think you were meant to like Margaret’s mother. And, yes, she was probably very realistic for her time. Another relationship that was interesting was the one between Margaret and her father. He is dead at the time the book is set, but he is mentioned so much he really is another character in the book. I felt bad because it seemed that he encouraged Margaret to be a bit different and then he died before she actually got to live out her dreams. It left her with no real ally in the world. It was just interesting because of the time period and the expectations of the time. And it was another way that I felt badly for Margaret.
Obviously the big relationship in the book was the one between Margaret and Selina. What did you think of that relationship?
Marg: I found it interesting and appreciated the way that the relationship built up over time. I do think that Selina was extremely adept at manipulating the emotions of those around her, not only with Margaret, but also with so many other of the characters (mostly female) that we met through the course of the book. This manipulative ability combined with her evident charisma and somewhat dodgy moral character seems to lend itself to a fascinating character to read about.
Margaret would seem to be someone who would be an easy target for this kind of person though. She is already emotionally fragile, definitely aware of her apartness (for the want of a better word) from most other Victorian ladies of her social standing, and therefore the idea of acceptance from someone, from anyone, is one that she desperately clings to and in the short term at least is empowered by.
How did you read their relationship, both throughout the book and in the context of the end of the book?
Kelly: I have to admit that having read Sarah Waters twice before I was thinking there was something coming. I knew that things were not at all as they seemed, so I was very suspicious of the whole relationship. I just didn’t understand how their friendship would help Selina get out of jail. There were details that were not revealed to us until the end of the book. I was happy about that because then I was legitimately surprised. I love surprises in books. The Night Watch was a different sort of book, but Fingersmith had many surprises in store. I was able to figure out a couple of them, but there were still other twists and turns that caught me unaware. When an author can do that I know they are someone I am meant to be reading.
To get back to your actual question, Selina sort of creeped me out. As the book was told we were able to see her side of things. I always rather looked on people with her ‘abilities’ as con artists, but that is my personal opinion. As a result I read all of her sections with much scepticism. I didn’t entirely know the whole story, but I knew that things were likely a bit biased and things were being left out. I was still surprised by the connections in the story, but that is what I enjoy so much about books by this author.
What did you think?
Marg: I was absolutely sceptical about Serena and her talents all the way through, but as we were getting towards the end of the book I couldn’t quite see how she was doing the things she was doing. The solution made perfect sense though!
Overall,I am glad to have finally read my first Sarah Waters and I am looking forward to reading the next one which I think will probably be Night Watch given that I have owned that one for a couple of years.
Kelly: I hope you enjoy The Night Watch. It is a bit different from this one. I enjoyed reading this one together, though. I look forward to more Sarah Waters in the future and more buddy reads.