Book Nine of My Top 20 is Affinity by Sarah Waters.
Category - Literary Fiction
Synopsis: Margaret Prior is a young woman of wealth and standing. An unsuccessful suicide attempt reveals a disatisfaction with her lot in life and so in order to have a meaningful impact she undertakes a job at an Eastend Prison to rehabilitate women Prisoners. There she meets Selina Dawes who is incarcerated after a seance she was conducting ended in tragedy and social outrage.
At first skeptical about the woman's gift, eventually the power of Selina's conviction begins to pervade Margaret's mind.
This is a very particular niche of fiction here. Gothic, Victorian melodrama with some sapphic overtones. This is a darkly atmospheric book, relying on the best elements of gothic literature, the book excels in the description of the Milbank Prison which is heady with rich and Abhorent aromas, the aural stimulus of cries moans and entreaties of the wretched and the finality of heavy keys in thick doors and padlocks.
I enjoy the way that the book never allows you to feel comfortable, never makes you feel definitively that you know exactly what is happening below the surface of all the characters and I like very much that Margaret is at once vulnerable but independent of spirit. She is not a wholly sympathetic person but that just adds to the atmosphere as she takes a journey of discovery within and without herself.
A good book is not necessarily a happy book and this cannot in any way or shape be classed as an upbeat story, but it is arresting in a gradually evolving, ever turning of the suspense screw. And the story will stay with you for days after the last page is turned. Hauntingly so.
Why is this in my top Twenty?
This book was a birthday gift from my best friend who made it her personal mission to break me out of a prolonged period directly after uni that had seen me read very lightweight romances and the sheer "cold water slap" this book gave me through tone, imagery and literary aftertaste has meant it has been an enduring favourite despite the dark undertones.