Victorian novels about queer women turn up on my reading list a lot, insofar as any particular pattern can turn up on a reading list pushing five hundred books. All of this is, of course, due to Sarah Waters, whose Fingersmith and Tipping the Velvet are just wonderful. Naturally, the first of today’s selection is the second of her three Victorian novels, and the second strongly reminds me of Fingersmith. Allons-y!
Affinity by Sarah Waters
An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women’s ward of Millbank prison, London’s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank’s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by one apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. Initially skeptical of Selina’s gifts, Margaret is soon drawn into a twilight world of sances and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions, until she is at last persuaded to concoct a desperate plot to secure Selina’s freedom.
The plot of Affinity doesn’t scream out to me as some other books have; but I’ve read and loved Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, so it makes sense to read this before thinking about Waters’ last two novels, which were not set in Victorian London. Worth a shot, right?
Sakura at Chasing Bawa enjoyed it; although she found the beginning slow, she appreciated it once she finished the novel. Ana at things mean a lot thoroughly enjoyed it, although she didn’t like it as much as Fingersmith.
Affinity was published in 1999.
Wildthorn by Jane Eagland
Seventeen-year-old Louisa Cosgrove longs to break free from her respectable life as a Victorian doctor’s daughter. But her dreams become a nightmare when Louisa is sent to Wildthorn Hall: labeled a lunatic, deprived of her liberty and even her real name. As she unravels the betrayals that led to her incarceration, she realizes there are many kinds of prison. She must be honest with herself – and others – in order to be set free. And love may be the key…
I’ll be totally honest—I’ve always thought of Wildthorn as Fingersmith (specifically, a part later in the book) for the YA set. I’m always pleased to see queer characters in young adult fiction, and the focus on the systemic dehumanization of Louisa sounds fascinating (…you know what I mean). I’m looking forward to this.
Fyrefly at Fyrefly’s Book Blog thought it was just okay; the Fingersmith comparison was made and Wildthorn failed to live up to it any way. Leila at bookshelves of doom had much the reaction.
Wildthorn was published on March 6, 2009.