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11. Sarah Waters, "Affinity"
el_staplador wrote in queerlit50
Which brings me up to date on Waters, I think. Unless she's written something else while I wasn't looking*. Could well be. I liked this. I thought that I might not, for the not very good reason that I still think I don't like Dickens (even though, you know, I do, mostly...) - which is that it is good writing, but a depressing story in a depressing setting. And indeed this was not a cheerful story, being set variously in a women's prison and an unhappy family. Splendidly creepy, with just the right balance of atmosphere and scepticism in the spiritualism.

Which is unusual for me, actually. On the whole, if the author is expecting me to believe in vampires and demons and ghosts, oh my, I tend to appreciate knowing this within the first chapter, so I can get my mind into the right gear. Similarly, if the Intrepid Investigator (be it Mystery, Inc. or Alexander Hero) is going to show up to demonstrate that it's all done by wires and scary masks, I like to know that, too. Or if it's all quite 'real' but is actually a manifestation of some psychic wossname going on in the head of the narrator, which will all be sorted out by some charismatic Anglo-Catholic cleric with an improbable sex life, that's fine by me, too. I just like to know where I stand.

But Waters doesn't do that. Not until, oh, about twenty pages from the end do you know what is and is not real - and for once, that's fine, because, as in a good Agatha Christie, you find that you should have known all along. The clues are all there.

Queer themes: yes, plenty of them, though I suppose rather less explicit than in Tipping the Velvet or Fingersmith. But, as I said, not cheerful, and the not-cheerfulness extends to the relationships as well, so don't expect to come away feeling all affirmed and stuff. It's an interesting mix, really; it's satsifying to get to the end and figure out what it's all about, but, having got to the end, you don't expect things to get better from there...

*Alas, I read all her other ones before I started doing queerlit50, and all but one before the beginning of this year, which is when I started keeping reviews. I was considering c/p'ing my review of The Little Stranger, but I don't appear to have talked a huge amount about the book itself, so I shan't. (If you really, really do care, my 2010 booklist o' doom is here.) I do recommend it, though, and Sarah Waters is a good read generally. My favourite was probably The Night Watch, FWIW.


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