Friday, January 28, 2005

Affinity [novel]

In short, if you haven't read it, you should. Get it from the library, borrow it - something. You will be amazed, whether you like it or not (this falling into the 'mindfuck' category).

From Wikipedia: Margaret Prior (also called "Peggy" and "Aurora"), an unmarried woman from an upper class family, visits the Millbank Prison in the 1870s Victorian era England. The protagonist is an overall unhappy person, recovering from her father's death and her subsequent failed suicide attempt, and struggling with her lack of power living at home with her overinvolved mother despite being almost 30. She becomes a "Lady Visitor" of the prison, hoping to escape her troubles and be a guiding figure in the lives of the female prisoners. As she peers through a flap in the door, entranced by the sight of a girl with a flower — she is reminded of a Carlo Crivelli painting. Of all her friendships with prisoners, she is most fascinated by this girl, who she learns to be Selina Dawes, medium of spirits.

It is a Sarah Water's book, so you know that there is a woman/woman relationship involved in the character development. This story slowly unfolds, teasing the reader along. The setting is wonderful, you feel like you're going behind the scenes of a Jane Austen story to see what life was REALLY like beneath the frills and pomp - gritty and real.

DO NOT READ THE REST OF THIS POST unless you have read the book. I'm serious - you'd be so spoiled, it wouldn't be worth reading. It'd be like knowing the entire mystery and how it works BEFORE you read the mystery. In other words, there'd be no suspense, no wonderment - it'd be ruined. This means YOU.

Ok. I hope if you are reading this, you have read the book.

Hope, you were, by the way, correct in that I want to stab the author. And hug her at the same time, though, for writing so craftily what she wrote.

I feel so... gullible and tricked. It's so amazing - right at the beginning of the book, we see signs of why Selina Dawes isn't to be trusted. I was hesitant to believe her, but as surely and slowly as Miss Prior fell for her, so did I. It was SO slow and so elegant, the way the reader is drawn in - it takes over half the book before anything huge happens. Very realistic to the end in how we think everything is as it appears to be, right up to the moment the mirror is shattered, the curtains taken away and we see the world for how it really is. And in that split moment, everything seems foriegn - everything we were doing just a moment before seems like it's from another life completely - a life lived in a dream world that never counted for anything. We're left so stunned we don't know what to even THINK. We want to believe in the illusion so badly because what we felt for it was so genuine... What Margaret felt for Selina was so beautiful and true, how could it of been for nothing?

Now I feel like I'm pointing out the obvious - how unbelieveably crafty Selina was. What an actress... It was even hinted at in the beginning, but I chose to believe... like Margaret, with each movement of the spirits, I chose to believe rather than try hunting down an obvious answer. It was too easy.

Even right up to the night Margaret stayed up til dawn waiting for Selina to appear - I was right there with her. I had my inner doubts - maybe she won't come. Maybe Selina was indeed delusional from her stay in the prison. Maybe the spirits simply won't be able to do it and the two will kill themselves rather than be apart. Maybe maybe maybe... But never that maybe Selina would have other plans alltogether. Even once Mrs Jelf arrived at the house and began telling of her part in Selina's escape, I thought maybe the concentration on the spirit was just a way of distracting Margaret from negative thoughts til Selina could arrive and explain everything. Then I thought, as Mrs Jelf was revealing what SHE felt of Selina - that maybe Selina really was in love with JELF and that Selina was going to arrive and there'd be a confrontation and the two would go off together.... But in the end, I really thought that Selina was going to appear and go off with Margaret. So I was just as shocked AS Margaret with each revelation of every piece to the puzzle.

And the whole time it was RUTH VIGERS?!? I couldn't even make a sound, couldn't shake my heads. I wasn't anything yet I was everything all at once, I was so stunned. Because I should of known. Somehow, I should of seen it all along.

And I feel SO gullible. Gullible. I mean, I like to be suprised in stories - books and movies and TV shows. I try NOT to guess at what is going on. Of course, often, TV and movies are easier to guess at than books. And I think, maybe I COULD of remained objective... maybe I wouldn't of fallen for it. But Selina was too good; I was drawn in and I fell for it, too.

Now I don't know what to do with the book itself. Laugh at it, glare at it? Put it on my bookshelf with my collection? I do re-read books, but this... this isn't a story to be re-read, a world to be re-visited. This book WAS an experience. And like most life experiences, things one cannot repeat. Something one cannot go back in time and recapture. It's one of those "first time" things - the first time is always the best, full of wonder and suprise. And once that's over with, even the anticipation of the end result in subsequent experiences cannot capture that naive suprise.

Anyway. Like I said, I'm a book collector - I love my books. But I honestly dont think I'd ever be able to re-read this one. Who to pass it to, then?

I'm serious... I was just BUZZING during the chapters leading up to Selina's escape.... When she got put in the darks... I was just fluttering inside. I HAD to see what happened. I couldn't stop reading. And it built and built and built -- then... It was like jumping into a glacial lake. Solid cold came over me, slowly dripping, coating me, like a giant egg cracked over my head. And all time stopped as I found out the truth to Selina's plans.

In the end, as much as I want to throttle Sarah Waters, I want to praise her as well for such a good job. To write something like that, that can DO this to a reader - that's just amazing. *shakes Sarah's hand and thanks her for holding my heart to the light, warming it, then quickly lacerating it and stomping upon it before handing it back*. I almost feel BAD for appreciating the book - like a dominatrix who suddenly realized she liked being a bottom, liked being abused all a long.

Ok, weird analogy, but it's what came to mind. :P

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