Several posts ago, I reviewed The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. In that review I really struggled---and failed--- to articulate a solid reason why I found that book so compelling. Now, after reading Affinity, I have a better handle on what makes her books successful sellers.
First off, as with The Little Stranger, Affinity moves along very slowly toward its climax. After an initial event involving a ghost and a death, nothing terribly exciting happens for quite some time. Still, you are pulled into the day-to day workings of a very specific and detailed place in time. The images and voices of the period are so well drawn that you become immersed. It's truly an unfamiliar world for most of us, and Ms. Water's has a way of letting you hear, see, feel and even smell that world miraculously without becoming bogged down in descriptors. She gives just the right amount of information. It's the next best thing to being there.
She also uses first person narration to great advantage in both books. While the gentleman narrator in The Little Stranger seemed a very "normal" sort of person, the two narrators in Affinity are both very troubled women. One is a curiosity, for sure. The other, though, is someone we can easily relate to, understand, and sympathize with. In each case, your interest is piqued and held even as you seem to travel with them through their daily routine comings and goings.
Both books are psychological ghost stories. Is this real? Is it imagined? Is it mental illness or a cruel hoax? They are not, then, overtly scary, but more worrisome, sorrowful and melancholy.
A bit about the subject matter in Affinity. I'm just gonna be blunt here. Most of us are not lesbians--estimates go as high as 8% or so, I think. I'm in California, so I feel like there are more, but the fact is that probably 90% of women are straight. So, even the subtlest of Victorian lesbianism is interesting, I think. It's something we don't know much about. Besides not having the life experience, we haven't read a lot on the subject either. I can safely say this is my first Victorian lesbian romance, and I suspect that is the case for most of the readers. But, hey, it won't necessarily be my last. It is not the same thing as hetero romance. There are commonalities, of course, but it's different and, hence, more interesting on some levels.
I hope that doesn't scare anyone off. It is the subtlest of subtle, truly. Give it a whirl!