Literature / Affinity

Affinity is a novel by British author Sarah Waters, first published in 1999. It explores a dark period in the lonely life of Margaret Prior, a youngish spinster from a wealthy English family. Margaret begins visiting a women's prison as a means of escaping her own ennui and in the hopes of being a positive role model for the inmates. There she meets a young prisoner, Selina, with whom she becomes infatuated. But it is unclear what the mysterious inmate's motives are...

A film adaptation followed in 2008.


  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Margaret.
  • Anachronic Order: In the book, entries from Margaret's diary are mixed with entries from Selina's; the latter predate the former by about two years.
  • Angst
  • Batman Gambit: Selina and Ruth run one.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Again, both Selina and Ruth Vigers.
  • Bi the Way: Helen is likely this.
  • Butch Lesbian: Ruth Vigers, who successfully passes herself off as Selina's male spirit guide in order to seduce and/or sexually abuse young girls at seances. This also qualifies her as a variant on the Psycho Lesbian trope - Waters (obviously) isn't arguing that lesbianism is evil, but this particular lesbian definitely comes across that way.
  • Canon Foreigner: Margaret's fiancÚ, in the adaptation.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Most of the characters in the story.
  • The Ditz: Pris, Margaret's sister.
  • Driven to Suicide: A year before the novel begins, Margaret attempts a fatal overdose of sleeping medicine after learning that her female lover is planning on marrying her (Margaret's) brother. Margaret's narrative ends with her about to attempt suicide again after she learns that Selina has betrayed and deceived her. This second attempt is implied to be successful.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Margaret is one.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: Mrs Jelf's kindness is wasted on Selina.
  • Gayngst: The primary source of Margaret's depression, following her ex-lover's marriage to Margaret's own brother.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Selina. Or so it seems. Eventually subverted.
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Margaret has this reaction when she learns that Selina's been Using Her All Along.
  • My Beloved Smother: Mrs Prior towards Margaret; not so much towards her other children.
  • Old Maid: Margaret, who is twenty-nine, is considered this.
  • Psychic Powers: Selina works as a psychic medium, and claims to commune with spirits.
  • Queer Romance: Between Margaret and Selina and Margaret and Helen. Also Selina and Ruth, and (depending on your interpretation) Selina and Mrs Jelf.
  • The Reveal: "Selina's maid, Ruth Vigers".
  • Spooky Seance: Selina works as a spirit medium before being sent to Millbank.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Margaret realizes she's become this when she tries to steal Selina's hair and is struck by the sudden understanding of how creepy it actually is.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Margaret and Mrs Jelf.
  • Victorian Britain: set in this era, and very much characteristic of its darker elements.
  • Victorian London
  • Your Cheating Heart: Margaret perceives Helen as this, although how fair it is is ambiguous.