intense sensations

Have a big box of tissues handy

Posted on: October 19, 2011

AffinityAffinity by Sarah Waters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

For a long time I believed that all English novels ought to be written in long, difficult sentences with complicated clauses and words that no-one ever uses in conversation. Narrators ought to be effete and educated. Plots should be convoluted. Coincidences should stretch credulity. And there should be romance and sometimes even heartbreak.

It was with reluctance and some sorrow that I learned that novels survived the onslaught of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf and William Faulkner. They not only survived, they thrived. They became cleaner, leaner and healthier (notwithstanding Pynchon, Burroughs and Barth).

They became too easy to read, too exciting and too funny. Yes, too popular, Ray Bradbury, Mr. Salinger, Joseph Heller, Nevil Shute, Stephen King, Jackie Collins!!!

So it was with great relief and nostalgia that I immersed myself in this sentimental thriller set in Victorian England. It’s best read in bed over two days with a heavy cold and absolutely no visitors.

It’s sublimely self-indulgent. Treat yourself to a gin and tonic while you’re reading it and have a big box of tissues handy.

Vanessa Wu is the author of Love Has No Limits

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4 Responses to "Have a big box of tissues handy"

Vanessa I have not read it yet but I am wondering why 4 stars not 4.5 or 5 as you loved it so much. Is this because you are working in realistic terms as a reviewer and “critic” and not giving in to the commercialization of book selling on amazon etc. For those sites an author feels they must have 5 stars to sell. I will set some time aside to read it. Thanks

Hello Douglas. That’s an interesting question. I’m not much of a commercial thinker, I’m afraid. In fact my reviews cost me money as I buy most of the books I review and some of them are quite expensive. But I believe in putting my money where my mouth is and supporting authors whose books I enjoy.

I am thinking of paying WordPress to remove the adverts from this site too. I can’t see them myself but I’ve been told about them and I don’t like them.

My star system is largely instinctive. However, I do reflect and analyse at some level.

In this case, if you read my review carefully you will notice some terms that are not 100% positive: “nostalgia”, “sentimental”, “self-indulgent.”

There are other reasons why this book doesn’t merit 5 stars in my view but I am not writing an essay, I’m writing a review and my number one reviewing rule is “Be brief!”

Besides, this is a book to be enjoyed. I don’t want to quibble. I would like to encourage Sarah Waters to go on writing. I want others to write like Sarah Waters. She loves what she is doing. She is meticulous in her research. She’s an expert in Victorian culture and particularly the experience of women in that culture, yet she isn’t a dry academic, she’s a creative, vibrant, sensual woman with a powerful instinct for life that resonates thrillingly in her plots. I want to celebrate that. Affinity is an apt title and a very good one in this case.

Incidentally, she doesn’t need my approbation. She has already found commercial success.

Great thanks for your reply. I am glad you are not commercialized and that you take your reviews seriously. Keep up the passionate work and you have a fan in me.

Warm regards

You are welcome and thanks.

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