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With the exception of The Little Stranger, all of her books contain lesbian themes, and she does not mind being labelled a lesbian writer. She said, "I'm writing with a clear lesbian agenda in the novels. It's right there at the heart of the books." Despite this "common agenda in teasing out lesbian stories from parts of history that are regarded as quite heterosexual",  she also calls her lesbian protagonists "incidental", due to her own sexual orientation. "That's how it is in my life, and that's how it is, really, for most lesbian and gay people, isn't it? It's sort of just there in your life."  While it was only published in 1999, I do wonder if this book would be published as is today; it includes a number of hated elements from 20th century fiction about lesbians. There’s Margaret’s suicide at the end, of course. Ruth also seems like the stereotypical lesbian vamp, the older woman who bends the vulnerable young Selina to her will, with BDSM overtones that don’t seem consensual. That said, I think in context they work; from the outset this is a dark gothic tale.
Set in Victorian England, it is written as an epistolary novel alternating between two timelines and diaries. An unmarried and unhappy woman from an upper-class family begins visiting the women's wards at Millbank Prison (a real London jail that used to stand on the grounds now taken up in part by the Tate Britain Art Museum) as a distraction from her grief caused by her father's passing, an overbearing mother, as well as other pivotal events that will slowly be revealed as the novel progresses. Immediately, she develops an affinity with one particular inmate—a spiritualist medium, jailed two years prior for fraud and assault. Fingersmith's labyrinthian plot too has a non-linear structure, told once through Sue's narrative voice, and latterly through Maud's. While Maud imagines 'The start, I think I know too well', this tale has the past as its subject matter, and ultimately as the compelling raison d'être.
It is as if every poet who ever wrote a line to his own love wrote secretly for me, and for Selina. My blood - even as I write this- my blood , my muscle and every fibre of me, is listening, for her. When I sleep, it is to dream of her. When shadows move across my eye, it is to dream of her, I know them now for shadows of her. My room is still, but never silent - I hear her heart, beating across the night in time to my own. When I started this book, I had no idea how sad Affinity would make me. Because it does, and it has, for at least two days even after finishing the book.
Royal Society of Literature All Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Archived from the original on 5 March 2010 . Retrieved 10 August 2010. Margaret goes often to the prison in the weeks leading up to her sister Priscilla’s wedding. Selina complains that the spirits have been tormenting her at night so she cannot sleep. Margaret breaks the rules, giving Selina a pair of gloves to wear. She also notices signs that someone else has been in Selina’s cell. Margaret tells Selina that Priscilla is honeymooning in Italy, and the two women talk about how much they would like to visit there together.An upper-class woman recovering from a suicide attempt, Margaret Prior has begun visiting the women’s ward of Millbank prison, Victorian London’s grimmest jail, as part of her rehabilitative charity work. Amongst Millbank’s murderers and common thieves, Margaret finds herself increasingly fascinated by on apparently innocent inmate, the enigmatic spiritualist Selina Dawes. Selina was imprisoned after a séance she was conducting went horribly awry, leaving an elderly matron dead and a young woman deeply disturbed. Although initially skeptical of Selina’s gifts, Margaret is soon drawn into a twilight world of ghosts and shadows, unruly spirits and unseemly passions, until she is at last driven to concoct a desperate plot to secure Selina’s freedom, and her own. Waters has been quiet since The Little Stranger, but the years have seen her prestige increase. The varied honours that have come her way, including election as a member of the Royal Society of Literature in 2009, the Freedom of the City of London, and a fellowship from her own postgraduate home of Queen Mary, University of London, is testament to her rare ability to combine popular and intellectual acclaim. More prominently, there is the influence that her own works are having on the taste for the historical novel, and also on the viewing habits of the British public. Her novels have become highly successful television adaptations, culminating in the dramatization of Night Watch in 2011. a b c d e f g h McGrane, Michelle (2006). "Sarah Waters on writing: 'If I waited for inspiration to strike, it would never happen!' (Interview)". LitNet. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007 . Retrieved 24 February 2007.