This is an early book of Ms. Waters (1999). The setting is England in 1873-74. Margaret Prior, a 29 year-old woman with a troubled past decides to preoccupy herself with good deeds by visiting women prisoners in at Millbank, a notoriously dark and evil prison. There she becomes entranced by a spiritualist, Salina Dawes. The story slowly and inexorably become one of obsession and almost possession, and has a cracking good ending. This book is from a VPL list of “books that broke our hearts”.
This is really excellent writing. At its core, this is a love story, an affair between two women but with complications. First, it is 1920s London, and second, one of the women is married. After a tragic accident, the psychological cost of maintaining a relationship is described vividly, particularly the madness associated with crime and punishment.