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Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters
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Tipping The Velvet (original 1998; edition 2002)

by Sarah Waters

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,8121131,359 (4.01)402
Member:ominogue
Title:Tipping The Velvet
Authors:Sarah Waters
Info:Virago (2002), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, Welsh fiction, Published in 2002, Published in the 2000s, Published in the 21st century, England, London, historical fiction, Read in 2013, Read in Belfast, Bought in 2013

Work details

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (1998)

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» See also 402 mentions

English (106)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (113)
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
Sometimes I get the urge to revisit Nancy and Florence. Every re-read is the same: I dread the middle portion of the book but enjoy the first part and love the final part enough to keep going. I don't know why I can't just give myself permission to skip to the parts I want, but I can't.

The end makes it all worthwhile. ( )
  amcheri | Aug 22, 2016 |
4.5* really, but not quite 5*

"And last of all I had a fondness – you might say, a kind of passion – for the music hall; and more particularly for music-hall songs and the singing of them. If you have visited Whitstable you will know that this was a rather inconvenient passion, for the town has neither music hall nor theatre – only a solitary lamp-post before the Duke of Cumberland Hotel, where minstrel troupes occasionally sing, and the Punch-and-Judy man, in August, sets his booth."

Delicious, sensuous, fun. These are not usually the first words that come to my mind when describing what essentially is a Bildungsroman - a coming of age story.

This one was!

Set in the late 1880s, early 1890s, nine-teen year old Nancy Astley falls in love: first with the theatre, then with a music hall star. What follows is a topsy-turvy romp of an education of girl from a rather sheltered background who embarks on life:

"I remembered Walter saying that we were at the very heart of London, and did I know what it was that made that great heart beat? Variety! I had looked around me that afternoon and seen, astonished, what I thought was all the world’s variety, brought together in one extraordinary place. I had seen rich and poor, splendid and squalid, white man and black man, all bustling side by side. I had seen them make a vast harmonious whole, and been thrilled to think that I was about to find my own particular place in it, as Kitty’s friend. How had my sense of the world been changed, since then! I had learned that London life was even stranger and more various than I had ever thought it; but I had learned too that not all its great variety was visible to the casual eye; that not all the pieces of the city sat together smoothly, or graciously, but rather rubbed and chafed and jostled one another, and overlapped; that some , out of fear, kept themselves hidden, and only exposed themselves to those upon whose sympathies they could be sure."


Despite all her errors in judgement, Nancy is such a great character that I could hardly put the book down to hear her story, wanting to make sure she would be ok and at times envying her freedom from care at the same time.

I should point out that my rating system is rather conservative and that I reserve 5* for books that truly knock me over, and that will stay with me for a long, long time to come.

The only reason that keep me from giving Tipping the Velvet my full five stars is that some of the dialogue is a little too forced, too smooth - a minor flaw that vanishes into insignificance when compared to many other novels (especially in the romance genre) because the writing is still excellent. However, knowing that The Night Watch and The Paying Guests are just that little bit more powerful (in my estimation) it does not feel right to rate Tipping the Velvet at the same level of excellence.

Review first posted on BookLikes: http://brokentune.booklikes.com/post/1036156/tipping-the-velvet ( )
  BrokenTune | Aug 21, 2016 |
  TheIdleWoman | Jun 26, 2016 |
This was a re-read... it was the first Waters novel I'd read, and I read it because I saw (and loved) the film. But elements of the film and the book were getting a bit confused in my head, plus I'd run out of books by Waters to read, so I thought I'd read this one again.
It's really an excellent book - it's both a convincing and touching narrative of a young woman's path to maturity and a true understanding of love, and an exciting tour through 19th-century London's demimonde. Erotic without being gratuitous, it's got scenes and characters that will stick with you for years. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
how funny that i didn't like this book the first time i read it. (in my memory it wasn't even the 2 stars i gave it below.) and especially that i didn't like her writing, which is clearly just so good. more than anything i'm impressed by her writing and really wonder what i was thinking that i didn't like it before. the characters i wasn't taken with this time, either, but the writing was so good that i didn't care. this time around, i was also pretty fascinated with the time period and atmosphere that she created. i wasn't excited about part 2 of the story, but did find myself compulsively reading this throughout. and i was pretty taken by the story in part 1 and much of part 3. in spite of not liking part 2 as much, i definitely enjoyed this from start to nearly finish (i'm a little unsatisfied with the final confrontation between kitty and nancy), and have no idea what i could have been thinking last time I read this. and also, wow - how incredibly bold to name her first ever published book this. i'm pretty blown away by that alone.

when sitting thigh-to-thigh with her crush: "Kitty still smiled. Then she half-rose to reach a pepper castor; and when she sat again she drew her feet beneath her chair, and I felt my thigh grow cool."

"But there was something very appealing about that Fe-Male. I saw myself in it - in the hyphen."

(3.75 stars)

from nov 2008: i did find this book compelling, but i really can't attribute that to the characters or the writing. the writing was definitely average or slightly better, but if this story was about heterosexual people, i'm quite sure i wouldn't like it. i read very few books with alternative sexual orientation/gender characters, that i was drawn in for that reason alone. but if i'm being honest about the quality of it, it can't get more than 2 stars. i did like hearing about being lesbian in victorian london as i knew nothing about that before. (2 stars) ( )
  elisa.saphier | Jan 29, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (11 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Watersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dabekaussen, EugèneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maters, TillyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
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People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Have you ever tasted a Whitstable oyster?
Quotations
"Dreams," I said. He snapped his fingers. "The very stuff that stages are made of."
"In short, Nance, even was you going to the very devil himself, your mother and I would rather see you fly from us in joy, than stay with us in sorrow - and grow, maybe, to hate us, for keeping you from your fate."
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine Tipping the Velvet the novel with Tipping the Velvet the DVD.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
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Original language
Book description
Piercing the shadows of the naked stage was a single shaft of rosy limelight, and in the centre of this was a girl: the most marvellous girl - I knew it at once! - that I had ever seen. A saucy, sensuous and multi-layered historical romance, Tipping the Velvet follows the glittering career of Nan King - oyster girl turned music-hall star turned rent boy turned East End 'tom'.
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Nancy Astley, a fishmonger in Whitstable, becomes smitten by male impersonator Kitty Butler and attends shows until the star notices her, which leads to the two becoming partners in romance and performance until societal pressures drive the two into situations that embrace the ambiguity of sexual preference and gender roles.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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