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Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters

Tipping The Velvet (original 1998; edition 2002)

by Sarah Waters

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,6061021,460 (4.01)374
Title:Tipping The Velvet
Authors:Sarah Waters
Info:Virago (2002), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, British 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)

  1. 80
    Affinity by Sarah Waters (Booksloth)
  2. 60
    Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (_debbie_)
    _debbie_: Both are (at least partially) historical novels with strong themes of identity, coming of age, and going against the mainstream to stay true to what you feel is right. Although one is set in Victorian England and the other isn't, they both have that same feel of rich language and descriptive place.… (more)
  3. 60
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (zembla)
    zembla: A lush, atmospheric Victorian love story between two young women.
  4. 20
    Moll Cutpurse, Her True History by Ellen Galford (CurrerBell)

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» See also 374 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 96 (next | show all)
The first book of Sarah Waters that I have read and I'm not disappointed. Narrated by Nancy/Nan King/ Nance depends on who's referring to her. A oyster girl from Whitstable with an ordinary life until she goes to see a show and sees Kitty Butler, who she feels instant attraction to. She continues to go to the show daily to catch a glimpse of Kitty and eventually they meet and form a friendship and subsequently an intimate relationship when Nan moves to London with her. Being based in 1890's being a lesbian isn't really acceptable and they have to keep their relationship under wraps.

Eventually, Kitty breaks Nan's heart and her journey really begins. She suffers heartbreak, and loss and has to get by by any means possible at times. I could really sympathize with the way Nan was feeling and how she came to the decisions that she did.

I found this book hard to put down, unpredictable at times, sad at times, and also some happy moments. I was quite surprised at the end when the description of tipping the velvet was given. I read the book completely oblivious to the meaning!

Read this book, it doesn't disappoint and its unlike any book I have really read. ( )
  Nataliec7 | Aug 16, 2015 |
This is the first Sarah Waters book I've read, despite having bought all her books. The research is great and the characters are vivid and lively. Wonderful novel, especially considering that it is her first book. What a fun, lesbian romp set in Victorian London. Love it! ( )
  litalex | Jul 6, 2015 |
Nan King is an oyster girl in a small seaside town who dreams of a better life. Her life drastically changes when she falls in love with a Masher named Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called back to London for a new show, Nan decides to join her and work as her dresser. Their love is forbidden and they keep it a secret but it’s inevitably doomed. When the relationship ends, Nan has to face London on her own, this is when her adventure of sexual discovery truly begins.

I was told by my sister in law that I don’t review enough lesbian romances, but to be honest I think this is the only one I’ve read (and possibly not a romance). I read Tipping the Velvet a few years ago and still remember it fondly, it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. As a literary explorer this is always something I look for. The relationship between Nan and Kitty was doomed from the start and was an interesting way for the reader and Nan to discover her sexuality. Though this was not the best first love, it got her to discover who she was as a lesbian. There is a sense of self-discovery throughout this book, she doesn’t always make good choices, in fact most of them were bad but this is part of the journey.

I really liked Nan as a character and seeing Kitty through her eyes, I also liked Kitty. But the heart break was almost like a heart break for me too. I don’t often get so emotionally invested in a book so it was interesting that I was so invested with this one. While this book was very predictable it was still a great read and I was surprised just how much I enjoyed it.

This is Sarah Waters’ debut novel and I would highly recommend it; its historical fiction like you have never read it before. The first part of the book was so obvious but there may be some surprises in the second half to keep you reading. There are some explicit sex scenes in this book but if you are not put off by them, this is well worth your time.

This review originally appeared on my blog; http://literary-exploration.com/2013/01/10/book-review-tipping-the-velvet/ ( )
  knowledge_lost | Dec 21, 2014 |
If I could give this 3.5 stars I would.

It is a near perfectly written novel. It has the correct plot devices, structure and the writing uses perfect English with perfect construction; it varies sentence length and type and mixes description, dialogue and action.

It is emotionally flat. It fails to engage the reader.

I could never find myself into the story, living it with the characters. I always remained conscious of the fact that I was reading a story. When a character, mostly the main character, had an experience, I knew it was a character in a novel, an invention of the author, and not someone I could care about. It's like seeing a play or going to the cinema and never being able to suspend your disbelief sufficiently to emotionally engage with the story. Even the descriptions of sex, which should be the easiest scenes to interest a reader, remained distant and cold.

Another problem is character shift. It's a saw that character shift is the hallmark of bad melodrama. It indicates that an author has either been given the chore to write a script to a predetermined plot (often the case in soap operas) or has voluntarily chosen to do this. It appears that rather than allow the characters to develop, there was a knowing choice ahead of time as to what the plot would be and that the main character would be forced into that plot even if that meant having her do things that were "out of character." Good writers start with plots but change them if they discover the character just wouldn't go where the writer wishes they would.

The author uses traumatic/dramatic events to justify the sudden changes in character but, while you might get away with this for one change in a novel, one huge transformation, it doesn't work when uses multiple times. Even once, it's better for the trauma to be a trigger to development than to have it suddenly alter a person overnight, so to speak.

So, a perfectly written, plotted and structured novel that remains distant and aloof. It has some interest in its period descriptions and may be important for other social and political reasons but is disappointing because the author is highly skilled an educated and should have turned out a better piece.

Immediately after this, I read E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, a book that violates all the rules. Her sentences and punctuation would enrage an English teacher, the structure is all wrong and so many other things are wrong that it's hard to catalogue them but Proulx's novel works; it engages the reader and makes you care about the characters and the story. By every common metric, Sarah Water's novel is better but it falls flat. It appears Proulx benefitted from her lack of literary education (not that she had none but not an excess). ( )
  DinoReader | Aug 21, 2014 |

In the end, I understand the reasons people seem to love this book. But I myself am not a fan.

I don't feel as if a void has been filled in my life. Perhaps there are some who were waiting for lesbian erotica that would make it to the mainstream. For those of us who weren't, this novel feels like it's only designed to teach us what it may have been like to be gay in the 1880s. I felt this particularly at the end when we learn more about the social leanings of the group of people our protagonist hangs around with. My ears pricked up - because that was fascinating and well-written and certainly what I expected in a novel about Edwardian England. Not what we got which was a sorry tale of a sorry young person who waited until the very end of the bloody novel to grow.

I suspect my exasperation with this tale may be far larger than others. And that that exasperation was mostly due to the middle section in which Nancy literally flings aside her comfortable life for purely sexual reasons. I just can't fathom such an action, and it pissed me off no end. It also made the inevitable ending feel cheap and flat. ( )
  khage | Jun 3, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 96 (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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First words
Have you ever tasted a Whitstable oyster?
"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.
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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)

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