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Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters

Tipping The Velvet (original 1998; edition 2002)

by Sarah Waters

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,5061001,513 (4.01)332
Title:Tipping The Velvet
Authors:Sarah Waters
Info:Virago (2002), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 480 pages
Collections:Your library, Owned
Tags:fiction, British fiction, Published in 2002, Published in the 2000s, Published in the 21st century, England, London, historical fiction, Kept in Belfast, Read in 2013, Read in Belfast, Bought in 2013

Work details

Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters (1998)

  1. 70
    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 332 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 93 (next | show all)
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 |
This is a wonderful book. Part history, part romance, and all triumph. A beautifully told story of love, loss, and rebirth. Definitely making its way to my "favorites" list. Highly recommended. ( )
  k8seren | Feb 6, 2014 |
Besides being decent historical fiction, Tipping The Velvet is pretty decent erotic writing. Set in the late 19th century UK, our heroine Nan, leaves her loving family in a seaside town for greater love and adventure in the big city. Nan goes through three phases: Normal, Weird, and Settled, which are like Dickens stage sets that describe particular social classes and subcultures. Tipping The Velvet is the most overtly erotic of a trilogy (Affinity & Fingersmith) which have little in common except the historical period, and heroines who discover the joys of womanly companionship.

In each of the three books, Waters does a fantastic job of scene setting, and subculture description: Affinity is memorable not only for the the Millbank women's prison, but also for the spiritualist subculture, not to mention excellent evil characters, and good/evil reversals of fortune. Fingersmith has yet another flavor - a Dickensian tale that Charles never imagined, and certainly could not put to paper and publish even if he had. To me, Sarah Waters is filling in blanks - lesbian lacunas -- that Dickens skipped in his tales of orphans, thieves, and skanky characters from the 1800's.

( )
  grheault | Jan 30, 2014 |
I give this 4 1/2 stars and wouldv'e given it 5 if it werent for the 3rd part of the book.
Otherwise, I felt that this 'coming of age' in london as a woman who likes women and dresses like a man pretending not to be a "tom" but being a "tom"....
I can identify with young Nancy, she goes to a stage show and sees a woman dressed as a man singing and she becomes enamered.. I felt the same way watching Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer blondes (although Marilyn didn't dress like a man) She is lucky enough to get invited back stage and meet the lady she idolizes on stage and somehow ends up being her private maid. Nancy leaves her crowded home where she shares a bed with her sister, to traveling around sharing a bed with her idol. Not to go into specifics, but the 3 major women who play romantic parts in Nancy's late teens to late 20's are definitely different.
But which one should she pick to be with?
I found Part 3 long.... I didn't find Flo engaging at all. The more she revealed about herself, the more I disliked her and I dont think she really loved Nancy. But she was the safest choice in the end I guess as the crazy rich woman only wanted to own her and Kitty only wanted to hide her and Flo wanted her to like Her causes and support HER. Poor Gal.
I did enjoy the book, but it could have been made shorter in some parts. ( )
  Strawberryga | Dec 28, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 93 (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."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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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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