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Tipping the Velvet (1998)

by Sarah Waters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,1141472,133 (3.98)469
Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty's dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.… (more)
  1. 81
    Affinity by Sarah Waters (Booksloth)
  2. 70
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (zembla, kjuliff)
    zembla: A lush, atmospheric Victorian love story between two young women.
  3. 71
    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)
  4. 20
    Moll Cutpurse, Her True History by Ellen Galford (CurrerBell)
  5. 10
    Passing Strange {novella} by Ellen Klages (amanda4242)
  6. 00
    Ladies and Gentlemen: A Play by Emma Donoghue (amanda4242)
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» See also 469 mentions

English (137)  Dutch (3)  Spanish (2)  French (2)  Italian (1)  Catalan (1)  German (1)  All languages (147)
Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)
Despite living, eating and breathing oysters while helping with her family's business in Whitstable, Nancy revels in taking the train with her sister in their precious spare time to Canterbury, to experience live music and comedy performances. On one such occasion she becomes absolutely entranced by a young woman performing as a man, and returns to see Kitty Butler again and again, until Kitty one night takes notice of her and invites Nancy to become her dresser.

This entire book was a complete surprise to me, as I had selected it based off a suggestion for the Read Harder category "a book about drag or queer artistry" and hadn't so much as read the back cover. It also ticked the box for historical fiction, which is always welcome. It reads a bit as though it might be based on a real historical figure, bit I haven't seen any evidence that this was the case. It was a dramatic, enlightening peek into a 19th-century subculture I'd never previously read anything about. ( )
  ryner | Apr 17, 2024 |
This is Waters's first novel, and I found it by far the weakest, not surprisingly. This book is more like a lesbian variation on the sort of story Hollinghurst writes about gay men. It is a romance-oriented novel about a young woman, Nancy, who falls in love with a cross-dressing 'masher', a young woman entertainer who takes her along to London as an assistant. After a careful love affair, the entertainer, Kitty, marries a man and Nancy goes off on a binge in a seedy part of London dressed as a boy, and working the streets as a 'renter', a boy who gives hand-jobs to men for coin. After a while of this, and after a year spent as a kept woman, she lands herself in the home of an old acquaintance. They fall in love, and she at last has herself a safe, loving home to settle down in. It's a nice, happy ending, and a very Dickens-like adventure, an exploration of life in the underbelly of London for a gay woman. As such, this was a decent novel, and the sex scenes do not take over the book the way Hollinghurst's do, but on the whole I prefer Waters's later, better developed novels. ( )
  JBarringer | Dec 15, 2023 |
The best descriptions of the tortures of love I've ever read. The plot got a bit loopy at times, but the prose was always a pleasure. ( )
  mmparker | Oct 24, 2023 |
I would recommend this book to anyone but I loathe 19th century settings. This book is amazing but honestly just not what I'm into. If you want cutesy lesbians who dress as boys and do sex work and are multifaceted and fall in love etc. it for you.
  fleshed | Jul 16, 2023 |
I wish I could give this book zero stars. I loathed it, which is disappointing because it’s been on my list for such a long time. The reviews are mostly praising, so why did I hate it? The author uses 300 words when ten would suffice. I was halfway through before I realized I was still waiting for it to start. Not one of the characters was the least bit likable. The subject matter appealed to me, but MY GAWD, the execution was terrible. I suspect its good reviews are similar to how “CATS” became the most popular musical ever: people were embarrassed at how much $$/time they spent on tickets/reading that they feel they HAVE to rave about it. I’ve seen the litter box that is “CATS,” and now I’ve read a book with a fascinating topic, told in the worst possible way. I have zero raves for either. ( )
  jenmanullang | Jun 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 137 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sarah Watersprimary authorall editionscalculated
McMahon, JuanitaReadermain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Abrams, Erikatraductricesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Amoroso, LisaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Amrain, SusanneÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ascari, FabrizioTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Books, RecordedPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dabekaussen, EugèneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lyngstad, KariOvers.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maters, TillyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zetterström, GunTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Zulaika, JaimeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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."
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(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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Nan King, an oyster girl, is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler, a male impersonator extraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury. Through a friend at the box office, Nan manages to visit all her shows and finally meet her heroine. Soon after, she becomes Kitty's dresser and the two head for the bright lights of Leicester Square where they begin a glittering career as music-hall stars in an all-singing and dancing double act. At the same time, behind closed doors, they admit their attraction to each other and their affair begins.

No library descriptions found.

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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Average: (3.98)
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