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Tipping the Velvet (1998)

by Sarah Waters

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,6041391,864 (3.99)458
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'.… (more)
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    Affinity by Sarah Waters (Booksloth)
  2. 70
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (zembla)
    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)
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    Moll Cutpurse, Her True History by Ellen Galford (CurrerBell)
  5. 10
    Passing Strange by Ellen Klages (amanda4242)
  6. 00
    Ladies and Gentlemen: A Play by Emma Donoghue (amanda4242)
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» See also 458 mentions

English (131)  Dutch (3)  French (2)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (139)
Showing 1-5 of 131 (next | show all)
I experienced the curious situation where I didn't care for many of the characters (until closer to the end), but I wanted to find out what happened to Nancy, so I stuck with it. It was a little clunky at times, but I chalk that up to being Waters' first book. The atmosphere was lush enough that I'm interested in seeing how she developed her style in subsequent novels. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
Doing a re-listen.

I still very much enjoy this book. Even though Nancy is mostly super selfish and naive through nearly all of it. Florence makes up for it all. ( )
  amcheri | May 25, 2021 |
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 | May 25, 2021 |
In Tipping the Velvet, oyster girl, Nan King, falls in love with Kitty Butler, a girl playing a boy in a music hall act. Nan is swept away to London where the two perform together and carry on a covert love affair, The two are desperately in love but too afraid of being discovered to last. Abandoned by Kitty, Nan finds herself alone in gritty Victorian London with nothing but a broken heart and a trunk full of male clothes from the act. As a boy, Nan works the streets. At loose ends, she takes up with all manner of characters, and the story reveals the dirty underbelly of Victorian London as Nan embarks on a number of troubling sexual "adventures." This book, too, is the richest of historical portrayals and Nan is a remarkable character. Her story from its beginnings with a sweet and exciting love affair to her search for love and belonging in all the wrong places and on to the redemption that seemed unreachable but perhaps is not, is totally compelling. ( )
  yourotherleft | Mar 14, 2021 |
The likeable first-person narrator in Sarah Waters's debut novel is Nan Astley, whom we first meet as a rather shy, eighteen-year-old "oyster girl" in Whitstable. She becomes infatuated with Kitty Butler, a visiting male impersonator at the local theatre. An unlikely friendship develops and Nan and Kitty are soon on their way to London together. The novel charts Nan's coming of age (and "coming out") in the lesbian communities of late 19th century London.

I started this book after having read all Waters's other novels except "The Paying Guests" (which I read concurrently - watch this space for my review...) In the light of Waters's later works, I don't consider "Tipping the Velvet" as one of her very best books. As a picaresque novel, it lacks the tight plotting of [b:Fingersmith|45162|Fingersmith|Sarah Waters|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327879025s/45162.jpg|1014113]. Nor does it have the ambitious narrative structure of [b:The Night Watch|550720|The Night Watch|Sarah Waters|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1394331077s/550720.jpg|134485] or the tantalising ambiguities of [b:The Little Stranger|6065182|The Little Stranger|Sarah Waters|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1348922866s/6065182.jpg|5769396].

That said, it is easy to understand why critics were so enthusiastic about this novel when it was first published. Here was a new, exciting author with a surprising eye for detail and a talent for sumptuous descriptions of a bygone age. Here was an author who confidently evoked the Victorian era without resorting to rosy nostalgia or gaslight clichés. Here was an author who was evidently well-versed in the 19th century literary canon but equally knowledgeable about the naughtier writers of the period (Waters had researched 19th century pornography as part of her doctoral studies and the title is a term taken from Victorian sexual slang). Indeed, "Tipping the Velvet" sometimes feels like the book that Dickens or Collins might have written but would have never dared publish.

A rollicking debut, then, and a good place to start exploring Waters' world. In my view however, her later books are better, albeit less transgressive. ( )
  JosephCamilleri | Mar 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 131 (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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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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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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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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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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