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Tipping the Velvet: A Novel Kindle Edition
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.
Tipping the Velvet, all 472 pages of it, is as saucy, as tantalizing, and as touching as the narrator's first encounter with the seductive but shame-ridden Miss Kitty Butler. And at first even Nancy's family is thrilled with her gender-bending pal, all but her sister, best friend, and bedmate, Alice, "her eyes shining cold and dull, with starlight and suspicion." Not to worry. Soon Nancy and Kitty are off to London, their relationship close though (alas for our heroine) sisterly. We know that bliss will come, and it does, in an exceptionally charged moment. A lesser author would have been content to stop her story there, but Waters has much more in mind for her buttonholing heroine, and for us. In brief, her Everywoman with a sexual difference goes from success onstage to heartbreak to a stint as a male prostitute (necessity truly is the mother of invention) to keeping house for a brother and sister in the Labour movement. And did I mention her long stint as a plaything in the pleasure palace of a rich Sapphist extraordinaire? Diana Lethaby is as cruel as she is carnal, and even the well-concealed Cavendish Ladies' Club isn't outré enough for her. Kitting Nancy out in full, elegant drag, she dares the front desk to turn them away. "We are here," she mocks, "for the sake of the irregular."
Only after some seven years of hard twists and sensual turns does Nancy conclude that a life of sensation is not enough. Still, Tipping the Velvet is so entertaining that readers will wish her sentimental--and hedonistic--education had taken twice as long. --Kerry Fried--This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.
About the Author
Sarah Waters is the New York Timesbestselling author of The Little Stranger, The Night Watch, Fingersmith, Affinity, and Tipping the Velvet. She has three times been short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, twice been a finalist for the Orange Prize, and was named one of Granta’s best young British novelists, among other distinctions. Waters lives in London.
- ASIN : B002C0XQ0M
- Publisher : Riverhead Books (May 1, 2000)
- Publication date : May 1, 2000
- Language : English
- File size : 1077 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 481 pages
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #126,680 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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Top reviews from the United States
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This is the fourth book by Sarah Waters that I have read and interestingly this is her first book. I am in awe that she wrote the first draft of this book while she was in graduate school. Who has time to write a book while they are in grad school? Not me, that's for sure!
I was prepared to give this book 5 stars, but the strong start and interesting story did not hold my interest through the almost 500 pages. If you are not familiar with Sarah Waters, her books of historical fiction have some sexual or homosexual themes and some might consider parts of the content to be risqué. The title comes from a Victorian term for an act of oral sex. My predominate thought while reading this was that it was the book Charles Dickens would write if he wrote about lesbians and cross-dressing (the book is set in Victorian times and I am using the author's verbiage not our current terminology).
The book begins with young Nan King, daughter of a family of oyster sellers. She adores the theatre and sees the performance of Kitty Butler, the famous male impersonator. She is immediately enamored and manages to become Miss Butler's dresser and eventually her co-star and very secret lover. This relationship ends tragically and the rest of the book follows Nan as she tries to make her way in life. She becomes a cross-dressing prostitute and then the sexual plaything of a very wealthy older society woman. Nan eventually finds love with a socialist.
I thought that the book was very rich in character development, plot, and period detail. Information about life in the theatre and on the streets of London were very interesting. I was loving it and had a hard time putting it down until about two-thirds of the way through when Nan began living with her socialist friend Florence. The book started to drag at that point and felt overly long to me. I'm still glad I read it. It is an impressive debut by a talented writer.
Nancy, the protagonist, is often unlikeable, which made me like the book even more: I think Waters captured the othering and the disenfranchisement that so often happens to queer teenagers and young adults, pretty well. And I was thankful for a happy ending, which I also don't really like in general, but feel like it's an important political statement nowadays to give queer characters a non-deadly resolution.
Taking place in the Victorian period of the late 1880s and 1890s, this is the story of Nancy Astley, born to be an "oyster girl," shucking and cooking oysters in her family's restaurant in Whitstable on the coast of England. But Nancy is not like the rest of her family. She would rather be in the gaudy music halls than working in the kitchen, and she eventually realizes she is more different than anyone suspected: She is a lesbian. The story focuses on this self-discovery in a time when such things cannot be publicly confessed and the bizarre, frightening, outrageous and absolutely shocking life she leads on the streets of London as she searches to define who she is and maybe, just maybe, find true love.
This is an excellent, extremely well-written book by Sarah Waters, but it is not for the faint-hearted.
Top reviews from other countries
For me, the great strength of this book was Sarah Waters' research into the clothing, language, conventions and street life of era. I couldn't spot any anachronisms in the historical details. Although one might argue that the whole book was a thematic anachronism being written through the eyes of a woman immersed in late 20th Century feminism rather than a genuine young Victorian lady. (At least that is my impression.) The quality of writing was excellent and Sarah Waters is a natural story teller so there was plenty to occupy the mind.
The downside of the book was Nancy Astley's self-absorption and sometimes her reflection on herself and her emotions slowed the pace to the point that some passages were almost boring. (This sort of prolonged introversion occurs also in Fingersmith by the same author and detracts from an otherwise enjoyable read.)
Incidentally, Sarah Waters has just added her reflections on this book twenty years after its original publication (1998) as an epilogue. These are well worth reading if you're interested in how she came to write the book. She is not afraid to criticise herself which is quite refreshing.
Overall, the positives in this book heavily outweigh the negatives and I'd recommend it without reservation to anyone interested in Victorian London.
Nancy Astley is an oyster girl from Whitstable, until she is seduced by Kitty Butler into coming with her to be in the music halls; she begins as Kitty's dresser, then upgrades into her musical partner, named Nan King, dressing as a boy on the stage. Their love affair blossoms until an incident separates the two.
Nan is forced to act as a renter until events change an she becomes the tart for a Sapphist named Diana, who has a maid named Zena.
Eventually, this runs it's course, and Nan is with Florence and her brother. who is an avowed socialist.
The novel ends with a large worker's rally in which all of Nan's former loves make an appearance.
Personally, I didn't care for the political aspect, and think it would have been better with a suffragette inclination. Still, it was an excellent debut, and shows the potential of this highly talented author.
While it is not perfect, and for a book that is now over 20 years old there are some aspects that are a bit dated now, this is a book that has really stood the test of time and it was easy to see why.