Sarah Waters: Tipping the Velvet



Mise of a little of the between the sheets action for which she is famous I picked it up Despite being far less risu than I might have imagined or hoped if I m being honest it was an ngrossing reading 7 Secrets of the Goddess experience This led me by happy accident to circle back to Waters first novel Tipping the Velvet Tipping the Velvet is a huge messy fun saga the aforementioned Dickens spiced with some of Michael Faber s The Crimson Petal and the White and than a dash of My Secret Life Imagine Pip from Great Expectationsxcept Pip is a headstrong lesbian who leaves his family and Magwitch is a rich widow in the market for a cross dressing sex slave That just about xplains this sprawling picaresue take on the classic coming of age story Set in the 1890s Tipping the Velvet is narrated in the first person by Nancy Nan Astley a young woman born and raised in Whitstable Kent where she works in her family s oyster restaurant Waters gets points for many things Subtle symbolism is not among them When Nan opens her story she has just begun to fall in love from afar with Kitty Butler a masher who sings popular tunes while dressed in men s clothing at a nearby theater Nan goes to watch Kitty very chance she gets Eventually Nan becomes her dresser Later they become friends Soon My Favorite Earthling (Otherworldly Men, enough likevery plucky Victorian Doglands era protagonist Nan leaves home to follow Kitty to the big city She gets on stage She becomes Kitty s lover She meets with some successAnd at some point there is a bump on the road and Nan s real adventure begins This is a book that I almost gave up on Like The Paying Guests it starts slowly And I mean real slow The most fundamental part of a story is conflict and Waters who is a deliberative writer carefully setting the stage and piling on details keeps the road smooth for a long time Just over 150 pages or less But once Nan s newfound life gets a little shakeup the rest of the novel s pages move at a much uicker pace There are unforgettable supporting characters uniue set pieces there is a bacchanal that trumpsvery party scene in War and Peace and a wonderfully recreated London full of gritty tactile details Take for instance a description of a boarding room that Nan comes to inhabit The room to which she led me was cramped and mean and perfectly colorless Riveted (Iron Seas, everything in it the wallpaper the carpetsven the tiles beside the hearth having been rubbed or bleached or grimed to some variety of gray There was no gas only two oil lamps with cracked and sooty chimneys Above the mantel there was one small looking glass as cloudy and as speckled as the back of an old man s hand The window faced the MarketAll I really saw however was the bed a horrible old down mattress yellow at the An Officer and a Spy edges and blackened in the middle with an ancient bloodstain the size of a saucer and the door The bed for all its rankness seemed at that moment wonderfully inviting Tipping the Velvet is crammed with descriptions like this from dance halls and back alleys to swank mansions and late 19th century gay bars Which is why it can be just asxasperating as it is thrilling It is a London vaguely familiar from other novels but peopled with a heretofore hidden gay community It can be a bit Fates (Fates, exhausting all the detail Once the story starts careening however as it does around the halfway point it becomes impossible to put down The plot rambles propulsively from onextreme Recipe for Temptation (Madewood Brothers, episode to another I don t want to spoil all the surprisesxcept to repeat there is a dildo and it is given a word painting that really imprints the thing in your mind Since I know you are wondering There is sex within these pages This should not surprise since the title is slang for cunnilingus Some of the sex is mildly graphic Most of it however is contained within one xtended seuence late in the book You ll know what part I m talking about when you get there Believe me you ll know Nan is an ngaging narrator and an incredibly drawn character I ve often found first person narrators to be under written ciphers a vessel through which to view the novel s world Not here Nan is never overshadowed by the fascinating supporting cast she keeps running into She is complex and often unlikeable often really unlikeable She abandons her family and OBaby essentially forgets about them She tries to drag people out of the closet kicking and screaming She is sexually aggressive and utterly selfish At times she doesn t seem worthynough to warrant our continued attention In the Nerds end though the roundedness of her personality the good and the bad makes her arc all the moving Nan has a lot of differentxperiences singer prostitute housekeeper activist and she Zack (Areion Fury MC earnsvery bit of happiness she garners There are things I didn t love here The plot is so Shadow on the Crown (The Emma of Normandy Trilogy, expansive and digressive that it can feel directionless This coupled with the slow beginning isnough to try one s patience Towards the ContamiNation end Waters also gets a little preachy Nan gets caught up in the labor movement and we are treated to a slew of harangues that abruptly curb Nan s hedonistic impulses I bought the conversion but just barely and mostly because Waters had stored up some goodwill with me Waters also hits certain themes hard particularly the need to be true to your own identity Tipping the Velvet is kind to those toms who boldly and openly live their lives while pitying characters such as Kitty who want to keep their sexuality a secret It s a rather cruel dichotomyspecially given the setting Ultimately I was rewarded by sticking through to the Taxi ins Glück end I m always searching for the mythical novel to get lost in I did notxpect to find it in a lesbian bildungsroman but that is xactly what happened I m not in school any There aren t any teachers telling me what to read I pick my own books xcept when my book club picks them and if I don t like it I don t read the book and pretend I did I have a definite literary wheelhouse a comfort zone Of course if you do the same xercise with the same muscle over and over you plateau Every once in a while I try to shake things up to dip outside what I obviously like and try something different Sometimes that leads me to struggle with the canonical classics Other times it leads me to Sarah Waters Reading Tipping the Velvet with its new spin on old motifs is like wandering a familiar city and finding a brand new part of town. 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 ach other and their affair begi.

I feel like I ve been repeating other people s speeches all my life Now when I want to make a speech I hardly know howIf you are fretting over how to tell me you are leaving I am fretting I said over how to tell As seen on The ReadventurerWell I definitely have never read anything like this before I dare you to read this book s synopsis and not get curious at least a little bit The moment I set my The Magic Rolling Pin eyes on a short description of Tipping the Velvet on the 1001 Must Read Before You Die Books list I knew I had to read it Cross dressing lesbians kept women music hall singers renter boys I mean what s not to likeFirst and foremost this is a book about lesbians my first and written by one at that so as far as the relationships in this novel are concerned they are authentic in my mind I don t know about you but I just hate it when straight authors write gay books particularlyrotica What can they possibly know I found myself uite ignorant of how such relationships work Lesbian relationships contrary to my uneducated beliefs can be as abusive and destructive as the heterosexual ones And of course there is lesbian sex A few fairly Indecent... Exposure (Indecent, explicit scenes but the book doesn t turn into an overly gratuitous trashfest Second in spite of its scandalous premise the book is historically accurate It comes as a shock to find out that there was a whole strata of womenxploring their homosexuality so freely in 1890s After reading Edith Wharton s novels where women are too afraid to Not Without a Fight even get a divorce it is a revelation to know that there were society women who kept female lovers and organized orgies This however doesn t mean that in this book women go around doing whatever they please Waters accompanies Nan srotic adventures with a solid social context same sex relationships have to be secret women known as toms are stigmatized there is a legal punishment Garden Bouquets and Beyond even I personally found this book very interesting An imperfect but strong debut It isrotic without being vulgar well researched but The Unseen Wonder entertaining well written without being boring The only negative thing I have to say about it is that it takes a while for the story to pick up steam The first 130 pages are a little dull but after that the novel is impossible to put down Needless to say Tipping the Velvet won t be my last Sarah Waters novelPS Due to the naked women on the cover thisdition is a little challenging to read in public Nancy Astley was born in Whitstable Kent in the late nineteenth century She s from an ordinary hard working family and from a very young age she helped in her parents fish restaurant shucking oysters until her fingers were red raw with the icy cold water used to keep the oysters fresh but it was all she knew and she was happy with her life She was loved by her parents and siblings alike but when she The Management Bible entered her teens the bright lights of a nearby music hall began to call to her She loved the variety acts that performed there but the momentous night that she watched a male impersonator named Kitty well that was to be the night that saw her turn her back on her loving family and take her into a world that would put dear old coastal Whitstable and the Astley family firmly in the past This is a story of girl meets girl as Nancy and Kitty begin a new life together amidst the bright and sometimes not so bright lights of London and its music halls The author is truly gifted and describes the sights and sounds backstage that made me reminisce about my visits many years ago to the City Varieties in Leeds in the north of England built in 1865 it s a theatre that is as authentic a music hall as it s possible to get these days However I digress so onto the storyline Nancy wants much from Kitty but Kitty is afraid that people will discover the fact that they are lesbians let s not forget this was the late 1800 s Eventually Nancy will move onto another relationship one that is both abusive and destructive and which sees Nancy used as a cross dressing sex slave but not before she spends a spell as a prostitute albeit dressed as a male and performing sexual acts for other males I know I seem to have mentioned sex a lot and some of these scenes are uitexplicit but they are rightly included as they play an important part in the storyline however for some of the characters relationships were secondary to the sex within said relationship so it was difficult for me to have much Zu schnell empathy with themWhoa what a crazy mixed up life Nancy and her friends lead but the author makes this an irresistible read andven though they re a narcissistic bunch they make for truly interesting subjects All in all a very Sleepless (Bird of Stone, enjoyable romp that brings Victorian England with its staid and stuffy views very much to life Thank you to Netgalley and Little Brown Book Group UK for my ARC I have given an honest review inxchange why read charles dickens when you can read sarah waters LESBIAN SEX SCENESI knew that s all you wanted to hear about I m going to go on with my review but you re welcome to stop reading now that you know the juicy stuff And no I will not go on to describe in dripping detail any of the aforementioned LESBIAN SEX SCENES For shame I knowSo anyway a while back my friend Coventry had piles and piles of books she was giving away and this was one of them Seeing that it was written by Sarah Waters I nabbed it immediately and placed upon my shelf waiting for just the right time to read what I was sure would be a delightful sapphic treasure I d read another of Sarah Waters books a couple years back and it was perrrrfet image rror Call this the lesbian version of Maurice Girl meets girl then another one then another Odd that in the late 19th century England so many lesbians would all be out and about strolling the dirty streets Even odder still that the heroine of the novel happens to stumble upon them all This took considerable research I m sure and how cool is it to get this particular point of view The biggest mistake however was to give the narrative the first person touch making Nan King into a Bella from Twilight type ie clueless trite sometimes all too selfish girl which radicates any form of legance that would have transformed this novel into something much better Plus although it doesn t take too much imagination to guess what the title actually means not until page. Nan King an oyster girl is captivated by the music hall phenomenon Kitty Butler a male impersonator xtraordinaire treading the boards in Canterbury Through a friend at the box offi.

400 does the title finally make sense the primary reason I read this I believe had much to do with that strange title It s not often that I like a book so listen up and listen wellIf someone had given me the bare bones outline of Tipping the Velvet and suggest I read it I d have kindly told them to piss off I have a job a kid to raise and an already low tolerance for contemporary fiction A book about cross dressing lesbians in Victorian England wouldn t spark nough interest in me to get past the title pageSilly me Good thing I thought that tipping the velvet was a reference to the theater hint it s not and mistakenly believed I was buying a book about East End actresses This mistake was a blessing and this novel renewed my faith in modern fiction Tipping the Velvet carries a variety of themes that have bored me since my first Women s Studies classes in college identity cross dressing gender roles and sexuality Yet alongside these nearly foreign concepts were the universal themes found in all great works of literature passion lust betrayal scandal violence redemption and love So what did it leave me with A book that shot a breath of life into all of those tired old themes A book I couldn t put down and not just for the positively raunchy and at times touching sex scenes that had me blushing to my hairline No What kept me hooked was the astoundingly good writingWhen describing being backstage at the theater after a performance I caught a glimpse of ladders and ropes and trailing gas pipes of boys in caps and aprons wheeling baskets manoeuvring lights I had the sensation then and I felt it again in the years that followed very time I made a similar trip back stage that I had stepped into the workings of a giant clock stepped through the Yummy Supper elegant casing to the dusty greasy restless machinery that lay all hidden from the commonye behind itWhen telling us about a dirty mirror we re told that the small looking glass was as cloudy and as speckled as the back of an old man s handWhen discussing the ways of her tyrannical lover There is a way rich people have of saying What The word is honed and has a point put on it it comes out of their mouths like a dagger coming out of a sheath That is how Diana said it now in that dim corridor I It appears that currently the most common criticism of this book on goodreads is that it seems formulaic Perhaps I am behind the times but when did louent lesbian coming of age stories set in England 200 years ago become so commonplace as to ven HAVE a formulaUltimately this is a love story Deep Listening embedded in a fluid tale of heart pounding and heart breaking moments over the course of Nan s life Either the girl gets the girlboy in thend or the girl doesn tpredicting the nding with a fifty fifty shot at getting it right does not make a book formulaic IF however anyone who accuses this book of being so standard actually said to themselves in the first chapter well I bet this innocent oyster girl winds up falling in love with a cr Oh gag I have SO many problems with this book What the hell was this supposed to be anyway I will go through the possibilities Historical Fiction Set in the late 1800 s in stuffy Victorian England we meet Nancy a young lady who falls fast and hard for another young woman performing in a theatre Yadda yadda yadda they re a couple Yadda yadda yadda Nancy is shocked that her sister doesn t accept this Yadda yadda yadda Nancy meets and beds pretty much very female that subseuently crosses her path If the character has a vagina Nancy is sure to be tipping the velvet with her in short order I m not sure if Sarah Waters meant this to be historically accurate but I just can t believe that it is in any way Young people in THIS century have a hard time coming out But Victorian Nance is loud and proud And never seems to suffer because of it I just didn t see this as authentic to the time at all aside from the costumes Romance It does tick off this box I suppose with Nancy s 500 pages of pining for Kitty And all the sexy girlgirl scenes But then dear god please Evolution, Me Other Freaks of Nature explain the ENDING to me which was so very politicallyarnest I forgot what book I was reading A socialism rally with Lara and the Gray Mare (Hoofbeats: Lara and the Gray Mare, every single lesbian in London in attendance Literary Fiction Sarah Waters is a decent writer It s because of her storytelling that I finished this book But I just couldn t take it seriously Was I meant to I m so confusedIn addition to all these complaints I really disliked the main character Nancy didn tndear herself to me at all She turfs her family thinking about the various men s suits she wears than her parents and siblings She mistreats her friends She CHOOSES to work the streets and isn t in the least bit damaged by itThe I think about it it occurs to me that than anything this is a re write of history giving voice to relationships that certainly DID happen in the 1800 s but no one talked about I can get my mind around that but somehow it doesn t raise my appreciation of this book much Have you Trajan ever tasted a Whitstable oyster If you have you will remember it Sarah Waters Tipping the Velvet Sarah Waters Tipping the Velvet is the gay Victorianpic you didn t know you needed in your life From its unsubtle opening come on to its sort of pedantic Bunnys Book Club Goes to School ending this is Charles Dickens with a twist That twist I don t think this is a spoiler happens to be a really specific description of a strap on dildo In my reading life I don t think I ve come upon something like this before Likely I wouldn t have but for a bit of luck By way of background I m a straight white male living in the conservative heartland of America who likes reading about the Civil War and drinking cheap white wine chilled with ice cubes Just so we understandach other I drink that wine out of a huge plastic wine glass that can almost be classified as a novelty Thus when Sarah Waters sits down to write her novels I am likely not the intended audience for which she spins her yarns Possibly I am the furthest thing from it Nevertheless great fiction transcends all bounds In other words despite being classified as gay fiction this is really just great fiction a premium The Peculiar Pig example of sublime storytelling My firstxperience with Waters was at the nd of 2014 with her novel The Paying Guests Intrigued by the marvelous reviews and the pro. Ce 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 Suare where they begin.

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Sarah Waters is a British novelist She is best known for her first novel Tipping the Velvet as well the novels that followed including Affinity Fingersmith and The Night WatchWaters attended university earning degrees in English literature Before writing novels Waters worked as an academic earning a doctorate and teaching Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel