Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters ~ Book Review by Mel

56373Title: Tipping the Velvet

Author: Sarah Waters

Publisher: *Not Listed

Cover Artist: unknown

Rating: 4.75 of 5 Stars

Publication Date: 05/01/2000

Length: Long Novel (~ 100K+)

Genre: Fiction, Historical, Lesbian


“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’.

Nan is captivated by the music hall phenomenon that is 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 start 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.

My View:

Lambda Literary Award winner in 2000, TIPPING THE VELVET tells the story of young Nancy Astley.
She first finds her way from the simple life of an oyster girl, still living with her parents, to London in the 1880th, following her heart and the woman who caught it, into a live of performance and glamour and love.
Later on, she discovers her sexuality in the hands of another woman, a rich lady who takes Nancy in as a kept girl.
In the end, however, after ups and downs, she finally becomes a woman who has found her identity, love, purpose, and a home.

Nancy’s journey is not an easy one, yet it is quite extraordinary. I could identify with her on many accounts.
Leaving your parents behind and moving into another world leaves you estranged and brings upon a change that you can’t quite bridge.
Searching for love and for one’s self, growing up, is not easy and often brings us to places that are not ideal but that we wouldn’t want to have missed because otherwise we wouldn’t be where we are now.

In much detail and vividly written, Sarah Waters let’s us dive into another world in another time. The historical setting comes alive and can be easily experienced.
The author’s writing style gripped me from the very first sentence and it still makes me smile because I never knew I wanted to know so much about oysters 😀
The writing is not flowery, yet time-appropriate and quite beautiful, like you can see in this quote where Nancy talks about Kitty, her first love:

‘When I see her,’ I said, ‘it’s like – I don’t know what it’s like. It’s like I never saw anything at all before. It’s like I am filling up, like a wine-glass when it’s filled with wine. I watch the acts before her and they are like nothing – they’re like dust. Then she walks on the stage and – she is so pretty; and her suit is so nice; and her voice is so sweet … She makes me want to smile and weep, at once. She makes me sore, here.’ I placed a hand upon my chest, upon the breast-bone. ‘I never saw a girl like her before. I never knew that there were girls like her …’ My voice became a trembling whisper then, and I found that I could say no more.

TIPPING THE VELVET is solely written from Nancy’s point of view and divided into three different parts.
While the first one is very romantic and lush and, in a way, very innocent, the second part is quite the opposite. I found it to be very interesting but also hard to witness in parts. Part three seems like a revival after the storm, and concludes with a very satisfying ending.

Prominent themes throughout the book are sexual and gender identity, love, survival, and personal and social change. If you are interested in these topics, you should definitely give this book a try. I enjoyed reading this very much and I will surely read more books by the author.


Tipping the Velvet on Goodreads
*Not Listed
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA

This review is based on a copy purchased by the reviewer independent of any review copies offered.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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