'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'.
©1998 Sarah Waters (P)1998 W F Howes Ltd
"An unstoppable read, a sexy and picaresque romp through the lesbian and queer demi-monde of the roaring Nineties. Imagine Jeanette Winterson on a good day collaborating with Judith Butler to pen a Sapphic Moll Flanders. It's gorgeous" (Independent on Sunday)
"She is an extremely confident writer, combining precise, sensuous descriptions with irony and wit. This is a lively, gutsy, highly readable debut" (Observer)
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"Victorian London brought to exuberant life"
1888 – the eye-opening journey of an innocent teenage girl from the seaside village of Whitstable to smoky, sleazy, sensuous and bawdy London. Her crush on a performer at the local Music Hall takes her from a family making a traditional living from oysters into an exciting but scary world of the stage. The title of the book gives a clue to one aspect of this cautionary tale – it’s apparently a Victorian term for cunnilingus. This caused a stir when first published in 1998, but the book has many other dimensions and is a thoroughly absorbing view of life and love in the Music Halls of the time. Waters’ fast-flowing writing, beautifully delivered by Juanita McMahon, brings an unfamiliar, shadowy world to exuberant life. An extraordinary debut novel, very self-assured and great fun.
P.S. I am irritated to see that Audible has labelled this and Waters’ other titles as “Gay and Lesbian.” This narrow classification belies the mainstream appeal of a modern classic.
I just love the way Sarah Waters writes. I got this as I really enjoyed the fingersmith and it did not disappoint. The language of the time is so authenticity written it's like stepping back in time. It gives a valuable insight to society in London in that era. I loved hearing about all the old music halls many of which just don't exist now. It was read really nicely by Juanita McMahon too.
"All time favourite!"
I could read or listen to this book over and over and never tire, every time it's new to me.
"Well written, excellent plot."
Keeps your attention throughout. Much preferred this to Affinity, which was the last Sarah Waters book that I read.
Couldn't stop listening to it. I'd watched the tv drama years ago and loved it then. so when i saw the book i knew i had to have it.
"A slow start but in the end a tremendous read"
I haven't read the print version
The story becomes fascinating and is very well told. All the main characters are really well drawn and believable. Their moral dilemmas and choices are ones that ring true. The juxtaposition of a private lesbian life and the late Victorian public life of the city makes for a richness of of narrative and imagery that is constantly engaging. It is sort of like Dickens with a modern touch. However the first few chapters need a bit of persevering with.
I haven't listened to any others.
For me the story provoked quite a range of feelings and thoughts. That is the main reason I liked it.
I would recommend it as being a very good story that is well written and well read.
"My first introduction to Sarah Waters"
Unexpected, amazing, dark
The Paying Guests, also by Sarah Waters
Yes, I love her voice, even when I don't care for the story. In this case both the voice and the story were wonderful.
Impossible, too long for that.
"I did enjoy it... but"
I thought at the start that this book would be right up my street. I love stories set in that era, and I'm always interested to read the struggle of women to assert themselves in a man's world. And it was engaging, particularly at the beginning, as Nan's journey towards an understanding of her sexuality begins. I'm not sure how accurate Waters' portrayal of lesbian life at that time is, but it was certainly very interesting and thought provoking (and quite educational!). I did feel in the latter half of the book, that it was a little contrived, and lacked the electricity of the early chapters, leaving me rather bored towards the end. Whilst the book began as an exciting adventure of sexual discovery with plenty of passion and ultimately a real depth of love, the plot became much more brittle later on, and the eroticism was lost, for me anyway.
"Superb voice artist"
I've listened to a number of audio books through various services but none as beautiful voiced as this. An enthralling story more vibrant than many televisual productions thanks to Sarah Waters sublime ability to render scenes so realistically you can almost touch them.
"Perfectly perfect in every way! Can't fault it."
The performance by Juanita McMahon – absolutely spot on, and wholly convincing.
I always love Sarah Waters' writing but this was actually unlike any other of her books that I've read inasmuch that it was a lot more light hearted, and a LOT saucier! Nothing wrong with that at all, but I can imagine that it might offend someone of a delicate disposition who can't cope with 'coarse language' that sex workers and 'toms' would have used at that time. It was a real education! Who knew that tipping the velvet is Victorian street slang for... well, you'll have to read the book to find out!
It wasn't a massive emotional roller coaster in the way that, say The Paying Guests was, but that was actually part of its appeal – it was a hugely engaging, undemanding romp through the secretive, seedy, often sexually exciting underbelly of 1890s London. It also gave an interesting insight into poverty and the growth of the socialist movement. It was completely convincing, thanks in part to Waters' extensive research, her convincing, perfectly paced narrative arc and McMahon's superb delivery. The perfect package.
Having endured the truly awful 'Me Before You', this has restored my jaundiced faith in literature. I'll be giving this a second listen, and buying any other Waters novels that are read by McMahon. It's almost impossible to find anything remotely critical about this, so I shan't!
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