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.
©1998 Sarah Waters (P)2003 W.F. Howes
If I could give 4.5 stars I would have...
The last dozen or so books I have read have all been lovely books that left me totally disappointed with the ending (either just woefully uneventful or not really an ending at all). Tipping the Velvet, thankfully, left me feeling a lot of things but disappointment was not one of them.
I have typically really struggled finishing time-period novels. They are just not my thing. More often than not, I can feel the slight dissonance between when the book was written and the time period when it was set--whether it's a language use issue, historical [in]accuracy issue, or something I can't put my finger on that just doesn't read as 'true', I typically have had a hard time finishing them. I don't know if me being pretty unfamiliar with the language use (and life in general) in 1890's England made me more accepting of this time-period novel, but I absolutely loved the setting. I cannot recall a single moment in which I felt like there was a disconnect--or a moment where I was very clearly aware that the book was written just a few years ago.
Author, Sarah Waters creates such vivid descriptions of the world in which Nancy lives that, as cliche as it sounds, I was really transported in time. For some people, I'm sure this could become a bit of a slow read because of the time spent describing things, but for me, it totally enhanced the story. It almost added a level of authenticity for me because I am not familiar with Victorian era England, the descriptions helped me build a picture that I did not already have in my head.
When I start feeling frustrated, angry, sad, and hopeful while reading, I know it's a good book and this one had me all over the map. There were moments of wanting to yell at Nan to do (or not do) something and moments of wanting so badly for things to go right for her. I found myself wishing I could read faster while still enjoying the richness of the story just so I could find out what happens. To this point, I will likely re-read this book since I know there were moments where the wanting of the story made me rush through while missing some of the linguistic artistry.
As to the story itself, there were certainly lots of twists and turns with highs and lows (and basement lows). It kept me guessing as to what was coming next (even if there was a rhythm to the madness)... just when I thought it was never going to get better for nan, something happened to pull her up from the depths. While it is certainly a lesbian love story with quite a bit of lesbian sex, it is also absolutely a love story and a coming of age story that I think many people can relate to. Regardless of sexuality, what person hasn't had their heart broken by someone they loved (particularly as a teenager/young adult) or found themselves in relationships that were initially enjoyable but were never made for the 'long term'.
Outrageous Self Discovery
It is difficult to think of a decent comparison as Waters combined elements of historical fiction, epic self discovery, and audacious lesbian romance that I have not seen combined. It is like Emma Donoghue's Life Mask combined with modern brash romantic affairs.
Nan Astley (the main character).
Nan Astley is the main character of this story. I seemed to share a love/hate relationship with her. There were moments that made me want to cheer, and others that made me want to wring her neck. She was by no means perfect which made her character all the more believable despite the outrageous situations in which she often found herself.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I am a fan of Sarah Waters in general, but find this is one of my favorites. The historical flare of the stage mixed with coming of age/self discovery and the modern style romance made this book both fantastical and believable.
I wasn't sure initially, after listening to the audio sample, if I would like the narrator, but she grew on me quickly and I was enjoying her performance before the end of the first chapter. Now having finished the book I wouldn't change the narrator for anything. The story is very well written and may keep you guessing. I was quite satisfied with the ending.
To date, this is the best audiobook I've listened to.
There's no *one* memorable moment. It was 19 hours of memorable moments.
Nancy - the narrator. She captured the pure essence of who Nancy is, what she was feeling, and the import of what she was telling.
19 hours of absolute bliss. Juanita McMahon absolutely nailed the narration. Sarah Waters' writing is perfection, in my opinion - on this book, at the very least. I read the book years ago and fell in love with it then. After listening to the audiobook, I've fall in love all over again.
Really enjoyed this book I have read The Paying Guest by the same author and that was very good also!
I would not go to such detail in the sex scenes.The story is focused on female sex, in a time when it was brave to be a lesbian Sometimes it is necessary to go into detail. But a lot of it is the woman's every sexual sensation, which get tiresome.
I liked the ending. It was perfect.
I loved the narrator. She did a great job and really held my attention. She had a lot of personality.
the story was good and it was a look in a very different world, with a unusual woman.
I love the narrator's voice and tempo as she draws you in to the wonderful storyline and through the adventures of self-discovery and love.
Well written, well read, and always intriguing. I could hardly stop listening. The characters quickly became real to me, and had me involved, if not smitten.
Everything about this audiobook was perfect. The content. The pacing. The reader. Her many voices, all beautifully performed. My heart fluttered, my eyes welled with tears, my skin tingled. 18 hours long but it doesn't feel long. You feel compelled to keep listening. Bravo!
Yes, I loved this Audible edition. BUT as with most of Sarah Waters books, the subject matter is very difficult and at times very hard to stomach. The treatment of "Queer" women in 1890 in London is not pretty. Yes, it is a love story and the reader sees backstage at music halls, but the life of women who don't fit society's mold is very hard. I MUST add that I love the length of all of Sarah Waters books. Thank You for giving us time to know the characters in depth.
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