Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet

Paperback

By (author) Sarah Waters

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  • Publisher: Virago Press Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 480 pages
  • Dimensions: 126mm x 196mm x 32mm | 380g
  • Publication date: 4 March 1999
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1860495249
  • ISBN 13: 9781860495243
  • Sales rank: 7,523

Product description

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'.

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Author information

Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966. She has been shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes and three of her four novels have been adapted for television.

Review quote

The heroine of Sarah Waters's audacious first novel knows her destiny, and seems content with it. Her place is in her father's seaside restaurant, shucking shellfish and stirring soup, singing all the while. "Although I didn't believe the story told to me by Mother--that they had found me as a baby in an oyster-shell, and a greedy customer had almost eaten me for lunch--for 18 years I never doubted my own oysterish sympathies, never looked beyond my father's kitchen for occupation, or for love." At night Nancy Astley often ventures to the nearby music hall, not that she has illusions of being more than an audience member. But the moment she spies a new male impersonator--still something of a curiosity in England circa 1888--her years of innocence come to an end and a life of transformations begins. Tipping the Velvet, all 472 pages of it, is as saucy, as tantalising, 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 bu Club isn't outre 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, Amazon.com '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. Could this be a new genre? The INDEPENDENT ON SUNDAY 'She is an extremely confident writer, combining precise, sensuous descriptions with irony and wit. Thisis a lively, gutsy, highly readable debut, probably destined to become a lesbian classic'

Editorial reviews

Echoes of Tom Jones, Great Expectations, and anonymous confessional pornography resound throughout this richly entertaining first novel from England: the picaresque tale of its lesbian heroine's progress through several levels of both polite and refreshingly impolite Victorian society. Nancy Astley has been plucked away from her close-knit family of fishmongers in seaside Whitstable and whisked off to London as (unofficial) "dresser" to music-hall entertainer Kitty Butler - "the girl what dresses up as a feller" and the first love of stagestruck Nancy's young life. Before she's 20, she's become the coquettish Kitty's lover and also her stage partner, "fellow" male impersonator "Nan King." All is bliss until Kitty protects her reputation by escaping into marriage, and the abandoned Nancy finds work posing as a male street prostitute (or "renter") and undergoing undreamt-of sexual permutations and indignities as the girl/boytoy of lustful widow Diana Lethaby (at the latter's posh mansion, Felicity Place, and among jaded members of the militantly sapphic Cavendish Club) before seeking, losing, then reclaiming tree love with selfless "charity visitor" Florence Banner and finding her own voice as a fledgling Socialist. Marred only by a jerry-rigged conclusion in which the repentant Kitty is in effect punished for having concealed her sexuality, Waters's debut offers terrific entertainment: swiftly paced, crammed with colorful depictions of 1890s London and vividly sketched Dickensian supporting characters (Nancy's kindly parents recall the genial fisherfolk of David Copperfield), pulsating with highly charged (and explicitly presented) erotic heat. And Nancy's conflicted feelings - between the "desperate pleasures" to which she's drawn and her equally strong desire to become "a regular girl . . . again" - are quite movingly delineated. A perfect fictional equivalent to such eye-opening standard works as Frank Harris's My Life and Loves and Steven Marcus's The Other Victorians - and a rather formidable debut. (Kirkus Reviews)