Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet

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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'.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 480 pages
  • 126 x 196 x 32mm | 379.99g
  • Little, Brown Book Group
  • Virago Press Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1860495249
  • 9781860495243
  • 17,918

Review Text

It is the late 19th century, and Nancy is a girl from an honest Whitstable oyster-selling family whose head is turned by a visit to the local music hall. There she watches, night after night, a song and dance routine by Kitty Butler, a girl not much older than herself who dresses as a boy. Her obsession deepens and awakens sexual feelings she can neither express nor deny, so when Kitty befriends her and asks her to travel to London with her as her dresser, she accepts immediately. What follows are the next five years of Nancy's life her passionate love for Kitty, Kitty's betrayal of that love, and the slow working through of her despair and grief. The journey takes Nancy through the lowest depravities of the London sex scene, where she earns her living for a while as a rent 'boy', to the luxury of being the private toy of a wealthy lesbian with outlandish tastes and expensive habits. The pain of losing Kitty never goes, even as her experiences harden her, and this is as much a book about the agony of growing out of a lost first love and finding something to replace it, as it is a historical picture of the sleaziest aspects of life in Victorian London. It is erotic and sometimes explicit but Nancy's feelings, or numb lack of them, are always the point. She eventually finds both love and work which will use her talents constructively, but it's a tortuous and sometimes hopeless-seeming route. Sarah Waters writes without hitting a wrong note. The historical detail and the outlandish vocabulary are an education in themselves, brought to life through a variety of convincingly individual characters. Reading the first sentence, you know you will be captivated until the very end. It's a gripping and memorable ride. (Kirkus UK)show more

About Sarah Waters

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.show more

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'show more
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