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Tipping The Velvet [Paperback]

Sarah Waters
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 Oct 2002
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.

Frequently Bought Together

Tipping The Velvet + Affinity + Fingersmith
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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New edition edition (3 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844080110
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844080113
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (107 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 536,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Sarah Waters was born in Wales in 1966 and lives in London. Author of Tipping the Velvet, Affinity, Fingersmith and The Night Watch, her most recent book is The Little Stranger. All of her books have attracted prizes: she won a Betty Trask Award, the Somerset Maugham Award and was twice shortlisted for the Mail on Sunday/John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. Fingersmith and The Night Watch were both shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange prizes, and Fingersmith won the CWA Ellis Peters Dagger Award for Historical Crime Fiction and the South Bank Show Award for Literature. Tipping the Velvet, Affinity and Fingersmith have all been adapted for television.

The Little Stranger was a bestselling hardback and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Product Description

Amazon Review

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 but her sister, best friend, and bedmate, Alice, "her eyes shining cold and dull, with starlight and suspicion". Not to worry. Soon Nancy and Kitty are off to London, their relationship close though (alas for our heroine) sisterly. We know that bliss will come, and it does, in an exceptionally charged moment. A lesser author would have been content to stop her story there, but Waters has much more in mind for her buttonholing heroine, and for us. In brief, her Everywoman with a sexual difference goes from success onstage to heartbreak to a stint as a male prostitute (necessity truly is the mother of invention) to keeping house for a brother and sister in the Labour movement. And did I mention her long stint as a plaything in the pleasure palace of a rich Sapphist extraordinaire? Diana Lethaby is as cruel as she is carnal, and even the well- concealed Cavendish Ladies' Club isn't outré 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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

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 outré 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')

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
I was skeptical when I picked up "Tipping The Velvet" at a local bookstore. I do not like labels, and Sarah Waters's first novel had been touted by the press, and readers alike, as a "lesbian novel," whatever that means. However, the book's synopsis on the back cover, drew me in and I took a chance and bought it. I am so glad that I did. What a delight! This is a historical novel, set in a Victorian England that few have glimpsed. And "Tipping The Velvet" allows us to view it all, center stage. It is a story peopled with characters that are fleshed out so believably, it is almost like reading with 3-D glasses. The characters, especially Nancy Astley, come right off the page and have the capacity to touch your heart and make you care...deeply.
Nancy is born and raised in an English seaside resort where her parents own an oyster restaurant, and Nancy can shuck with the best of them. She seems perfectly content with her lot in life, loves her family and imagines that someday she will marry one of the neighborhood boys and have a family of her own. During the summer months, when business is booming, Nancy frequents a nearby town's music hall for entertainment. Thus Passion enters her life with a capital "P."
Nancy sees a male impersonator perform for the first time on an evening excursion to the hall. Not just any male impersonator...but the ever so seductive Miss Kitty Butler. Nance is entranced and obsessed with Kitty. She schemes to meet the object of her devotion and becomes first, Kitty's friend, then her employee/girl Friday. Her once normal life is turned topsy-turvy, filled with passionate fantasies. Her family is delighted with Kitty "the celebrity" friend, and accepts her completely.
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars im not an avid reader.....but this i loved!! 15 Nov 2001
Format:Paperback
To say that this book is a "page turner" is the understatement of the year. Never have i enjoyed a novel so much,or been interested in the trails and tribulations of a character as i was in following Nans journey through her self discovery.
The sights and sounds of Victorian England literally jump off the page;the poverty and predudice,the awakening of sexuality so beautifully described and the heartbreak of loss and the aftermath so wonderfully handled.
If you intend to buy one book this year,as I did,Sarah Waters' first novel must be the one!
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A captivating read & a bawdy lesbian picaresque 20 Dec 1998
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
This book is truly a captivating read! From the moment you meet 18-year old Nan, dreaming of the vaudeville at an English seaside resort in the 1880s, to the close of the book in London five years later, you love the story and don't want to put it down. A guilt-free coming-out story of a nineteenth century "tom" it's a romp and a delight to read. Full of eroticism and true love, as well as adventures on the stage and in high society plus some social politics. I was attracted to the novel by a review in The Online Mirror, which stated: "Imagine Jeanette Winterson, on a good day,collaborating with Judith Butler to pen a sapphic Moll Flanders. Could this be a new genre? The bawdy picaresque novel? Whatever it is, take it with you. It's gorgeous ." I agree! Now I'm looking forward to Sarah Waters' next novel!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a story of life 3 Mar 2003
Format:Paperback
This has to be one of my favourites books. I have read it numerous times and can never put it down! It tells the story of a girl of 18 and how she grows. It tells of her first love, and her true love. It shows how love can be many different things, Hidden, lust of soft and tender. The characters are all accesable and you can relate to them well. By the end of the book you will have laughed, cried and been very shocked. This is a great book and i would recomend it to anyone, lesbian or not!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars beautiful story about finding oneself 22 Feb 2003
Format:Paperback
Sarah Waters manages to tell us a beautiful story which spins around love and lust framed in XIX century England, with its changing attitudes towards women. It is really a portrait of the search of oneself in a difficult world which does not like what is "different".
Nancy moves to London as Kitty's dresser, with whom she has fallen in love, not really understanding what love between women is. She would have never guessed what that journey had in stalls for her: the search for herself, for a life of her own, for friendship and for love. She walks the streets "renting", she is "kept" for a few years by a rich woman, she loses everything more than once, and she eventually gains what she had all along been waiting for.
Beautifully written, the book keeps you hooked on to it, hoping all along that Nan will manage not only to survive but to finally find her place in a turn of the century world.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read 7 Oct 2007
By BookWorm TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
It's reputation as a Victorian lesbian bodice ripper having preceded it, I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Tipping the Velvet. I needn't have worried - it is an extremely well written book, which drew me into the story and kept me intrigued from the very start.

The main topic of the story is lesbianism in the 1890s, and as such it is pretty graphic at many points. Therefore readers who are upset by homosexuality or descriptive sex scenes of any kind should avoid this book. However, it is very well written with a strong cast of interesting characters and plenty of twists and turns in the plot.

I did feel that the story lost some of its momentum in parts 2 and 3, but it was still enjoyable and didn't drag. The ending worked well, and I was left feeling pleased I'd given the book a chance. I would recommend this to any reader over 16, as long as they aren't worried by the sex scenes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing book!
What can I say? this is an excellent read. It's so easy and so enjoyable to get caught up in Nancy's story. Waters is truly a very clever and talented writer. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Jenny
5.0 out of 5 stars good
v.good
Published 7 days ago by Andrie Dafnidou
5.0 out of 5 stars Really good, plus there's gender bending ;)
This book was amazing. I felt so sorry for Nan during certain parts but at other parts was just happy that she was enjoying life. Read more
Published 14 days ago by Katherine Murray
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very interesting story about times past. and the world of lesbianism. Very well written
Published 1 month ago by Jim Tunley
5.0 out of 5 stars Unanimous verdict
Is this the sort of book that you wife or servant should read?
Make up your own mind. This is a first-class debut from of the UK's most talented authors.
Published 1 month ago by krsquared
2.0 out of 5 stars great book
Brilliant book well worth a read. Arrived quickly .condition wasn't great though.
Published 3 months ago by MrsP
3.0 out of 5 stars Sarah Waters' Debut Novel
Read this soon after watching the BBC TV adaptation. It's quite a lengthy read at 400 + pages. Although I did enjoy the book. it failed to hold my attention at parts. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Musical anorak
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfection
Every Sarah Waters novel is perfection. For some reason I hadn't read this - perhaps because it had been on tv - I'm so glad that I did as it is now my favourite of hers.
Published 4 months ago by Emmabemma
3.0 out of 5 stars TIPPING THE VELVET
where is my book I have paid for??? never received but money taken from my account IT has not been delivered to my Kindle
Published 5 months ago by BERMUDA
4.0 out of 5 stars really well worth reading
This novel, set in 1890s London, gives us the life and the love life of Nancy Astley, from her origins in a Whitstable oyster family, to her time in London as first dresser then... Read more
Published 5 months ago by William Jordan
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