Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet
Sarah Waters, 1998

Nan works in her family’s restaurant and assumes she’ll have an average small-town life until her crush on another girl eventually brings her into an entirely new world.

Even though I loved Fingersmith, it took me a while to track down this, possibly the author’s most well-known work.

The story follows the romantic and sexual misadventures of a young Englishwoman in the 1890s. Nan first falls in love with Kitty, a male impersonator, and due to that relationship moves to the city to pursue a glamorous and dangerous life in the performing arts. Once in London, her later escapades push her physical and mental limits until she finally figures out what she wants from life and love.

For some reason, I thought this would be a romance, but while it’s romantic in sections (and full of sex scenes), I definitely classify this as a melodrama. Nan’s story is full of dramatic turns and heightened emotion, explicit sexual situations as well as sweet friendships. Even though it has a happy ending, it’s not really about Nan getting together with the right person; it’s about her finding herself. Without that, she can’t build a solid relationship.

The many LGBT characters deal with a lot of prejudice and hatred, but they continue to build communities and relationships anyway. The characters are complex and compelling, and the style is fantastically readable while evoking novels written in the 1800s.

It is a bit long, but an entertaining read throughout.

4 Stars - A Very Good Book


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