Saturday, March 08, 2008

#9 Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

My Rating: 8 out of 10 stars

From the publisher: This delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster-girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler. When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease-Paint Avenue", Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and soon after, dons trousers and joins the act. In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of a butch rouĂ© to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual education—a sort of Moll Flanders in drag—finally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.

At 472 pages, this book took me a bit longer to read than I'd anticipated. I can't say I didn't enjoy it however. Only time will tell if it "stays with me" the way many other great books do. I do enjoy this particular time period, late 19th Century, the Victorian era. Back in those times, for a woman to dress as a man, in "trousers" was quite against the accepted norms. I suspect that could be part of the reason that this book appealed to me in the first place, despite being outside of my usual genre. Because it tells the story of a girl who went against society's norms in every possible way. Hmm, kind of reminds me of someone else I know... *whistle*

Nan was a lesbian at a time when society wasn't sure how to handle such "atrocities". Being bisexual myself, I'm always intrigued reading about lesbian girls because they are so very different from bisexuals and travel in completely different social circles. Even back then, it seemed that lesbians usually only hung around with their own kind. Similar to how it's all depicted on the Showtime TV series The L Word, we don't really have these social groups intermingling. Lesbians have lesbian parties and 95% of the guests are lesbians; it's as if they're their own clique. Whereas if you're a woman who prefers both men and women equally for her sexual partners, but perhaps your established living arrangements or life partner happens to be male, then you're kind of outside the lesbian social circle. So that's a whole other aspect of this book that added to it's appeal for me. I don't think I'd read a contemporary lesbian romance novel and enjoy it nearly as much. Yet I truly enjoyed this one because of all the other stuff going on, the time period in which it took place, and simply because the author is a very good writer, and I truly felt I was able to "see" England through the eyes of a young lesbian woman in Victorian England. And that was quite a treat for the senses!

BookCrossing journal page for this book

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