Tipping the Velvet Author:Sarah Walters A classic picaresque, Tipping the Velvet chronicles the adventures of Nancy 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 &quo... more »t;Grease Paint Avenue," Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover. Before long, Nan dons trousers herself, and the two male impersonators become a celebrated pair of the stage. But when Kitty betrays her, a solitary, heartbroken Nan reinvents herself as a butch roue -- a sort of Moll Flanders in drag -- navigating her way through London's seamy and flourishing gay demimonde as she pursues her thrilling and varied sexual education.« less
This is my first foray into explicit lesbian fiction and it was a pleasure to read in more ways than one! Waters is a wonderful writer and seems to effortlessly paint a picture with her words. The Victorian setting, the themes on gender and sexuality- it all came together beautifully.
One of the only major criticism that I have is a character flaw in Nancy. Her entire existence throughout the book seems to be for her partner. Each transition in her life is in response to her sweetheart. As a person, she is whoever she believes her partner wants her to be. She doesn't appear to have any motivations of her own. I find it unhealthy and unrealistic. (Though, not entirely unrealistic. 'Uhaul lesbian' isn't a joke in the Les community for nothing!) But since the writing is fabulous otherwise and the sex is lez-tastic it was a fair enough trade.
The ending is a bit rushed but not entirely unsatisfying (I would have liked to see Nance become her own person, for example). This is an author I'm sure I will revisit again and again.