Book Reviews of Tipping the Velvet

Tipping the Velvet
Tipping the Velvet
Author: Sarah Waters
ISBN-13: 9781573221368
ISBN-10: 1573221368
Publication Date: 5/24/1999
Pages: 472
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.

4.4 stars, based on 24 ratings
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

20 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
This book was like a lesbian tour of 19th century England. I was fascinated by the historical context even as I wondered how accurate it was. The writing was very vivid and the sense of "place" very strong--from London's theaters to London's slums--which made me convinced the author had done her research. This is often pegged as an 'erotic' book, and while I understand why that term is applied to it, the long stretches between erotic scenes were actually my favorite. The sexual tension at the beginning of the story, as Nancy falls in love with a woman for the first time, brings you quickly through the first 150 pages. A curiosity about whether she'll ever reunite with her first love pushes you through the last 350. For such a long book, it was a remarkably quick read.

The descriptions and character development were excellent; I was also impressed by the way the author adopted a 19th century tone. The writing style, with its occasional vague-osities and passive voice construction, fit very well with the time era--the lesbian, erotic Jane Austen. (Of course, many would say Jane Austen was a lesbian anyway.) I admire Sarah Waters for attempting to mimic a 19th centurty tone, and for being able to keep that tone consistent through the book, even though the subject matter itself was very different from what was published back then.

The story was rather melodramatic at places and reminded me a bit of the type of stuff I was writing at 16, which made it fun. It also kind of smacks of "first novel," which also made it fun. It's also VERY queer, which may have made it funnest of all--we've got all sorts of lesbians, cross-dressers, gay men, even a 'dyke tyke'. And within its queerness, it keeps all the characters multi-dimensional and doesn't fall back on stereotypes. And the ending was very satisfying.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 118 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
A Very Good Read!I enjoyed this novel on so many levels. The plot has a lower class, oyster-monger's daughter sees a stage performer and is so struck by her that she runs off to London as her 'dresser', beginning a fabulous tale of coming of age, sexual awakening and learning about forbidden love. The book details 3 relationships of its main character, each of which teaches her something about herself. That they are lesbian relationships offers a glimpse of gay struggle at the turn of the last century. The novel reads easily and quickly, like a story told to you over tea, and is a refreshing read.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 625 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
This was definitely a captivating, enjoyable story! Sarah Waters takes us into the underworld of 19th century London from a perspective that I certainly had never read about before. Okay, being a straight male, this world of lesbian love was a little outside my experience but it certainly was a story that holds your interest. I especially liked how Waters colorfully described this period in time and all the slang that she used -- "tom," "masher," "gay girls," "rent boy," "saucy," etc. And the story was definitely erotic - the sex scenes were quite explicit (I hope other readers are not easily offended). The characters in the story were very well-developed and quite believable. Nancy, especially, was a great character from her beginning as a Whitstable oyster girl, to her up and down experiences searching for happiness. Overall a very SAUCY story!
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 31 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 4
I can never decide which Waters book I like better, Fingersmith, or this. Both are definate must-reads for lovers of historical fiction, lesbian coming-of-age tales, or both.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 412 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
Historical fiction and coming of age story about a young woman living in Whitstable, an 'oyster girl' in the 1880's with a love of dance hall songs. She falls in love with a dance hall singer who comes to town, a young lady who dresses in men's clothes for her act, and eventually moves to London with her, unaware that she is anything but unique, that there are such things as "toms" as lesbians were called in the day. The book is the story of Nancy's life, of love and betrayal and heartbreak and growing up and actually had a rather satisfying ending. I enjoyed it very much, though having read several of Waters' other books, the plot twists didn't surprise me as much as the first one I read.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 202 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
This book is supposed to be a lesbian classic, and I can see why, even though I didn't really enjoy it. The writing is fantastic. The characters and setting are all very vivid and striking. Unfortunately, the main character Nancy is such an incredibly self-centered moron it's hard to sympathize with her a lot of the time.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 53 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3
I absolutely loved this book! A riveting and fast-paced epic full of drama, passion, romance - the works! "Tipping the Velvet" follows protagonist Nancy through a tumultuous journey from her start as an innocent small town girl to her rise to theatre star and more (I don't want to give too much away). I also found this to be a great work of historical fiction and felt that the author really captured what life might have been like for a lesbian living in Victorian era London. Don't let the fact that this is a lesbian centered romance dissuade you if that is not your orientation, everyone will find something to relate to and enjoy this one. I certainly did.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 289 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1

Sarah Waters's debut novel is an extraordinary coming-of-age novel, and not only because it is set in Victorian England with a title which is an euphemism for cunnilingus. Tipping the Velvet chronicles the transformation of Nancy Astley, daughter of an oyster-parlour family, when she becomes smitten with the male impersonating singer "masher" Kitty Butler and follows her to London as her dresser -- and eventually partner in the music-hall act and secret lover. When her first love is dashed, she begins a path into more gender-bending activities as Nan King: first as a renter, then a 'kept boy' of a mistress in Sapphic decadence, before an "out" lifestyle among the progressive set.

It's not just the erotic content or the risque lifestyle which draws the reader in, but rather the complete honesty and openness with which Nan(cy) tells her tale. There is no shame in her consciousness as she relates the range of emotions she experienced during her adventures. Waters brings different slices of Victorian life into a crisp focus with the details and lush language she uses to cast this often-perceived-as prim and proper era into a different and dazzling light.

reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 2405 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
I have had this book on my shelf to read for sometime. This ended up being a very well done historical fiction book about a young woman who ends up performing as a masher on stage and throughout that process realizes that she is gay. This is definitely an adult read.

Nancy is absolutely infatuated with the masher (cross-dressing music hall singer) Kitty Butler when she sees Kitty onstage. Nancy ends up becoming Kitty's dresser and as events progress Nancy eventually takes the stage name Nan King and joins Kitty on the stage. When Kitty begins to shy at her own lesbianism and decides to get married to their male manager, Nan's heart is broken. Nan leaves the stage and instead walks the streets as a butch roue (a pretty boy prostitute of sorts). While on the streets Nan finds friends and love in unexpected places.

This was a very entertaining, interesting, and engaging read. Nancy has such a straight-forward reaction to finding out that she loves other women; she just accepts that that is how she is and can't understand other people's reaction to her sexual orientation. Really Nan's attitude through the whole book is very interesting; she's so composed and matter of fact over everything. Despite all she does and all she sees, there are only a couple of times where she feels betrayed and loses her composure.

I also really enjoyed looking into this time in history and getting to see it from a different point of view. GLBT folks have been treated such a wide variety of ways by society throughout the ages and it was interesting to get a historical look into that subculture.

The book is a fun read and very engaging; it's a long book but I breezed right throughout. I would recommend for adults and older because there is a lot of sex in this book. I mean a lot a lot of sex and most of it is atypical. None of the sex is really gratuitous and I did like that a broad range of lesbian sex is portrayed; by that I mean we see Nan having tender loving sex and we also see her turning tricks for cash.

Overall an excellent historical fiction novel about one young woman's journey through a stage career, discovering her own sexuality, and surviving. I would recommend to those who are interested in reading a historical fiction that explores both theater and GLBT subculture of the late 1800's.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 175 more book reviews
This author takes great care in detailing Victorian England's backdrop and the people who lived in it. I had a lot of fun learning some of the slang of that era. Though I did not find the story as gripping as Fingersmith or The Little Stranger, I found it to be just as original. Waters' plots are just something I haven't come across in any other read, and that is truly refreshing. When I want to read something new, fresh, and unique, I know Waters will not let me down.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 43 more book reviews
I would recommend all of Waters' books to anyone who likes a good historical novel and isn't offended by frank discussions of sexuality. I always feel I'm in good hands with her as a researcher, that she knows her historical period and isn't going to drop in glaring anachronisms. This late 19th century picaresque lesbian coming-out story, of all her novels I read, had the most explicit sex scenes (and more of them!) than the others. It also has an unambiguously happy ending--some of Waters' other books are darker. You can just relax and love London here.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 1280 more book reviews
Wow, what a different perspective on this time in history. Great details, history and the storyline is excellent.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 1280 more book reviews
This was a very enlightening book about the world of lesbians in the 1800's. Excellent storyline with lots of details and the struggles they would go through and the lifestyles they chose to live. A great read.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 4 more book reviews
A delectable book. Just when you think the book is going in one direction it does an about face. AWESOME
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 102 more book reviews
Great book! Very compelling read from the start. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 410 more book reviews
A fun novel based in late 18th century London, relating the life and loves of Nancy, the meandering lesbian! You really get a sense of the times, from the descriptions of the streets, homes, and gay bars, to the antiquated language. I especially enjoyed the accounts of the theaters, which appeared to be particularly well-researched. While the plot is pretty predictable, the lesbian spin made it different. Not great, but definitely readable.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 774 more book reviews
This was a re-read... it was the first Waters novel I'd read, and I read it because I saw (and loved) the film. But elements of the film and the book were getting a bit confused in my head, plus I'd run out of books by Waters to read, so I thought I'd read this one again.
It's really an excellent book - it's both a convincing and touching narrative of a young woman's path to maturity and a true understanding of love, and an exciting tour through 19th-century London's demimonde. Erotic without being gratuitous, it's got scenes and characters that will stick with you for years.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 279 more book reviews
This was a very fun lesbian coming-of-age story, taking place in Victorian England. I enjoy historical fiction, and this time period is so interesting. The story was at times touching, at times funny. I got such a kick out of the slang of the times....Toms, mashers, renters, etc.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on
All of Sarah Walters books have been great reads. They keep on guessing until the very last minute.
reviewed Tipping the Velvet on + 9 more book reviews
The 1999 hardcover by Riverhead Books has the same ISBN.