After reading three Sarah Waters novels, I'm now able to start ranking them. The Little Stranger is my favorite so far, followed by Fingersmith. In third place (and likely to stay at the bottom) is Tipping the Velvet. It wasn't the strong sexuality of the novel that bothered me but rather the plot lines that were based on ridiculous coincidences.
Nancy Astley is the daughter of an oyster-man in Kent. She works with her family at their restaurant/business and spends her weekends in Canterbury at the theatre, watching the variety acts and taking a break from her mundane life. However, she doesn't realize just how unsatisfied she is until the day that Kitty Butler takes the stage dressed as a young man. Nancy's immediate attraction to Kitty is confusing but undeniable and eventually her life takes a much different direction than she ever imagined.
This novel wasn't as compelling as Waters' other ones. While I was reading it, I was interested but each time I set it down, I wasn't dying to pick it back up. The main reason was probably that I didn't find Nancy to be very likable. She makes a string of ridiculous decisions that just get more and more far-fetched as the story progresses. And, of course, since she turns out to be a lesbian, almost every woman she meets also turns out to be a lesbian. It seems rather unlikely that two-thirds of Victorian women were actually gay but that's about how frequently they turn up in this book. Not only that but they all fall head-over-heels for Miss "somewhat pretty and not very bright" Nancy. Still, I will say that Waters again won me over with her meticulous period detail and her high quality prose. This book is quite racy and if you're in the mood for rather a lot of steam and can suspend your disbelief, this is an entertaining read. If you want to read the best that Waters has to offer, try The Little Stranger instead.
P.S., I hate oysters,
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